Poison Ivy: Thorns

DC Comics. Jun. 2021. 208p. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781401298425.
Gr 7 Up–Keplinger and Kipin offer a straightforward backstory for one of DC’s most iconic villains. Teenage Pamela lives with Dr. Isley, her secretive scientist father who demands that she help with his strange experiments despite the toll it takes on her. She is isolated at school and harassed by a boy she dated just once, but the principal won’t help. Pamela’s only pleasure comes from chemistry class and performing daring experiments with plants. She does manage to connect with Alice, and romance blossoms between the two. Alice moves into the Isley home when she’s forced to evacuate hers due to a toxic gas release. Slowly, the secrets around Pamela’s life and Dr. Isley’s mysterious experiments are revealed. Alice sticks with Pamela through some frightening incidents but understands things will change. Tired of tolerating mistreatment from men, Pamela uses her chemistry skills and power over plants to strike back, taking the name Poison Ivy and starting down a new path. Characters have just enough depth to move the plot, and the romance is short-lived but sweet. The artwork’s somber palette uses dark neutrals to convey Pamela’s sadness, brightening slightly when she’s surrounded by plants. Spare backgrounds keep the focus on Ivy’s experience. The book goes beyond using abuse as a plot point and includes resources for readers who may be experiencing exploitation. Pamela and her father are white, Alice is Asian, and their teachers and classmates are a mix of white and brown-skinned people.
VERDICT An intriguing and sympathetic introduction to DC’s nefarious Poison Ivy.

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