Poison Ivy: Thorns

Jul 12, 2021
Web Exclusive

By Jake Uitti


Poison Ivy: Thorns, the new graphic novel dedicated to the familiar DC Comics villain, Poison Ivy, is as much traditional origin story as it is potential for a new Netflix miniseries in the vein of The Queen’s Gambit. The book portrays both the buzzy contemporary superhero intrigue as it does the de-evolution of a compelling, beautiful, modern, and free thinking character—and one, in particular, many will likely wish they had for reference as younger people.

The new graphic book, which comes to us from New York Times bestselling author, Kody Keplinger, and artist, Sara Kipin, offers us the reimagined story of Pamela Isley, a high school student with a big brain, bright red hair, and a crumbling family life at home. In the story, we also meet Pamela’s mad and manic scientist father; a new friend and potential love interest, Alice Oh; and a few other people in Pamela’s life, most of whom offer her more trouble than assistance in her times of need.

The strength of the book is three-fold: its deft artwork, concise story, and desperately needed protagonist perspective. Let’s take them one at a time. Poison Ivy: Thorns reads as if you’re literally leafing through a collection of green leaves and crushed pedals. It’s soft on the eyes but somehow tactical, verdant. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the pages smelled like lilies. The plot of the book is paced rather quickly but maintains depth of character and setting. It boasts the thrill of superhero mayhem with the weight of real life details.

But where the book rises and falls is with the perspective of its protagonist—er, anti-hero?—Pamela Isley. As in television shows like Mad Men, The Sopranos or The Queen’s Gambit, we find our hearts invested in the survival tale of a damaged and damaging person. She’s committed violent crimes, though we still want her to pull through. But as with the above references, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen centered, difficult personalities. However, much more rare is the anti-misogynist, anti-patriarchal dialogue and story points that Thorns gives.

While some dialogue or character choices may not ring as crystal clear as others, picking at the book is not the point. There are plenty of white- and male-centered comic books that aren’t perfect pieces of art that are touted. So, this book, while memorable and excellent, shouldn’t have to be pristine to exist prominently or permanently on our shelves. More importantly, the language the story uses when talking about people behaving as if they have a “right” to Pamela’s body or when a boy at school erroneously asserts he and Pamela slept together after a school dance—this is the valuable content for young readers.

In a world where comic stories are often centered on personal conquest, Poison Ivy: Thorns is about the potential for such victories, yes, but it’s also told through the emerald green eyes of Pamela Isley, a character many would love to see next on the small or silver screen, showing that Tony Soprano, Batman, Don Draper. and The Joker aren’t the only ones in the Tri-State area with a little baggage and a badass streak to showcase. (www.dccomics.com/graphic-novels/poison-ivy-thorns)

Author rating: 8/10

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