Bat Signal

Issue 534 – “Brambles”

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Hi there everyone, and welcome back to yet another installment of Bat Signal, my ongoing quest to read every issue of Detective Comics, in random order, and with basically no context. I haven’t taken a trip into the weird and wild world of Gotham City for a few weeks, dealing with personal stuff, but now it’s time to get back into the swing of things. And what better way to do that than by jumping into a pretty fun little story featuring one of Batman’s greatest foes that has gotten the least amount of screen-time during this project. We’ve really only gotten one solid Poison Ivy story here in the time I’ve been doing Bat Signal, and one that she kind of featured in but that didn’t really go anywhere, so I’m glad we get to see Ivy this week. And, to sweeten the pot, this is a pretty self-contained story. It mentions some stuff from previous issues, but this isn’t the second part of an ongoing narrative or anything, just a fun little Batman story. Let’s get to it!

The issue begins at the massive skyscraper containing the Wayne Foundation. I’ve never really seen this design of the building before, but it’s all built around a massive tree, giving it quite a unique look compared to the rest of Gotham City. A series of executives throughout the building find themselves drawn to water some strange plants that they all picked up, separately, at a local nightclub called Exotica that has recently burned down. And, when the plants are watered they release a cloud of spores that float down to large tree in the middle of the building. This in turn causes a chain reaction that releases a second spore, which the executives breathe in. They then immediately find themselves zombified, unable to make their own decisions. And, right on time, they all get a phone call, ordering them to head to the smoldering remains of Exotica. The five men walk to the club, and promptly vanish.

 

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So, that’s suspicious. And, before we really get a good idea of what’s going on, we have to jump around a bit. See, this story takes place pretty early into the tenure of Jason Todd as Batman’s sidekick. He wasn’t going by Robin yet, and was still learning the ropes, and while learning he and Batman came across a man named Lignier that the pair became convinced was a disciple of Poison Ivy. They managed to get Lignier arrested for assaulting Jason, and he’s currently being interrogated by Commissioner Gordon, and oddly enough Bruce Wayne. Bruce is trying to convince Gordon that Lignier and Poison Ivy are up to something, especially because Ivy has apparently recently tried to commit fraud against the Wayne Foundation, but Bruce doesn’t really have any concrete proof, and isn’t too interested in Lignier. That is until they get a call telling them about the mysterious disappearance of the Wayne Foundation executives, which Bruce immediately thinks is the doing of Ivy and Lignier.

So, realizing that he’s going to need to take matters into his own hands, Bruce leaves Lignier to the police, and gets to work. First he makes a call to Lucius Fox back at the Wayne Foundation to get some things straight. The missing executives attempted to send the entire company’s worth to mysterious accounts, but after Ivy’s recent attacks on the company Fox knew to be watching for any strange transfers, and puts a stop to it. And, while Bruce is getting things in order, we hop over to Exotica, where things are getting weird. Poison Ivy is certainly behind these strange disappearances, but simply stealing the money wasn’t her whole goal. She’s gotten these businessmen to come to her so that she can use their brains to create five plant-based goons. She’s somehow created sentient plant monsters, and after putting the men’s minds in them, she’s able to make her own little army of muscle.

 

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Meanwhile, Batman and Jason Todd are back at the Batcave, trying to figure out what Ivy is doing. Batman has no idea what she’s up to, but he did notice one weird thing that Lignier said at the police station, relating to Hell. He jumps off that idea and start to realize that Ivy is putting together her own little version of Paradise Lost. Because the last time Batman dealt with Ivy she had built the nightclub Exotica, which she was calling her own Garden of Eden. And, when she was confronted, she ended up burning the club to the ground. So, assuming Ivy is making some biblical allusions, Batman decides that Ivy and her goons are still at Exotica, in their own little Hell they’ve built.

So, Batman and Jason head to the remains of Exotica, and start poking around. Pretty quickly Jason ends up falling through a hole, causing Batman to race after him. Which, was a mistake, because Ivy has already taken Jason hostage, and is ready to threaten Batman with his well-being. She then begins monologuing, telling Batman all about her master plan. She’s developed a new type of plant, one that doesn’t require photosynthesis, and that gets all of its nutrients from soil. It will spread, eating the soil under Gotham, causing the entire city to become unstable, destroying it all and leaving Ivy and her plants remaining. And, when she finishes explaining her evil deeds, the five plant monsters are revealed, and begin battling Batman. Ivy watches in amusement as the Swamp Thing rejects fight Batman, while Jason schemes. He manages to get out of Ivy’s confines, and ends up strangling Ivy until she taps out. And, with that taken care of, Jason knocks Ivy out, causing the plant monsters to also fall unconscious. Batman then arrests Ivy, frees the Wayne Foundation executives, and starts to feel a little worried about Jason’s violent tendencies. But, the issue ends with them sitting around, trying to come up with what Jason’s superhero name should be, because I guess they didn’t want him to be Robin at first. I personally preferred the idea of Guano.

 

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All in all, this was a pretty fun little issue of Detective Comics. At times it certainly felt like I was missing something, having now read all these Poison Ivy stories that this one was clearly building off of, but I eventually realized that this was all something that had happened in Batman anyway, which is out of my purview. But, the issue does a good job at catching the reader up, explaining all the ongoing Poison Ivy drama, while letting us experience a really fun little story. I personally prefer the more modern take on Ivy, where she’s more anti-hero than villain, but I did kind of like seeing her in full-on supervillain mode, threatening to destroy the entire city. But, weirdly enough, I think the thing that stuck out to me the most during this story was Jason Todd. I just don’t have a lot of experience with the guy, other than the knowledge that he was killed because he wasn’t popular with readers, and the more modern Red Hood stuff. So, whenever I do come across a story featuring him it’s kind of fascinating to see why he was so reviled. I don’t really get it, but stories like this where he strangles Poison Ivy and then knocks her unconscious to save the day certainly point in the direction that he was trying to be very different from Dick Grayson, which is what ultimately got him written out of the book. I’m not crazy about Jason, but it definitely feels like he just became a victim of circumstance, because the writers were trying too hard to make him different, and ended up creating a very unappealing character.

 

“Brambles” was written by Doug Moench, penciled by Gene Colan, inked by Alfredo Alcala, lettered by Ben Oda, and colored by Adrienne Roy, 1984.

 

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