Pamela Isley’s penchant for plants is a well-known aspect of her character, but the reason she loves them—and the reasons why she goes by the name Poison Ivy and isn’t exactly a good guy—vary from story to story.
The story in Poison Ivy: Thorns, written by Kody Keplinger and illustrated by Sara Kipin, introduces readers to a Pamela who struggles with who she is and the world in which she lives, but who also has some surprisingly good reasons for her eventual turn toward villainy.
Want to get to know this Pamela before she becomes Poison Ivy? Read on for a breakdown.
Poison Ivy doesn’t have control over fire, but looking at this cover you might think otherwise. Her red hair and the way it looks almost alive on this cover definitely suggest that there’s some fire-starting going on within. But if you look a little closer, the cover art also points toward the “poison” part of the title: Her eyes, and the tears coming from them, are certainly a toxic shade of green.
Tell Me a Story:
Pamela Isley is a girl with secrets. A girl who really just wants to spend time with her plants. But her schoolmates, her father and the citizens of the town that she lives in have other ideas. When her favorite park is threatened by developers, Pamela releases a toxin that sets off a series of chain reactions that will change her life and reveal her secrets, but also set her on a path toward the truest version of herself. (Even if it’s hard for her to see that at the start!)
Let’s Talk Art:
Kipin’s art has an angular quality that lends itself nicely to a story that sometimes hits like an elbow to the ribs. (Pamela’s home life is…not pleasant.) The colors are mostly muted, but the use of earth tones is a smart nod to Pamela’s interests, and the greens, browns and grays go well with the art’s gothic vibes, which I love. (Pamela and her father live in a creepy old mansion, Pamela wears a lot of vintage clothing and there’s a spooky noise that happens late at night…) Of course, there are also punches of red, both in Pamela’s hair and her roses, which made me think of all the other versions of Poison Ivy I’ve seen, mixing the “new” of this book with the familiar nicely.
Keplinger’s version of Pamela is a young woman with a lot of baggage. Although Poison Ivy, like most of the books in DC’s YA graphic novel line, is an alternate origin story that exists outside of canon, it’s easy to see how this childhood could have led to many of the grown-up versions of Poison Ivy we’ve seen in comics, TV and film. The book is filled with characters who talk down to Pamela, who tell her what she should be thinking or doing. And while these interactions are, sadly, all-too-realistic, I love that Keplinger’s Pamela doesn’t feel like she has to change to fit anyone else’s mold, even when her actions might be seen by others as bad or evil. She’s honest with herself and others, and her matter-of-fact dialog really drives that home.
Favorite Teen Titan:
Purely from an aesthetics standpoint, this book’s favorite Teen Titan would likely be Beast Boy. But I think it would go deeper than surface-level—both are concerned about the environment and the Earth. Poison Ivy might be less concerned with the animal element than Beast Boy, but they’re both looking to improve the planet for things/creatures other than humanity.
Voted Most Likely:
Poison Ivy would likely garner two superlatives in end-of-year voting: Most Likely to Save the Planet and Most Misunderstood. The book (and Poison Ivy herself, really) has both of these qualities, and they aren’t mutually exclusive. Personally, I might not resort to poisoning folks to get my points across, but I can’t completely fault the idea that sometimes it takes a lot of effort to get through people’s thick heads.
One Perfect Page:
At the start of the book, Pamela has one quasi-friend at school, a confident young woman named Alice. Alice eventually becomes more than a friend and I think it’s her passion and strength that finally breaks through Pamela’s need to keep everyone at an arm’s length. I certainly took notice of her, especially in this early splash page in which she stands up for Pamela and tells a dude who’s hassling her exactly what a jerk he’s being. We all need an Alice in our life!
Poison Ivy: Thorns by Kody Keplinger and Sara Kipin is now available in bookstores, comic shops, libraries and as a digital graphic novel.
When Mandy Curtis isn’t reading books by Leigh Bardugo or Sarah J. Maas, she’s dreaming of busting bad guys with Wonder Woman—if Steve Trevor’s there, too, she won’t complain—and writing about YA fiction and pop culture at Forever Young Adult. Follow her on Twitter at @mandyannecurtis.
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NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are solely those of Mandy Curtis and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.