REVIEW: ‘Batman Secret Files: The Gardener,’ Issue #1

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Batman Secret Files The Gardener #1 - But Why Tho

Batman Secret Files: The Gardener #1 is a comic published by DC Comics. Part of the Fear State event, the issue is written by James Tynion IV, with art and colours by Christian Ward. The letterer is Tom Napolitano.

Batman has been summoned to The Greenhouse, a part of Gotham now submerged in flowers and fauna. Expecting someone else, he is greeted by The Gardener and her plant animals. Through her conversation with the Dark Knight, Dr. Bella Garten’s history as a talented botanist is revealed. But not just hers, as the origin of Poison Ivy is explained. Her connection to Jason Woodrue, her transformation, and her actions are plotted alongside Garten’s own life.

The plot and initial concept of Batman Secret Files: The Gardener #1 is clever. Through an unsuspecting starting character, so much of a larger story becomes the greater focus. The structure is brilliant, going into extraordinary depth regarding multiple characters, Ivy and the Gardener in general. To do this, the pace is slow but all-encompassing. It has the air of a novel in regards to how much prose is involved, meaning that it will take time to read. It is an immersive story that uses the past to help the reader further understand the present. The final pages are brilliant twists that clear up important questions and submerge the comic into a dark tone. It also may be pivotal for the Fear State story as it could change Batman’s approach to the situation.

Tynion’s understanding of these characters is delightfully depicted within these pages. There is a real variation in the personalities of both The Gardener and Poison Ivy, even within this single issue. It may seem like the focus is more on Ivy. This comic beautifully shows her evolution and metamorphosis as a character, and why she is so different from the other rogues that Batman faces. She is a woman who operates out of love rather than want, and although she is not a good person, the reader could always be sympathetic when she was hurt. Her life has been traumatic, suffering from betrayal and rejection and pain. It is nice to see the different eras in her life presented, including that hopeful redemption that she got with Harley. In addition, how her power has gone from manipulation of plants to be on the level of Swamp Thing is even more intense when seen in a short amount of time.

But the slight alteration in perspective is how this one-shot becomes something different. With Garten’s first encounter with Pamela coming when she was a “normal” person, her viewpoint towards who she is is vastly unique compared to another figure. If this was a secret origin of Ivy told from her own perspective, the final part would not play out as it does. And yet, Garten does come into her own by the last act. Her manipulation of the event is revealed incredibly, planting her as a figure that should be watched as the crossover continues.

The art by Ward is nothing less than stunning. There is such a gorgeous variation in line weights and the creation of the panels. At times, the creatures and the flowers resemble patterns. And at times, each object has a distinct outline that shows their definition against the background. But others are soft and faint, blending into what is behind them. Batman is sharp and alien within this idyllic natural atmosphere. The facial expressions and character designs are perfect, including several different ones for Poison Ivy as the chronology of her life continues.

The colours are absolutely jaw-dropping, the most captivating aspect of this comic by far. Ward’s style is incredible. The textures are added by small changes in light as rich shades cover each panel. With the Gardener or with Ivy, all around them is this explosion of vibrancy. In their clothes is a universe of colour, patterns that you can’t help but stare at. And yet, the colour style can change from panel to panel, piquing interest every time.

The letters may be difficult to read at points in the issue. The caption boxes have an italicized font that resembles handwriting. Whilst it looks pretty, it could take some getting used to.

Batman Secret Files: The Gardener #1 is a gorgeous comic. The story is investing and the reader will come away with so much more knowledge on the strongest characters this universe has to offer. There is more in than just backstory, with politics rife towards the end. But the issue is just simply bewildering to look at. Ward’s art style is achingly lovely and so fitting for a character reveling in nature. It allows for this incredible display of affection and beauty. There will not be a prettier comic out this week.

Batman Secret Files: The Gardener #1 is available where comics are sold.


Batman Secret Files: The Gardener #1
4.5

TL;DR

Batman Secret Files: The Gardener #1 is a gorgeous comic. The story is investing and the reader will come away with so much more knowledge on the strongest characters this universe has to offer. There is more in than just backstory, with politics rife towards the end. But the issue is just simply bewildering to look at. Ward’s art style is achingly lovely and so fitting for a character reveling in nature. It allows for this incredible display of affection and beauty. There will not be a prettier comic out this week.