Current Reviews


Detective Comics #823

Posted: Saturday, September 9, 2006
By: Ray Tate


Writer: Paul Dini
Artists: Joe Benitez(p), Victor Llamas(i), John Kalisz(c)
Publisher: DC

The writing for this issue of Detective Comics clunks with a predictable plot and a strong departure from the Timm and Dini Poison Ivy. You may say that the Ivy in the comics isn't supposed to be the Ivy in the animated series. A fair point, but the Ivy in the comics isn't the Ivy from the comics either.

Poison Ivy originally was obsessed with Batman. That's it. She was insanely in love with Batman; emphasis on insane. This Ivy was best represented in a Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight by John Francis Moore and P.Craig Russell. Neil Gaiman’s Ivy in the Black Orchid mini-series was a sexually abused hater of men.

In the animated series, Dini and Timm gave Poison Ivy far more resonance than she ever had. She became a very plausible ecoterrorist and a phytophile extraordinaire. This incarnation was later supported in post-Crisis continuity, loosely speaking, by Greg Rucka in two of his three memorable issues of Detective Comics.

Dini in his latest run of Detective prunes Ivy back to the shallow villainess that she was. She no longer possesses a sympathetic motive, and he further removes sympathy for the character by introducing an implied series of ghoulish murders. He even takes away the notion that Ivy will do anything to save members of the plant kingdom--in one scene, Ivy takes a gun to a creeper, not the jaundiced Jack Ryder. It’s not that the new Ivy departs from the cartoon Ivy. It’s that the new Ivy is far, far less likeable and less interesting than her counterpart, ironically nurtured by Dini.

Batman has a very minimal role in this issue of Detective Comics. Dini has the Dark Knight delve into detective work, and he places a very subtle clue in Batman’s narration to explain what’s really going on, but his treatment of the character lacks the dimension given in previous issues. Robin guest-stars and acts more like Dick Grayson. To some that will likely be a deficit.

As for guest Joe Benitez, where do I begin? In Arkham Asylum all the female inmates/patients wear form-fitting orange uniforms. Poison Ivy tends to pose as if she were in a Hustler photo shoot. We know Poison Ivy's supposed to be seductive, but this art is really ridiculous.

Her form-fitting orange jumpsuit just happens to be sthredded in barely strategic places, and I'm supposed to believe that Batman can only cobble together a containment unit for her that coincidentally forces her to writhe in a confined space, the better to show off her private parts. Bleah.

Benitez’s work is very distasteful. There’s nothing wrong with cheesecake, but this isn’t really good cheesecake. Alberto Vargas, George Petty, Gil Elvgren, Enoch Bolles, Margret Brundage and Olivia offer excellent slices of cheesecake. In terms of comic book art, look no further than Adam Hughes and Bruce Timm.

All of this cheesecake no matter the style shares one thing in common. The women are not just objects of desire. They are also portrayed as having brains. The figures appear to be in control of their situations or unconcerned of the poses they strike. There's intellect behind their eyes. Benitez’s cheesecake hasn’t any filling or syrup. It lacks spirit, and his women come off as vapid sex objects.

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