comics, comics criticism, writing

Making Meaning Across Dimensions in Radiant Black #24

Some of you might remember that Urbane Turtle launched with a review of the first issue of Radiant Black, which I praised for its clear and unique POV. In the intervening two years, I’ve gotten to write about the comic a few times for CBR, speak with writer Kyle Higgins, and have featured it in my year-end list in both ‘22 and ‘23.

I continue to dig this book and its total commitment to being inventive in both its storytelling and the way that it has worked to expand the storytelling experience beyond the pages of the comics. We’ve gotten gift boxes with Radiant Bath Bombs (very relaxing, from personal experience), 2 dope black light issues, and an animated short tie-in. 

Now, Higgins and the team are asking readers to get directly involved in the story. Following one of the most shocking superhero moments of the decade, the lead character Nathan seemingly died in battle, leaving his slacker best friend Marshall to take up the mantle. It was a bold move, and recontextualized the first few months of issues into an origin story for an unexpected character. 

Radiant Black # 10 by Higgins, Costa, Carey.

Near the end of the first year, Marshall traveled into the Black Hole that provided him his Tokusatsu-like powers and discovered that Nathan’s essence was still connected to the “Radiant”. In a dramatic Black-Light adventure into “Existence,” the heart of the Radiant, Marshall was forced to face and accept difficult truths about himself in a cosmic, introspective and emotional journey the likes of which only superhero comics can provide. 

<there is only truth in existence>

Marshall was able to survive and rescue Nathan, having learned something new about himself and his own capabilities. Over the next few months, Nathan recovered and watched as Marshall took over the superhero mantle that he once believed was his second chance to make something of himself. Vocally supportive but internally resentful (despite his best efforts), Nathan was frustrated at Marshall’s inability to take the power seriously–and his occasional violent outbursts. 

We also learned that Marshall holding onto the power could potentially lead to the destruction of Earth.

Radiant Black #10 by Higgins, Costa, Carey

 But Nathan was not out of the game yet. When Marshall was overwhelmed by a team-up between his growing rogues gallery, Nathan discovered he still had access to the powers of Radiant Black. But transforming meant taking the powers from Marshall temporarily, and vice versa. The two would-be heroes now had to figure out how to operate as a unit–and learn how to respect the other ones’ approach.

Again, the series recontextualized itself. It was not Nathan or Marshall’s story. It was both of them. Two characters who, for different reasons, viewed themselves as 30-something failures, were suddenly granted superpowers and an opportunity to do something meaningful with their lives. Now they were forced to reckon with that responsibility and how to use it and reconcile their very different ideas of what heroism means. 

But Higgins, artist/cocreator Marcela Costa, editor Michael Busuttil, and the rest of the creative team have already shown they are not content to let any status quo stay too long. In the latest issue, the dual heroes were presented with a choice–and it falls to the readers to decide who will be Radiant Black.

In the final page, the giant Radiant Robot that acts as the sort of spiritual guide for Nathan and Marshall, tells them,

<you must decide>

Radiant Black #24. Written by Kyle Higgins. Art by Marcelo Costa. Colors by Igor Monti. Letters by Becca Carey.

But really, it is speaking to us–to you, the reader. Marcelo Costa’s final image of the issue is the robot staring directly forward, beckoning the reader into the narrative. The future of Nathan and Marshall’s story, perhaps the future of this world’s entire fate, rests in the hands of the readership. Readers have been invited to vote on who should get to retain the powers of the Radiant directly.

This kind of meta-interaction with readers is part of a long tradition in comics. The most obvious callback is obviously the infamous call-in vote for readers to decide whether Jason Todd, the second Robin, should live or die. While there’s no doubt about the Jason Todd influence, Radiant Black is also tapping into another superhero tradition–the breaking of the fourth wall.

Fans were asked to take part in Jason Todd and Batman’s story in that vote but the invitation was outside of the text of the book itself. Here, the invitation is explicitly a part of the narrative.  A character is reaching through the page and speaking directly to readers.

Fourth wall breaking has become a bit of a tired gimmick in some ways, particularly when used for comedic effect by characters like Deadpool and She-Hulk. In fact, calling it “Breaking the Fourth Wall” feels like a cop-out, given the specific origin of that phrase on the stage. Comics have no walls but borders and pages.

It may be more apt to call this comics tradition something like peering through dimensions. It has a proud history in superhero comics, one of the most famous being The Flash #163.

The cover is a memorable and attention-grabbing image, particularly for 1966. The bright-colored Flash, contrasted by the stark black background, stares out in horror from the page, his hand reaching out, pushing against the 2-dimensional transparent barrier between himself and the viewer. 

The Flash #163 cover by Carmine Infantino & Joe Giella

“STOP!” It says in bright, blocky capital letters. “Don’t pass up this issue! My life depends on it!”

Clever marketing, sure, but it is also a moment of creators trying to bridge the artistic divide between content and reader. Grant Morrison describes this cover as, “the first time a superhero looked out from the flat picture plane into a theoretical higher dimensional space he could not see, only intuit, to ask his readers for help.” Morrison, of course, is one of the most prominent devotees of this particular cross-dimensional rapport between reader and content.

Within the pages of the comic itself, The Flash discovers that his very existence is in jeopardy as he slowly fades in and out of existence as the memory of the Flash wanes. The image on the cover is repeated inside. Flash reaches out from a panel to shout at a passerby to read a pamphlet about him. Of course, just like the cover, Flash stars directly forward, his hand prominently poised outward, as if reaching for the space beyond his panel borders.

Within the story itself, the plea is a straightforward element of the plot, the implied call to the reader a fun little wink.  But by calling to the reader on that initial cover image, the creators make an intimate connection with the audience. This story’s meaning is defined by YOU. Flash might be reaching out to a passerby in the next panel, but his plea exists on its own as a single image itself. There is no denying the dual meaning. The break between images is intentional. With the cover’s desperate cry for help evoked on the page, the reader has become a part of the narrative. 

Flash #163 interiors. Written by John Broome. Art by Carmine Infantino & Joe Giella (colors not credited)

The Flash’s fate is tied to his being remembered. So long as his exploits remain in the consciousness of the public, he will never die. It’s a solution to a temporary plot complication, but it is also a statement on the nature of superhero stories and narrative as a whole. Stories live on in memory. So long as a spark of that memory lives on, they exist in perpetuity.

The Multiversity: Ultra Comics #1 cover by Doug Mahnke and David Baron

Grant Morrison’s oeuvre of metatextual superhero storytelling was highly influenced by this issue of The Flash, most conspicuously in their Multiversity series, which had at the center of its premise the living text ULTRA COMICS which drives its readers mad and uses their minds as a gateway to new realities to tear apart. On the cover to Ultra Comics, a mysterious hero warns readers AGAINST opening the pages of the book, intentionally refracting Flash 163. 

By reading the book, we take part in the ensuing destruction by the very act of reading itself.

There are other examples of this metatextual tradition, of course. It is a superhero trope in its own right, and has taken various forms. But speaking directly to readers is rarer, and is always done with the purposeful intent of engaging readers in the creation of the story. But they trace their roots back to the Flash, which demonstrated how effectively superhero narratives, with their broad concepts of science and reality, can bridge the gap between the real world and the imagined.

Higgins and Costa’s cross-dimensional invitation traces its lineage directly to The Flash 163 in that playful and  Morrisonian school. By staring out directly toward the reader, we are invited to take part in the meaning-making and storytelling process itself. Whatever happens next in the story, the events quite literally will be defined in part by readers.

In this way, Radiant Black continues to fulfill its promise of creative risk taking and its firmly postmodern approach to superhero storytelling–All influence is fair game, and the experience of reading the title is not limited to the issues themselves. The experience of storytelling exists not in the printing of words or images but in the magical alchemy between text and reader. Not every form of storytelling lends itself to this kind of personal outreach from the thing itself, but superhero comic books, in their niche audience and quick production turnaround, have the rare ability to speak directly and intimately to their audience. It’s exciting to see a comic take advantage of that relationship in such an intentional and creative way.

Now, you may have read this article and be left with the question: “Who will you vote for, Tim?” 

 Allow me to ask you, who would make for the more interesting story?

My vote goes to Marshall. Part of what I loved about those first few issues with Nathan was the way the character reflected my life experience and reflected the realities of being 30 in the here-and-now. Apprehension over student loans and credit card debts, the sense of dreams attempted and failed, of the return to mom and dad, embarrassed about what you hoped to accomplish and now believe you never could. Nathan viewed Radiant Black as a second chance to do something that mattered and make a difference in the world. But that is just one experience of what it means to be coming into adulthood in the 21st century.

Radiant Black #5 by Higgins, artist Eduardo Ferigato, colorist Matt Iacono, letterer Becca Carey

When Nathan was comatose, Marshall stepped into the role, full of anger and a desire for vengeance. As he took on the power, he quickly fell into a trap of selfishness and self-promotion. He’d use the power to help, sure, but also to cash in and use it to his personal advantage. Not necessarily maliciously. Life was hard for Marshall. Where Nathan had a loving mom and dad to fall back on, Marshall lived alone and his mother views him as little more than a burden. There is still so much about his backstory that we don’t know, but his home was a broken and abusive one. He never had the opportunity to take a risk and fulfill his dream. He never even had the freedom to dream about what his life could be. He never left his hometown, and saw Nathan as someone free and brave enough to pursue a different, better life. It might not have worked out, but it took bravery. Bravery that Marshall has never seen in himself.

For Marshall, Radiant Black is not a second chance. It is the only chance he’s ever had. And he’s made plenty of mistakes as he’s tried to use this power. Almost every decision he makes is the wrong one. But it makes for a compelling story. How does this lifelong slacker, who has never believed in himself or his worth, step up to being a hero, defy expectations, defy the future itself, and save the world? 

Higgins, Ferigato, Monti, and Care

Nathan has a support system that can help him make a new life for himself in the wreckage of his first attempt to live his dream. But Marshall, alone, with no family, no one to support him except his best friend, who, frankly, does not seem to consider Marshall nearly as close as Marshal considers him, has to learn what it means to be a hero, to take responsibility and put the greater good ahead of his own security. What does Marshall want? What drives him? 24 issues in, we still know so little about his interior life beyond his resentment for people who managed to make something of themselves. How he handles that resentment with superpowers, how he manages to take control of his own story, how (or if) he grows into a truly selfless hero, that’s a comic I want to read.

comics, comics criticism, dc comics, marvel, no context comics, writing

No Context Comics: A Look at 3 Books I Don’t Read from the Week of May 3

Nothing on shelves this week feels particularly exciting as I eagerly await the upcoming AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 25. But let’s explore some books I’m not reading and see what they have to offer until next Wednesday comes.

Yoda # 7

Marvel. Marc Guggenheim, Writer. Alessandro Miracolo, Artist. Annalisa Leoni, Colors. Joe Caramagna, Letters. Mikey J. Basso, Danny Khazem, and Mark Paniccia, Editors.

We open in a swamp down and Dagobah, where it bubbles all the time like a giant carbonated Soda…S-O-D-A, Soda. There’s the little runt in his house, talking to a ghost in this comic about Yoda. Y-O-D-A, Yoda.

What a disappointment, man. I love Yoda. This comic gives us nothing of anything that makes the character interesting. This is the second Guggenheim Star Wars title I’ve read and I’m not thrilled by the trend.

As far as accessibility goes, this issue is easy to follow but that’s because it feels like a random episode of a cartoon. There are no stakes to be seen. The big shocking major threat revealed toward the end of the issue is that Count Dooku is going to build a big droid, which just menas more cannon fodder for lightsabers to tear through. We know what happens in the Clone Wars. We’ve got a hundred episodes about that conflict. It’s well-trod territory. 

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comics, comics criticism, no context comics, writing

No Context Comics: A Look at 3 Books I Don’t Read from the week of 4/26

Happy birthday to me, your illustrious guide to the comic books I don’t read, Urbane Turtle. As always, life finds a way to interfere with this hobby. Thank you to the haters who continue to make Spider-Man and Mary Jane a perennial click-machine.

In celebration of my 34th birthday, I’d like to see the site churn out some real work this week. I’ll be working on a new Rearview Mirror piece in honor of the new Joshua Williamson Green Arrow series. I’ve never read Green Arrow before, but have just read through The Longbow Hunters and have thoughts. Something arrow-related should be up by the end of the week. Patreon supporters will get it a bit early.

This last week of April and first of May are fairly light weeks in terms of books out from the big publishers, which made finding issues that fit my admittedly loose criteria kind of difficult. We might hit a point soon where I’ll need to revisit some series that I touched on previously.

What’s the Furthest Place From Here? #12

Image. Matthew Rosenberg, writer. Tyler Boss, artist. Roman Titov/Shycheeks, colors. Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, letters.

Here’s what I know about this book: it’s written by Matthew Rosenberg, who I’ve never read but had a controversial run on X-Men, with art by Tyler Boss, who drew an extremely cool issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Universe. Also Bendis drew a variant cover for it and they wear pig masks maybe?

Continue reading “No Context Comics: A Look at 3 Books I Don’t Read from the week of 4/26”
comics, comics criticism, writing

The 2023 Urbane Turtle Year in Review

Well here we are. Another year in the books. Time for another best-of list. In year 1, the Pandemic Year, I looked back on the various media and stories that impacted me and got me through the global disaster. In Year 2, I counted down my favorite comics of the year. We are focusing again on the best comics of the year. Partially because it’s most of what I’ve consumed this year (my Goodreads has recorded 80+ comics, which doesn’t even account for ongoing monthly reading) but also because that’s where the focus of this site and my writing has really narrowed in on.

With some of the SEO bait out of the way (I do not know how SEO works) I wanted to reflect on this year, personally, a bit before we get into the list. It’s been an exciting year for your old pal Urbane Turtle. I can’t say it’s been a profitable endeavor, but it has been a prolific year with a mostly-regular weekly column, contributions on new sites, surreal interview opportunities, and even regular scripting for a YouTube channel.

I don’t know if writing will ever be a real career–but it has certainly become a vocation. And the thing keeping me from completely melting down about my general “professional life.” If you’ve been with me on this journey–whether you read everything (who are you??), read one thing, or shared something on social media (Especially the comics creators who have said nice things!!)–I thank you from the bottom of my heart. 

Personally, the most rewarding thing that started this year is the NO CONTEXT COMICS column. That’s an idea I had for a little while and wanted to see out in the world, so I just started doing it myself. It’s been a blast and introduced me to a lot of new creators and books I might have missed otherwise. I look forward to working on it every week. When reality gets in the way and I can’t get to it? It’s a gut punch every time! Especially when I’ve done the reading. I’ve not seen anyone comment on any of these and analytics don’t show much engagement, but I like it darn it! 

Too much preamble? Yeah, okay. Some final words before we get to the list.

In 2023, I have a few goals. I’d like to engage in a bit more fiction and prose, like this story. I’d like to take more photos. I’d like to see a more regular update schedule. has seen some steady and small growth in audience, and I think I can make things even better in this next trip around the sun.

And, finally, I resolve to become a Ghost Rider Guy.


As I said before, I’ve consumed a lot of comics this year. And I still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. However, I feel pretty confident in my picks this year. There are so many wonderful stories and creators out there in the industry–and even more outside the industry making webcomics and underground zines–that it seems impossible to do justice to the hard work and creativity on display every single week. I enjoyed so many books this year that will go unmentioned here. The business side of the comics industry may be questionable–with late payments and bankruptcies and corporate consolidation–but the creative energy is off the charts. Comics, more than ever, really are for everyone.

Continue reading “The 2023 Urbane Turtle Year in Review”
comics, comics criticism, dc comics, no context comics, writing

No Context Comics – A Look at 3 Books I Don’t Read From the Week of 12/14

What’s up everybody? Twitter tells me that comic reviews are bad, folks. We don’t know how to write about art. So I guess you probably shouldn’t even be reading this.

But if you are reading, welcome to the regular column! We’re taking a look at 3 books I do not read! The only rules are that these books are something I don’t read every month, it’s not a number one, and (if I am aware of it before reading) it’s not an anthology.

Any comic I read right now has a lot to live up to…I’ve been reading Fullmetal Alchemist which is among the best comics I’ve ever read. I watched the original anime but this is my first time with the actual source material. Hiromu Arakawa can DRAW.

This might be the last No Context of the year. But here’s to many more! And more Urbane Turtle, in general. Viva la tortuga.

I Am Batman #16

DC Comics. John Ridley, Writer. Christian Duce, Artist. Rex Lokus, Colors. Troy Peteri, Letters.

I have not spent any time trying to understand what the deal is with I Am Batman or Jace Fox. It seems weird to me that there’s a mostly unrelated Batman in New York. I guess it isn’t unprecedented given Batman Inc. but seems weird. And after reading this issue I still don’t know how this fits in the larger world of the Batman mythos.

I see a rich kid who feels guilty, fighting some crooks. Ridley has plenty of words throughout this issue but it tells us very little about who Jace is or what he wants out of being Batman. There’s less Batman here and more Iron Man or, in DC terms, Green Arrow. Less justice and more atonement. Jace wants to make right having killed someone when he was young. 

Continue reading “No Context Comics – A Look at 3 Books I Don’t Read From the Week of 12/14”
comics, comics criticism, no context comics, writing

No Context Comics – A Look at 3 Books I Don’t Read From the Week of 11/9

October has been a whirlwind of a month with some intense emotional highs and lows and incredibly heavy workloads and alas, once again, this little website fell to the wayside. The Phillies made an improbable push to a mere 2 games from winning the World Series, which was tremendously exciting and soul crushingly disappointing. We lost my aunt, and spent time with family. The day-job has never been more demanding. It’s all I’ve been able to do to stay afloat!

Outside of this week’s comics I’ve been continuing my reading of early 80s Spider-Man, though I switched over to Spectacular and that is markedly less good than Stern and DeFalco’s top-notch work on Amazing. Black Cat just doesn’t work in these early years, too desperately clingy to Spider-Man as a defining character feature. I’ve also been catching up on the world of Batman, particularly Meghan Fitzmartin’s work on Tim Drake. Belen Ortega, who did the art on the Urban Legends Robin story? Superstar! Need to see more of them stat.

I’ve also gotten all caught up on IDW’s TMNT to prep for an upcoming interview, after being quite behind. The Mutant Towm story and status quo I find, frankly, to be dreadfully boring. But the last few arcs leading up to Armageddon Game have been excellent, particularly the story that introduced Venus. Shout out to letterer Shawn Lee, whose work on TMNT has been nothing short of incredible. Every issue he does something that stops me in my tracks. If there are “superstar letterers”, Lee is definitely one of them.

The Armageddon Game is shaping up to be an extremely fun event, too. The art on the event series is fantastic and they brought in CUDDLY THE COWLICK. What’s not to love?

Enough rambling…Onto the main event: The comic books I’m not reading! I somehow accidentally made this week’s column for MATURE READERS ONLY, so no kids allowed.

Continue reading “No Context Comics – A Look at 3 Books I Don’t Read From the Week of 11/9”
comics, comics criticism, no context comics

No Context Comics – A Look at 3 Books I Don’t Read From the Week of 10/5

The hard part about trying to run a website with no monetary incentive is how often things like a “real job,” or “making sure a child doesn’t starve,”  interfere with lofty goals and scheduling plans. So, generally, my brain is mush from a major crunch in the office and various illnesses and a virus parade, courtesy of my wife’s class of first-graders, and my son’s daycare. Essentially all I’ve had the energy to do is catch up on classic issues of Amazing & Spectacular Spider-Man. Where I have discovered that Denny O’Neil’s tenure is among his worst work, and Roger Stern is an all-time great. I’ll be back soon with more breaking news from the late 70s and early 80s.

All that to say–after a missed week last week, and a delayed tie-in to the new Tim Drake series (which I have still not had the chance to read) No Context Comics is back. It’s a fun week with many different feelings.

That Texas Blood #18

Chris Condon & Jacob Phillips, Creators. Pip Martin, Color assists

My favorite part of this column is reading books that are deep into a run. I have much less fun reading a number 2 or 3. Early in the runs books are usually trying to tackle heavy exposition to set up their concept or moving past the initial introductions of their number one. So it’s too soon to subtly catch people up but you don’t have enough information to understand what is going on. That’s not a rule but it is something I’ve already gotten a sense of. First arcs in particular have a rhythm that makes it extremely difficult to understand anything midstream. Many writers are also still feeling out their characters and vision.

But at 18 issues, a series has found its footing and a level of confidence in its storytelling and characters. After the first year, the world begins to feel authentic and lived in, even without heavy or explicit narrations.  Even a new reader gets a sense of the creative team’s voice and point of view. 

That confidence is evident all over this issue of That Texas Blood which sees what I assume to be a climactic and series-defining moment. Even without the context of everything that has happened to the two pairs of characters at the center of this issue’s murder mystery story, the weight of these events and relationships are excellently crafted. Writer Condon fills the scenes between the two seniors with unspoken emotion and relationship. Jacob Phillips gives the two a tender and subtly intimate physical relationship that speaks volumes about how these two relate to one another. They have both lived a life and, perhaps, are on the cusp of coming together to move beyond past pains to move forward together. 

I’m not sure why there is a blizzard in Texas, but the discordant weather provides an unsettling and eerie atmosphere, accentuated by the cool and muted colors. The warmth surrounding our apparent leads for this issue as they relax within the warmth of their home is a flickering thing, marred by tragedy and the crimson of bloodshed.

This is the kind of issue that gives you just enough information through its storytelling–both in script and art–to make the events engrossing while inviting readers to go back to understand more about its characters to fully appreciate. 

On its own, though, this is a great example of serialized comic book storytelling. It stands alone while no doubt being even more affecting with full context. It doesn’t punish someone who leafs through it on a whim by rattling off character names or summaries.  It presents an intimate portrait of its characters and an emotional fallout. Another to add to my list of books to go back and read.

Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty # 5

Jackson Lanzing & Collin Kelly, Writers. Carmen Carnero, Lines. Nolan Woodard, Colors. Joe Caramagna, Letters. Kaitlyn Lindtvedt & Alanna Smith, Editors. 

This issue really doesn’t work for me but it has very little to do with the structure of the story or the storytelling. I think Lanzing and Kelly do a strong job of presenting the stakes–both emotional and global–within the text of the issue itself. Carnero’s art is gorgeous and expressive. I just don’t like this plot. That’s not usually what this column is about, but I am going to go ahead and complain anyway.  I think it is silly and undermines Bucky Barnes to have him not a product of Cold War Russian espionage but actually a product of a centuries-old mystery war between a shadowy ur-government controlling world events.

Furthermore, it just contradicts years of Marvel continuity beyond just Winter Soldier’s elegantly simple story. 

I don’t think that we add anything by giving Bucky a physical manifestation of his brainwashing to shoot. But we lose plenty–Bucky being warped by the realities of war and violence. It removes an allegory for real world veteran trauma and pain. Men come back from war twisted and broken, unrecognizable to themselves and loved ones.

Perhaps it is an attempt to keep Bucky and Steve on opposite moral ends as Winter Soldier’s rough edges have been shaved off a bit over time. But it just seems tone deaf to what made Brubaker’s reinvention of Bucky compelling. “Secret cabal controlling world conflict” is also a bit tired as far as Marvel plots go. It is also extremely silly to say Captain America’s shield is actually a symbol for a secret cabal…It’s just the American flag.

Plot aside–and it’s a big aside–Lanzing and Kelly’s  storytelling mechanics work well here. The Marvel recap page is always appreciated by this writer, and the conflict between our heroes is both logical and seeded naturally from the very first page to make the final moment of the issue feel both inevitable and dramatic. 

Carnero gives the whole thing a cinematic flair with harsh lighting and dramatic lens flares. The final conflict, taking place in a hologram projection of a winter landscape, effectively reflects the motif of artificiality and gamesmanship that permeates the issue and, I assume, the whole arc.

I don’t know. If this “Five Points” plot works for you, great. It falls apart completely for me.

Poison Ivy #5

G. Willow Wilson, Writer. Marcio Takara & Brian Level, Pencils. Stefano Gaudiano, Inks. Arif Prianto, Colors. Hassan Otsmane-Elhauo, Letters. Arianna Turturro & Ben Abernathy, Editors.

I find myself tiring of the idea of villains becoming good guys. Not because I don’t believe in the idea of rehabilitation and second chances. No, I just think it diminishes the line because over time it seems like every supervillain slowly becomes a hero, thus dwindling down the hero’s rogues gallery and reducing the potential stories to be told with those characters as villains. It seems to happen any time a bad guy hits a certain threshold of popularity.

Poison Ivy, though? It’s hard to write her as a villain these days. Though her methods continue to be extreme, it’s hard to argue that the woman consistently trying to save the planet from manmade destruction, even using extremist ends, is somehow “the bad guy,” particularly when the target is often the rich or affluent, as has often been the case for Poison Ivy stories. It kind of sends the wrong message…We are on the precipice of global destruction from our wanton destruction of the environment, so painting the most prominent ecological advocate as purely a terrorist rings as tone deaf.

G Willow Wilson here does a strong job positioning Pamela Isley as conflicted by her more deadly whims and her own desire for personal growth. Using Batman as a physical manifestation of her conscience is a great way to show her own moral development. Batman believed in Ivy’s ability to make positive change, and now she hallucinates him as her better angel.

It also seems both inevitable and brilliant to connect Poison Ivy to DC’s concept of “The Green,” the sentient magic/science of the world’s plant life. It gives Ivy both a “higher calling” to redirect her energies from petty crime to true superheroics. I like how conflicted Ivy seems here between her own selfish desires and her yearning for justice.  I must admit to being largely ignorant of Ivy’s current origin story, but tying her into the Floronic Man and Swamp Thing helps to make her transition into a semi-mystical anti-hero feel logical. 

Wilson gives a good sense of Ivy’s internal struggle as well as the righteous anger she feels toward the Floronic Man even though I don’t know any of what has led up to this fight. One problem often facing villains-turned-heroes is who do they fight if not the hero they have started to help? Giving Ivy the extended world of nature-monsters to play in helps to solve that conundrum.

Like the other books this week, this story gives just enough information to be engrossing without being confusing or overbearing. With the help of the narration and the nature of this issue’s climactic confrontation, we get a lot of what we need to understand what is at stake and why Ivy is doing what she is doing. It’s a strong and confident script from Wilson, aided by the art from Marcio Takara and  Brian Level. Both artists imbue the characters with plenty of personality, and Floronic Man (in both human and monster form) is a positively frightening figure. 

I appreciate the clarity of vision in this issue from the creators, which overcame my biases against villain-turned-hero stories to tell a compelling, character-centric story.