All-Star Batman #7
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Tula Lotay and Francesco Francavilla
Lettering by Steve Wands
Published by DC Comics
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
Part of the fun of having such a deep and well-developed rogues gallery as Batman has is the ability to explore the villains in new ways. The current arc of Scott Snyder’s All-Star Batman sets out to do just that, while also telling stories that compliment a team of talented artists. Tula Lotay joins him for the newest issue, with Batman face off against Poison Ivy.
The issue opens up with an excerpt from a Pamela Isley lecture, juxtaposed against the image of Batman trudging through the desert. These stark panels instantly convey the tone of the issue, and instantly show why Tula Lotay is on the book. Tula Lotay’s artwork throughout the issue is full of creative subtleties. At one point, her panels overlay a topographical map of the area, subconsciously conveying a sense of travel and desolation. Later on, the cloaked soldiers approaching the tent are illustrated as beveled shapes, appearing almost like sand dunes when looked at from above. It’s a eye-catching effect that conveys the stealth technology perfectly. Lotay’s line art alternates between a minimalist approach and a detailed one, paying more attention to important objects, such as the gnarled tree around which Ivy makes her camp.
But perhaps what will grab the attention of readers most is Lotay’s expressive color palette. In contrast to the tans and browns of the desert, Ivy’s pheromone-based powers are rendered in vibrant purples and menacing teals. Combined with the smooth lines, the psychedelic colors give the issue a surreal touch. A neon green emanates from the symbol on Batman’s chest, suggesting some technological defense against Ivy, or perhaps simply exists as a motif adding to the dreamlike visuals. All-Star Batman #7 never makes it clear, but the ambiguity helps serve the narrative.
Scott Snyder’s script here does a great job of telling an isolated story within an overall arc. Batman is only after Poison Ivy for her knowledge so that he can contain the bacteria unleashed by Mr. Freeze in the previous issue. By setting All-Star Batman in the desert, Snyder not only plays into his artist’s strengths - Lotay’s minimalist backgrounds and painterly colors create a sense of isolation - but it also provides a narrative exploration of the villain. One would think Poison Ivy would find herself more at home surrounded by lush rainforests or humid swamps, but Snyder shows her taking refuge in the arid environment where she seems vulnerable.
At the same time, Snyder develops the story in a way that focuses on Ivy’s nature as a scorned scientist rather than a flora-loving seductress. It’s a more nuanced take on the character, and it shows in the way Batman confronts her. Rather than attack her violently, Batman plays to her humanity to get what he needs from her. And even in this, Batman is far from direct, circling around Ivy and lying about his true motives to whittle away at her defenses. It’s a nice callback to the opening of the issue, “to find what you’re looking for? You’ll need to start waaaay out at the edge. In the wastelands.”
As with previous issues, All-Star Batman #7 continues a backup story starring Duke Thomas. Snyder and Francesco Francavilla have a real synergy with this narrative of a young man struggling to find his place in a world that has seen half-a-dozen sidekicks before him. Francavilla’s artwork with its jagged layouts helps convey Duke’s broken confidence. Francavilla uses a narrow pallet in his artwork here, and the seamless way the blues and golds transition from a late night to the break of dawn help capture the weariness of this young adventurer.
Beautiful in its execution, All-Star Batman #7 gives readers a new angle in on Poison Ivy. While vines and pheromone-laced kisses are still at play, Scott Snyder eschews the normal seductress angle in favor of a botanist who is still very much at work in her field. Tula Lotay’s vivacious colors breathe life into Poison Ivy – never have the more subtle powers in her arsenal looked so impressive or inviting.