Best Shots Reviews: DEADPOOL #6, POISON IVY: CYCLE OF LIFE & DEATH #1

"Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life & Death #1" preview
Credit: DC Comics
Credit: Marvel Comics

Deadpool #6
Written by Gerry Duggan
Art by Scott Koblish and Nick Filardi
Lettering by Joe Sabino
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

While the Merc with a Mouth may draw plenty of fans with his rapid-fire quippery, Deadpool is really at its best when it sets its comedic ambitions higher: namely, taking aim at the comic book industry itself. Jumping forward to the year 2099, Gerry Duggan and Scott Koblish might be producing one of their smartest issues of Deadpool yet, both skewering and saluting a collection of dystopian comic book tropes.

Perhaps what's most surprising about this book is how user-friendly it is, and that's considering Duggan just drops readers into the heart of the New York City circa 2099. Even readers with a cursory knowledge of Deadpool and his recent exploits - he regenerates, he married a demon - will be good to go, as Duggan focuses his energies on Deadpool 2099, as she rides a robotic dragon while fleeing from the cops.

While this opening sequence is energetic, there's a lot more wit to this book than simple jokes and action. In addition to poking fun at the gaudiness of Marvel 2099, Dugan and Koblish also take aim at the master himself, whipping together a delicious parody of Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns. Yet this issue isn't all about laughs, either - once we see what actually became of Wade Wilson, there's a surprising amount of sadness and even pity. While Deadpool as a character is known for his jokes, Duggan and Koblish don't forget about the scars hidden underneath that mask, and when they unearth that pain, it makes this book a surprisingly compelling read.

And speaking of Koblish - Duggan is asking a lot out of him, having him jump from action to drama to otherworldly violence, and it's to Koblish's credit that he never misses a beat. In particular, there's a page of a chained, elderly Wade Wilson that looks positively brutal - I mean, these are the sorts of pages that must have made Duggan dance in his living room, they look so deliberate, dramatic and poignant. Watching Deadpool have it out with his successor just shows off Koblish's strong sense of storytelling - at one point, he makes a 16-panel grid flow with ease. And the thing that keeps this book from veering too heavily into parody is, just like the 2099 and Dark Knight Returns books, Koblish's work always looks stylish - this is a good-looking book, even if you don't get the joke. Colorist Nick Filardi also does strong work here, keeping this issue bright and energetic but never at the cost of overpowering the linework underneath.

This isn't the first time that Deadpool has mined comic book history for some pointed gags, but every time this series does it, it always feels like a surprise. Dugan and Koblish have so much more to offer than the caffinated hijinks that will define Deadpool, particularly with his movie due to hit cineplexes soon. Issues like this, however, prove that Marvel's class clown has more depth than his jokes might let on.

Credit: DC Comics

Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death #1
Written by Amy Chu
Art by Clay Mann, Seth Mann and Ulises Arreola
Lettering by Janice Chiang
Published by DC Comics
Review by Pierce Lydon
'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10

Poison Ivy seems like an unlikely character to get her own miniseries, but DC has had some success elevating the status of their rogues beyond the heroes that help define them. after a co-starring role in Harley Quinn, Ivy is breaking out on her own, and writer Amy Chu gets to explore Pamela’s humanity as it relates to her relationships and her work. Artist Clay Mann is along for the ride, and his character renderings are very strong, making him a good fit for a character-driven narrative. The question is, why are we getting this title? If DC is taking a stab at representation, there are arguably a lot of other (more compelling) women in the DC universe that have been mothballed by the "New 52."

The lack of urgency in telling Ivy’s story plays out in Chu’s narrative pacing. The beats are all there. She introduces the character, establishes her relationships and draws a parallel between Ivy’s work and her personal struggles. And she does it fairly well. For better or worse, Poison Ivy is a breeze to read - but its main problem lies in the narrative arc. There’s not a lot of reason for readers to care about what’s happening to Ivy or what she’s doing. There aren’t any real stakes unless she’s a character that you love. The book has very little direction until the final pages, when it morphs from meandering slice of life into a murder mystery plot. But despite the switch, the book lacks any discernible tone or flair. Ivy’s struggle between her humanity and her plant side could be a compelling one, but Ivy’s ambivalence toward it starts to be the lens through which we view the events in the book. As such, the final page reveal falls flat.

If there’s one thing that Clay Mann is good at, it’s drawing attractive people. If there’s one thing he’s bad at, however, it’s determining how often women wear high heels and the situations they wear them in. There are a couple of action sequences in Poison Ivy, but most of the book consists of smaller conversations between characters. Mann is able to handle the action scenes pretty well and provide enough visual consistency to keep the conversations interesting. His layouts aren’t particularly inspired, opting to go a more traditional route in order to keep everything a bit simpler and put the focus on Poison Ivy. Unfortunately, without a lot of style, there’s a lot of emphasis on the words on the page, and while Mann’s work can help buoy the script, it only does just enough to keep it from drowning. I’m not saying that every artist needs to go above and beyond for every book, but Mann never elevates the script. Instead, he simply interprets it, and that’s not enough to tip the scales on this one.

I kind of hope the ending is a red herring. Chu can obviously understands the character, but this issue reads like she didn’t have a surefire home run for a plot. Considering Ivy’s stature as a B-list Batman rogue, it’s going to take a lot more than half-baked murder mystery to get reader to buy in. Mann’s art is aesthetically pleasing but he doesn’t really push the envelope and he’s going to need to if Chu’s plot doesn’t improve. I like the idea of giving a character like Poison Ivy a chance to be in a spotlight but creators have to remember that it also puts them under a microscope. Right now, this title isn’t holding up under scrutiny.

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