Bat Signal

Issue 823 – “Stalked”

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Hello everyone, and welcome back to yet another installment of Bat Signal, my never-ending quest to read ever issue of Detective Comics that has ever been published, in random order, and with basically no context. And folks, we have a very strange issue to talk about today. On the one hand, it’s a pretty fun little story featuring a major villain who we haven’t gotten to see too much of over the course of these Bat Signal posts. But, on the other hand, we got a whole boatload of absurd cheesecake art, which sadly comes with that villain’s territory, that just kind of does its best to ruin everything good that the story attempts to accomplish. So, let’s open this mixed bag and see what’s inside!

The story begins in the grimy halls of Arkham Asylum, home to most of Gotham City’s most dangerous criminals. It seems to be a quiet night, and we come across a fairly recent tenant of the Asylum lounging around. Pamela Isley, better known as Poison Ivy, is sitting in her cell, reading a book, when water starts to drip from her ceiling. She looks up at a rapidly growing crack, just in time to see a massive tendril of wood come crashing into her cell. It looks like the trunk of a tree, but it moves around like a tentacle, smashing its way into her cell, grabbing her, and bashing her into the wall over and over again. Ivy can’t do much to fight it, and neither can the Arkham guard who come rushing in and get smashed to pieces. But, thankfully, Ivy does have a trick up her sleeve. Because the blood that has started to pour out of her wounded face contains a whole litany of toxins, and when they touch the strange tree monster, it begins burning it, causing the tree to drop her. She fights her way out of the Asylum, and makes her way into the city, eventually reaching the headquarters of the GCPD, where Commissioner Gordon and Detective Bullock find Ivy seeking help.

 

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Bullock and Gordon take Ivy into the precinct, and set her up in a secure room, before calling the only person they figure can actually help her. Batman arrives, and Ivy starts telling her story, which doesn’t really have a whole lot of answers. But, after hearing about the plant creature Batman decides that keeping her in the GCPD could lead to a innocent lives being lost, so he suggests that they move Ivy to an even more secure location. And, after knocking her unconscious with a nerve-pinch, Batman smuggles Ivy out to the Bat Cave and places her inside some sort of containment tube that will keep her safe, while also keeping her from pulling any of her usual trick on him or Robin, who is awkwardly lurking outside the tube, watching her sleep like a complete creep.

When Ivy finally does wake up she and Batman continue their discussion of her mysterious attacker, while she runs through the various people who may have a grudge against her and would wish her harm. But, none of them seem to line up to someone who could create some sort of sentient tree monster. Her most recent run-in, and the event that led her to be sent to Arkham, involved Two-Face capturing her. So, Batman asks for the hideout she’d been staying in when Two-Face nabbed her, wondering if there were any clues there. Ivy explains that she’d been living in an apartment above a vegan restaurant, so Batman heads to investigate while Robin is left behind to keep an eye on Ivy.

 

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Batman heads to the blown-up wreckage of Ivy’s apartment, and begins sifting through the rubble. She apparently had an intricate self-defense system rigged to the place, and when Two-Face attempted to abduct her she blew the place up, but Batman’s still able to find some things that survived the blast. Including a whole bunch of highly poisonous plants. But, he really hits paydirt when he comes across a conspicuous DVD player. And, not exactly seeing Poison Ivy as a couch potato, Batman examines the disk that was left inside the player, and finds something shocking. He races back to the Batcave where Robin and Ivy are passing time playing twenty questions, and Batman reveals the contents of the disk, which quickly starts to make Ivy panic.

It seems that Ivy has been developing a new type of carnivorous plant which can quickly digest organic matter, including a human body. And, to test it she’s been picking up various creeps she comes across in Gotham City, brings them back to her place, and murders them by dissolving them inside the plant. Batman is disgusted and furious by this realization, and threatens to hit Ivy with some high-powered herbicide. She begs for her life, while also calling Batman a hypocrite, and he begins piecing together the idea that the experiments she ran seemed to have the strange side-effect of melding the various melted people together, which created that plant monster. And, just in time, the thing comes smashing its way into the Bat Cave, now complete with a bunch of human faces! The thing can even talk, calling itself Harvest, and it begins attacking Batman to get a hold of Ivy. The creature is incredibly strong, and manages to knock Batman aside, and attach itself to the tube that Ivy is kept inside. Which, was a fatal miscalculation, because Batman is then able to activate that herbicide, instantly killing the Harvest monster. He leaps into action and saves Ivy from the chemicals, and brings her back to Arkham. Safe, but in a place where she’ll always be looking over her shoulder for a regrown Harvest.

 

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If you just take the story, everything described above, this is a pretty fun issue. Poison Ivy is a character that I like quite a bit, and honestly the whole vibe of her in this issue is pretty fun. The idea that Poison Ivy is abducting random creeps in Gotham, guys who push themselves on women in bars and various other sexual assaulters, and then dissolves them in super plants is really solid. That plant then coming to life with the souls of all the creeps it killed only to seek vengeance from beyond the grave is certainly a weird choice, but it too works. The issue is written by Paul Dini, most known for being one of the brains behind the fantastic 90’s Batman animated series, can certainly write a good Batman story, and that’s on display here. But boy oh boy does the art really attempt to take down any good will the story builds up. Because it is absolutely littered with some of the craziest cheesecake drawings of Poison Ivy I’ve ever seen this side of a DeviantArt page. Damn near every time Ivy is on the page she’s drawn in some ridiculous pose, accentuating her inhuman looking body proportions. It just makes me feel gross reading the book, which is a shame, because the script is clearly pretty fun, it just has one pretty big fatal flaw.

 

“Stalked” was written by Paul Dini, penciled by Joe Benitez, inked by Victor Llamas, colored by John Kalisz, lettered by Jared k Fletcher, and edited by Peter Tomasi and Michael Siglain, 2006.

 

 

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