Thursday, August 18, 2011

Suicide Squad

The modern version of Poison Ivy is often depicted as hostile and anti-social in titles like Gotham City Sirens. But if you examine her history you will find that Ivy was not above group affiliations.

She's been a member of The Injustice Gang, and had a brief stint with The Secret Society of Supervillains. Poison Ivy has also been seen running amok with the latest incarnations of the Legion of Doom. However, this post will be discussing her time spent with the Suicide Squad.

The current Suicide Squad (created by John Ostrander in the aforementioned Legends #3) is an anti-hero team of incarcerated supervillains who act as deniable assets for the United States government, undertaking high-risk black ops missions in exchange for commuted prison sentences. The group operates out of Belle Reve Penitentiary, under the command of government agent Amanda Waller. ~Wikipedia
The "Ostrander" era of the Suicide Squad debuted in 1987 and it is, without a doubt, the most popular version of the title. Poison Ivy first appeared in issue #33 - the halfway point of the Suicide Squad's 66 issues. With the exception of Neil Gaiman's Secret Origins #36, "Pavane" origin story there was not much going on with Ivy in DC Comics. At this point she was relegated to cameos in supervillain team ups and back up stories. Thankfully the Suicide Squad run kept Poison Ivy relevant.

Her characterization in the Squad was good and often great. She was smart, brazen, and at times petulant. Though she never dared to cross Amanda Waller. (Those who tried were fools.) The only angle I found annoying was the occasional display of wantonness mixed with a level of questionable vanity during dangerous missions. That one (very) minor nitpick aside, Ostrander created one of the more interesting and fully realized versions of Poison Ivy.

Poison Ivy's costume and powers were definitely old school. When not in civilian clothes Ivy would wear her classic "181" look but you never see Ivy's "meta" plant manipulation abilities beyond issue #33. The emphasis is on her knowledge of plant toxins, poisonous touch, and her famous deadly kiss.

(The remainder of this post basically walks you through Poison Ivy's time with the Suicide Squad in a loose chronological fashion with descriptions and images. Let's get started.)

Suicide Squad v.1 issues #33-36 feature Poison Ivy's first appearance and adventure in said title. However, she isn't an official member of the squad during this story arc.

The basic premise is that Lashina is attempting to regain her status as leader of the Female Furies after being ousted by Bernadeth. To do this she must return to Apokolips and battle her former sisters. The problem is that Lashina is stranded on Earth and requires the assistance of a few unsuspecting characters to participate in her death wish.

Lashina (aka Duchess) sneaks into Arkham to recruit Deadshot (Floyd Lawton) but realizes that his current mental state leaves him unstable and useless to her aims. Just before Lashina leaves Arkham Asylum a voice in the dark volunteers her services. It's Poison Ivy! Lashina allows Ivy to be a part of her mission. For now...

Filling out the remaining seats are Nightshade, Shade the Changing Man, Vixen, Major Victory, Captain Boomerang, Count Vertigo, Big Barda, Briscoe, sad lil' Flo Crawley, and yes Amanda Waller. Most of the team is rendered unconscious (thanks to Ivy's potions) and they are put onto a shuttle train and teleported to Apokolips to act as cannon-fodder. Lashina goes for Bernadeth's throat and she very much succeeds while a war rages.

Poison Ivy finds herself amidst the chaos in a two-page spread. (upper left)
Killed in battle are Dr. Light, Briscoe, Flo, and Lashina. (She is destroyed by Darkseid's Omega Effect for subordination.) Poison Ivy survives but not before trying to take out Granny Goodness with her poisoned nails. She fails and is called a slut in the process - ouch! But her gesture was enough to earn the trust of the Squad (somewhat) and a ride back to Earth compliments of Darkseid.

Upon arriving home Poison Ivy attempts to make amends for the poisonings and asks to stay with the team. Amanda Waller appears mostly indifferent to Ivy's plea. She is troubled by the death of her cousin Flo but in the end she allows Ivy and Deadshot to remain.

A doe-eyed Poison Ivy in a rare display of humility.
Suicide Squad v.1 issues #37 and #39 features "The Coils of the Loa" story. Poison Ivy, Deadshot, and Ravan are called upon to aid in Amanda Waller's assassination of the Loa figureheads. The Loa is a rogue organization that dabbles in voudou and they are creating an army of zombies with a mixture of animal and plant toxins. Specifically tetrodotoxin (Puffer fish) and Datura Stramonium (a.k.a. Zombie's Cucumber) as identified by Poison Ivy.

The team of four dispense their own special brand of street justice by taking down everyone along the path that leads to the Loa headquarters. Including a horde of invading zombies. Poison Ivy: Zombie Hunter. I definitely like the sound of that.

Amanda Waller kicks in a door and shoots and kills Boccor, Damballah, and Mambo with the help of Deadshot. She cuts loose Poison Ivy, Deadshot, and Ravan then takes the fall for this illegal mission. Amanda Waller is jailed at Belle Reve penitentiary for her crime.

Poison Ivy and company leaving a bloody scene.
Suicide Squad v.1 issues #40-44 introduce Batman to the book for "The Phoenix Gambit". A year has passed and Amanda Waller is given a presidential pardon in the hopes that a reformed Squad can eliminate conflict between the USA and Russia in Vlatava. The Russians have drugged Count Vertigo and he is leading the enemies charge. Poison Ivy is tracked down in Rio Brava (capitol city of Puerto Azul, South America) and hired to rescue the Count.

Poison Ivy doesn't actually appear until issue #41 but when she does we are treated to one of the more hilarious moments in her DC continuity. Ivy has seduced a certain General Vaca and plundered Puerto Azul's economy. The nation has risen up against the power couple and demand "Ivita's" death. Yes, she has taken upon the role of an "Evita" like character. Poison Ivy escapes with the aid of Batman. Long live Ivita!

Ivy succeeds in rescuing Count Vertigo from his drugged madness, with a kiss, and Batman (along with the rest of the Squad) eliminate the Vlatavan threat. Because she's a bad girl, Poison Ivy decides to keep Count Vertigo under her control and he essentially becomes her love slave. He tries to fight off her charms but fails.

You've been a very bad girl. A very very bad bad girl Ivy.
Suicide Squad v.1 issues #45, #46, and 47 finds the Squad on the hunt for Kobra in Jerusalem. Upon his discovery Ravan and Kobra battle to the death. Raven succumbs to Kobra's poison as the Atom, who tried to intervene, watches him expire.

Poison Ivy plays a minor role in both #46 and #47 but she does appear on a few pivotal pages.

Amanda Waller finds a lingerie clad Poison Ivy and (a silk robe wearing) Count Vertigo held up in an apartment living a life of leisure. Well, at least one of them is at this point. Waller is there to retrieve Count Vertigo because he is needed for the "Serpent of Chaos" mission.

Waller demands Ivy release the Count from her spell and he soon goes into a violent rage when the potion fades. Count Vertigo is now very much aware that he was under Ivy's mind control and wants revenge on his former mistress. His anger will come back to haunt Poison Ivy at a later date.

Suicide Squad v.1 issue #58 is part of the "War of the Gods" crossover event with issue #59 briefly addressing Poison Ivy's status after the war.

War of the Gods centered around Wonder Woman and her nemesis Circe. The infamous witch is responsible for starting a battle between the gods of various cultures. Black Adam recruits the Suicide Squad to attack the fortress of Circe that is being guarded by werebeasts and renegade amazons.

Poison Ivy is laying low in the Amazon Rain Forest - the very same place where Circe's island sanctuary is located. What a coincidence. While nosing about the jungle Poison Ivy is captured by a werebeast and strung up in the fortress tower. I do find it strange that Circe would keep Ivy captive instead of killer her on sight. Though she does make good bait.

Black Adam and the Squad are battling Circe's defenses as new recruits drop like flies. The fight is interrupted as the ground begins to shake - the island is self destructing. Count Vertigo finds a captive Poison Ivy crying out for help. The Count mocks her current situation and as the walls begin to fall he flees. Count Vertigo finally has his chance at revenge...

Count Vertigo abandons Poison Ivy in Circe's collapsing fortress.
Major Victory orders Maser to change into a light beam and alert the team that it's time to retreat. Maser finds Poison Ivy and saves her at the very last minute. Phew!

In #59 Poison Ivy is laid out and unconscious in an "Institute for Metahuman Studies" hospital bed. Count Vertigo sneaks into her room but is caught by Dr. LaGrieve who suspects he is there to commit murder. The doctor informs Count Vertigo that a precise mixture of Vlatavan drugs and Ivy's poisons had inadvertently cured his manic-depression. He begrudgingly leaves.

Suicide Squad v.1 issues #63-66 begins the "Rumble in the Jungle" mission. But it's also the beginning of the end for the Squad - DC Comics cancelled the Suicide Squad book at issue #66 without much warning.

This Wikipedia entry about "Rumble in the Jungle" summarizes the events rather succinctly.

The series concludes in issues #63-66, in which the Suicide Squad travels to Diabloverde (an island near the Bermuda Triangle) to depose a seemingly invulnerable and invincible dictator calling himself Guedhe, who has his own personal bodyguards, a group of villains calling themselves the Suicide Squad. Insulted by the rival team usurping the Suicide Squad name, Waller accepts the mission to liberate Diabloverde at the price of one peso, paid by an exiled resident, Maria, with the addendum of exterminating the island's dictator.

During that mission they face the other Suicide Squad, who the actual Suicide Squad beats. At the end of the storyline Amanda Waller tricks the despot, actually Maria's husband, into a form of suicide (the despot believes himself to be immortal, when in actuality he was a formidable psychic whose consciousness kept animating his remains; Waller convinced him her touch brought death, and thus he died). Before that each of the Squad members travel through the mystic jungle to Guedhe's fortress and in that jungle face their personal demons (except for Deadshot. The creative team makes a point of showing he is seemingly unaffected or simply does not have any fears. Also note-worthy, the other Bat-villain, Poison Ivy, is not shown facing her fears and shows more concern for her nylons). Afterward, Waller disbands the Suicide Squad and the series ends.

Poison Ivy puts Sudden Death under her spell.
Another item of note is that Poison Ivy played an important role in this mission's success. Amanda Waller pulls Ivy aside and they have an off panel conversation. Later Waller is shown claiming to have the ability to kill with the touch of her hand. Guedhe is skeptical so Waller places her hand on Maria and his wife drops dead. The superstitious man resigns to his own death and Diabloverde is saved. It turns out that Waller had Poison Ivy create a neurotoxin (that simulated death) and the antidote.


There you have it folks - Poison Ivy and the Suicide Squad. An exciting two and half years abroad in the life of Gotham City's most infamous botanist.

I will go on record as saying the true breakout star from this series is Amanda "The Wall" Waller. She exists in comic books against all odds. Waller is an older overweight woman and a racial minority. Yet she resonates. Amanda Waller still commands attention in the modern day DC Universe. She's appeared in animated features and now live-action television and film.

She's tough and takes no guff - not even from Miss Poison Ivy.

•Suicide Squad #33 "Into the Angry Planet"
•Suicide Squad #34 "Armagetto"
•Suicide Squad #35 "That Hideous Strength"
•Suicide Squad #36 "In Final Battle"
•Suicide Squad #37 "Threads"
•Suicide Squad #39 "Dead Issue"
•Suicide Squad #40 "The Phoenix Gambit Part 1: Ashes" (poster only)
•Suicide Squad #41 "The Phoenix Gambit Part 2: Embers
•Suicide Squad #42 "The Phoenix Gambit Part 3: Firefight"
•Suicide Squad #43 "The Phoenix Gambit Part 4: Black Queen's Mate"
•Suicide Squad #46 "Choice of Evils"
•Suicide Squad #47 "Choice of Dooms"
•Suicide Squad #58 "Suicide Attack"
•Suicide Squad #59 "Legerdemain"
•Suicide Squad #64 "As Nasty As They Want to Be"
•Suicide Squad #65 "Run Through the Jungle!"
•Suicide Squad #66 "And Be A Villain!"

•War of the Gods #3 "Casualties of War" (crossover)

•Wonder Woman #61 "To Avenge An Amazon"
(This Wonder Woman entry is part of the "War of the Gods" crossover event. But there's a continuity error. On the last page Poison Ivy appears alongside other DC characters who are swearing their allegiance to the deceased Princess Diana. There's no way she could have been there because at this time she was recovering in a hospital.)


Anonymous said...

Loved Ivy's run in this series and love how "The Wall" became such a huge presence in the DC universe. See the seven people on that 'Rumble in the Jungle: The Final Mission' cover? Those seven should have made up the relaunched Suicide Squad line-up(Amanda leading of course). Not this semi-naked goth/punk wannabe version of Harley Quinn and a hammerhead Shark King. Seriously, wtf?

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