TLH6

What does Poison Ivy have to do with St. Patrick’s Day? Erm shut up, that’s what. Everything goes green this time of year, and it’s probably for the best that they didn’t opt for the other green-coloured villain, The Mad Hatter, given the optics of this particular holiday. Ivy’s been hired by an increasingly capable Falcone to swerve Bruce Wayne’s mind and force him to allow money laundering through the Wayne banking system, so she spends the issue with complete control of the caped crusader.

For a character who so completely takes over the issue that Gregory Wright fills every page with shades of green, it’s fascinating how little Ivy resonates in the story as a whole. She’s there as a symbol, her leaves crawling all over Bruce Wayne as little tendrils suggesting her control over him, but she doesn’t really have much going on aside from that. Perhaps its because this is just a freelance gig for her, and her creator-owned work is more important, but she seems pretty bored through the issue. Catwoman leaps at her to stop her scheme, and she simply walks away from the scene, uninterested in a fight or anything similar.

She instead walks straight over to Falcone, gets paid, and wanders off to wherever else. As a means to an end she’s at least visually distinctive, in that Tim Sale draws her as a pile of leaves whizzing out her head, like a botanical version of Medusa. She gets Bruce to give a speech to his board of directors where he approves them to work alongside Falcone, and then they have a bit of dinner, and that’s basically it for her. It’s all highly “villain of the month”, and there’s clearly a sense that the story is trying to pad things out wherever it can. It’s nice to see evidence that Selina clearly cares for Bruce (enough to go race to his house so she can go save him), but there’s not much momentum here.

It comes off as a bit of a distraction, because the creative team don’t have anything much else going on this month. The Holiday murder is an afterthought once again, because there aren’t any named characters that we’re able to kill off at this point. We get more shading in around the lines that’ve been drawn by the gangsters of Gotham – Sofia Fatale arrives, and more on her in a bit – but this month all Holiday does is shoot a bunch more of Sal Maroni’s men. It’s a pretty generic scene, and comes just after the “fight” between Bruce and Catwoman at Wayne Manor. It’s almost an intentional anticlimax, ensuring that the reader prioritises the Ivy story over the main narrative. Holiday’s body count rises without the reader having much reason to care about where the bodies came from.

Maroni is understandably furious, so at least we’re getting something out of the story. It’s an odd choice though, because this issue’s most interesting aspect is the return of Carmine’s daughter, Sofia, who is presented as an immediate gamechanger. We’re made aware that her plan is to go hit Maroni herself, only to be robbed of that scene by Holiday’s earlier arrival. Considering this is our first time seeing Sofia, it’s odd that the narrative chooses to withhold her for the time being – you’d normally expect some kind of scene that’ll show her off, and give us a reason to find her important and cool when we’re halfway through the story already.

So she remains a loaded gun at this time, unused. We instead have her most potent scene be the one where she reconnects with her aunt Carla, one of the few named mobsters still left alive in the story (and, let’s be honest, probably a future Holiday victim). Their reunion emphasises the important of respect, even within the same family, and showcases just how strongly Falcone’s plan has paid off for him. He’s got his daughter back, the money is flowing again, Batman is (inadvertently) off the board for a little while, and his allies are working with him again. He’s gathering his force again, as emphasised by the final page reveal that he was the one paying off Ivy.

That scene doesn’t mean much to the immediate story – of course he was the one paying Ivy, her job was to get Bruce Wayne to open his bank for Carmine – but it does suggest one interesting new aspect to his character. He’s compromising. The narrative in Gotham has always been that the super-villains squeeze out the original, honourable mobsters, and here perhaps we’re seeing how that actually played out. Falcone is the first mobster to make a deal with a super-villain, who breezes her way through the assignment with relative ease. Falcone took five issues to fail to deal with Bruce Wayne, but Ivy did it within about six pages – once she realises how much more effective she is at this sort of work, it’s clear she’ll be running her own table instead.

There’s the future of Gotham, and it’s reflected also in the short scene we have between Harvey Dent and Jim Gordon. Here, Harvey looks over the recent crime scene photos and notes how it’s only the mobsters who are being taken out by Holiday. He’s pretty gleeful about it, and isn’t hiding it very well, saying Holiday “wants to do our jobs for us”. That leads to a reflective Jim Gordon telling him off, reminding Harvey that their jobs don’t include murder. It’s starting to become clear that Dent’s idea of being pragmatic is to take evil presences off the board entirely, in whatever way comes up; whilst Gordon is still following due process.

Gordon is distracted, though. He goes on a speech about the golden days of his childhood, when he was innocent and didn’t know about the evils of the world. Dent wants to head straight for Wayne, who he sees as a key player in what’s going on with the mob – and given that Bruce just announced his plans to work with Falcone, Harvey’s pretty justified to fly straight for the guy. Gordon is hardly even paying attention though, because he doesn’t have that black and white sense of morality that Harvey lives by. He’s more worried by the idea that future generations are growing up into a society where everybody is aware of the crime in Gotham – that ethics and morality are being corrupted at a younger age for everyone.

But ultimately, he’s just worried as a whole. Batman is distracted, Gordon is distracted, and Dent is the only one of the three who seems to still be taking any kind of excitement in their game. While everyone else is looking the other way, the most dangerous person in the room is the one who’s looking straight at you.

See you on April Fool’s Day!

 

Batman The Long Halloween #6: St. Patrick’s Day
Written by Jeph Loeb
Art by Tim Sale
Colours by Gregory Wright
Letters by Richard Starkings and Comicraft

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