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Poison Ivy strides toward the viewer, hand outstretched menacingly. Her hair is impossibly unfurled above her, she walks through a floor covered in fungal growths and human body parts, in a variant cover for Poison Ivy #2 (2022). Image: Claire Roe/DC Comics

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The Last of Us’ Cordyceps nightmare is already at work in Batman comics

Poison Ivy’s got a reinvention that’s finally gonna stick

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Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

Are you one of the many folks who’ve only just been introduced to Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, the real-life parasitic fungus that takes over the nervous system of ants, through The Last Of Us’ HBO adaptation? Regardless of whether you’ve caught the Cordyceps bug recently or not, can I interest you in one of the smartest things some comics creators have done lately? Poison Ivy has Cordyceps powers now.

Writer G. Willow Wilson and artist Marcio Takara’s Poison Ivy miniseries leapt onto shelves last summer, seeing Pamela Isley self-infecting with (the fictional strain) Ophiocordyceps lamia, in a murder-suicide plan to take down the human race. Wilson and Takara put the venerable villain through a six-issue cross-country road trip from despair to new self-actualization that’s the best Ivy story in just about forever.

What else is happening in the pages of our favorite comics? We’ll tell you. Welcome to Monday Funnies, Polygon’s weekly list of the books that our comics editor enjoyed this past week. It’s part society pages of superhero lives, part reading recommendations, part “look at this cool art.” There may be some spoilers. There may not be enough context. But there will be great comics. (And if you missed the last edition, read this.)

Poison Ivy #9

“I take you to some of my favorite places in the city,” thinks Poison Ivy as she and Harley Quinn eat noodles at a restaurant. Harley is delighted by all the hallucinogenic multicolored swirls around her in Poison Ivy #9 (2023). Image: G. Willow Wilson, Marcio Takara/DC Comics

In a certain sense, the first domino to fall was Harley Quinn — seen here enjoying just a sip of Ivy’s hallucinogenic spores. (Spending all day literally high off of your girlfriend? PEAK lesbian culture.)

If Harley’s gonna be a character we root for — and it’s too late to take that back at this point — she’s gotta stop doing indiscriminate murder. But if she’s gonna be the committed partner a full-blown supercriminal, well, that’s tricky, isn’t it? The moment the Harley Quinn animated series got Harley and Ivy together, that became the central question of the show, but necessarily in a Harley-centered way.

DC’s Poison Ivy has been the true character feature that Ivy has needed for a while now, one that gives Pamela nuance without softening her; that celebrates the character’s sexiness as a full-chested embrace of a The Last of Us-style, Annihilation-style botanic-fungal monstrous feminine; a story about how the cure for getting tired of the struggle is to form connections, with an unmistakable “eat the rich” throughline.

And, even better, DC just announced that the series will not end at 12 issues — this summer, Ivy will return to Harley and Gotham with combo mushroom and plant powers as Poison Ivy graduates from miniseries to ongoing. The list of Batman villains to hold down their own ongoing series is small, and it’s a testament both to Ivy’s appeal and to Wilson and Takara’s work that she’s joined it.

Where Monsters Lie #1

A man in a short-sleeved button up and heans grumbles to the old woman next to him that he “used to be head of the greatest murder family of all time, and now I’m an errand boy to monsters.” “Richard!” the woman yells at a grown man dressed like a creepy clown, standing on a nearby front porch next to three overflowing trashcans. “I can see your trashcans! That’s an HOA violation! It’s a fineable offense, Richard!” in Where Monsters Lie #1 (2023). Image: Kyle Starks, Piotr Kowalski/Dark Horse Comics

Speaking of villains, I didn’t even know writer Kyle Starks had a new book starting up (with artist Piotr Kowalski) that’s about a homeowners’ association secretly by and for slasher horror villains. If the first issue is anything to go by, it’s series with some broad world-building to get on the page, alongside plenty of gore and guts, and even more winks and nods to the slasher genre. Starks is a must-read for me, so I’m already on board.

Monkey Prince #11

Marcus Shugel-Shen/the Monkey Prince crosses staves with Sun Wukong, the Monkey King, each perched on their own flying cloud, in a two-page spread full of riotous color and costume detail in Monkey Prince #11 (2023). Image: Gene Luen Yang, Bernard Chang/DC Comics

There are times when I think that Monkey Prince would have made a better YA graphic novel than a monthly ongoing. But then artist Bernard Chang and colorist Marcelo Maiolo remind me that they’re going extremely hard on the look of this book, and writer Gene Luen Yang does something like reveal that not only does our hero have Sun Wukong, the legendary Monkey King, on one side of his family, elsewhere on his family tree is Ultra-Humanite, the Superman villain who is a mad scientist who put his mind in the body of a genetically engineered ape with an exposed brain.

I’m not immune to that!


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