It’s usually an insult to describe someone as poisonous, but there are some people, in both fiction and life, who work hard at it.  For these individuals, the sobriquet is only a recognition of their talents and hard work. Batman Eternal #38 focuses on the very embodiment of that principle, Dr. Pamela Lillian Isley, known more commonly as Poison Ivy.  Writer Tim Seeley crafts his narrative around the unfolding of Ivy’s complicated plot concerning the villains that escaped from the destroyed Arkham Asylum in an earlier issue of Batman Eternal.  These villains are now hidden at an abandoned child psychiatric facility, arguing spiritedly among themselves while waiting for a contact that Ivy tells them will deliver the resources they need to take over Gotham.  While Scarecrow intrigues with most of the villains on the upper level, gaming their suspicions and emotions in an attempt to bring them under his sway and out from under the fearsome shadow of Bane, Ivy and the spine-breaker explore the tunnels below the facility as part of what Ivy has promised her companion is an elaborate double-cross.

As it turns out, Ivy hasn’t lied.  The contact the villains upstairs await is Batman, who swoops in and dispatches them handily, even though his sudden relative poverty leaves him short of his usual technical aids.  Meanwhile, Ivy betrays Bane into the hands of Killer Croc, who displays an unexpected facility with the French language as he dismantles his foe.  As it turns out, the double-cross is even more elaborate than it seems, for we discover that Ivy was in the pay of Selina Kyle, who is using her newfound influence as queen of the Gotham mobs to impose order of a kind on the burgeoning chaos.

That is really the theme of the issue, the choices people make when order disappears.  The criminals, after all, represent control of a type.  Or one should say of types, as the fear of Scarecrow and the monarchial aspirations of Bane and the brutal corporatism of Selina’s new empire don’t necessarily resemble one another in detail.  But all of them are trying to stem the tide of disaster sweeping the city, thus meaning Batman is, in a very odd way, fighting with his own allies.
The themes of order and responsibility and law further resonate with a subplot involving Jim Gordon, still in Blackgate and still stubbornly clinging to his integrity despite everything.  The irony is that a sorrowful, desperate Jason Bard seems poised to be his rescuer even as Bard promises to take dark and dirty action in the pursuit of redemption.

Andrea Mutti’s art does not add greatly to the story.  Her lines are clear and delicate, but the details of her frames, particularly facial features, are indistinct.  The arrangement of the panels allows the story to flow in an even, businesslike way, probably a wise choice considering the moderate complexity of the betrayal unfolding in the narrative.  Giulia Brusco’s colors are rather basic and set the mood without being either striking or memorable.

 

Grade

B

Conclusion

This is a solid issue of the series. It moves the plot forward efficiently, although without much progress with regard to the ultimate mystery at the heart of the story. In essence, it is a nice character piece about Poison Ivy and Catwoman, and the intelligence and energy with which they pursue their goals. In that it is nicely done, but at this point in the series more fundamental revelations would have been better appreciated.