This year’s Batgirl Annual is rather fascinating. It’s a one-off story that takes place over the course of 9 months, starring Batgirl and Poison Ivy. There’s plenty of action, an intriguing mystery and the occasional joke. But what really makes this issue work is that it’s a Poison Ivy character study.
The two of them are investigating a biological terrorist named Ezekiel Rain, who’s offering terminally ill patients a 6-month expansion on their life, in exchange for acting as organ donors, committing terrorist acts and having implants installed inside them. It’s exactly the kind of twisted plot you’d expect in Gotham City. Their search spans the 9 months, with each scene taking place in a different season.
The first scene happens a week before Poison Ivy betrayed the Birds of Prey, and the team takes down a group of hostages taken by Rain’s patients. Poison Ivy loses control and nearly kills a hostage. The second scene has Batgirl and Ivy raiding a fortified compound, and Ivy annihilates the security team with an impressive show of power. The third scene is in a hospital, where they find one of Rain’s former patients on his death bed. The final scene happens in the woods, where they manage to track down Rain. Gail Simone’s handle of Batgirl is great as always, and there’s a neat little subplot involving her roommate.
At first it seems a typical storyline, but the real focus is on Ivy’s personality. Her mood swings with the season, which makes her a more interesting character (at least to me). I’m not sure whether she’s always been this way or not, but it adds depth to her whole vegetation motif. In the spring, she’s manic like the quickly sprouting flowers. In the summer, she’s euphoric since it’s when plants are at their peak. In the fall, she’s apathetic with a touch of sadness, matching the withering of plant life. In the winter, she’s depressed and angry from the death and coldness surrounding her. The comic constantly explores whether she still has a touch of humanity or not, and keeps her on the fence between antihero and antivillain.
The art by Robert gill and Javier Garronis also great. Each season is introduced by a single panel with the bat symbol and vines surrounding it, matching the season with the vines’ lifecycle. There’s a lot of environmental detail, with the cityscape in the backgrounds, an old shack in an abandoned block in the city, and all the snow and ice once the city freezes over. The action always flows smoothly, and in the one panel when Batgirl and Black Canary smash through a window, shiny shards of glass are all over the place. But the art on Ivy is again the real highlight. When she unleashes her power, her vines have all sorts of leaves attached to them. In the spring, they’re mostly thin and young. In the summer, they’re flush and powerful, and she even has flowers growing in her hair. In the fall, she’s starting to turn brown and almost appears middle-aged. In the winter, she appears old and deathly ill, yet her vine powers have additional ice properties. Everything about the art works.
This was just a great comic, in fact it might be my favourite of the week. Everything fits together. Not everyone has been a fan of Gail Simone’s Batgirl series, but those who enjoy it really should pick this up. This is also an easy recommendation to anyone who likes Poison Ivy, or anyone who wants to check Batgirl out but hasn’t yet.