Tom King has given readers plenty of reasons to expect a masterpiece with every single issue he's written of Batman. In issue #43, the conclusion to "Everyone Loves Ivy," King delivers his usual level of excellence, but also succeeds for another reason entirely. Drawn by Mikel Janin and Hugo Petrus, the issue wraps up Ivy's conquest for world domination with a revelation about her character. It's a revelation that not only gives King's story a surprise twist, but also stands to redefine Ivy's nature and possible future role in the DC Comics Universe.
It's rare for a Batman villain to initiate a worldwide takeover. Rarer still is for said villain to convincingly be portrayed sympathetically. King confidently pulls off both, with a plot by Ivy that's deceptively simple in nature, and a motive that isn't what it initially seems. Ivy's takeover is one of those why-didn't-anyone-ever-think-of-that kind of story ideas, but there's no better writer to come up with it than King. Furthermore, King establishes plausibility for Ivy's current actions, and reveals that some of her past ones were not as they seem.
King accomplishes two important characterization elements in one clever stroke. One, Ivy is established as a world-class villain, although whether her actions are truly villainous is a topic explored by King in the story. The Joker, Riddler, and Penguin might be the big names in Batman's rogues' gallery, but Ivy is now shown to be one of the heavy hitters.
Two, King humanizes Ivy to a level rarely seen. Gone is the mere sultry seductress that she's often portrayed as, and in her place is a character driven by her emotion. Her powers, even used to their natural fullest extent, are merely a tool to further her ends, rather than the focus of her actions. And those ends aren't driven selfishly, but instead altruistically. While King brilliantly examines what her powers are ultimately capable of, this examination is ironically a means to more deeply explore her character.
If anyone demonstrates consistently executed excellence as well as King, it's Janin. Like the story's two previous chapters, Janin's pages are nothing short of gorgeous. Janin's lines again prove to be well-suited to both Ivy's typically lush, idyllic, garden-like settings, as well as the more sterile confines of a hospital room, where Bruce continues to recover. June Chung's colors, as always, embellish Janin's layouts with a beautiful and equally lush palette. Petrus, credited with four of the interior pages, perfectly matches Janin's layouts and pacing.
There's another clever element previously seen in King's work that's especially apparent this issue. His usage of other prominent DCU characters as supporting characters is deftly interwoven throughout his story. King wields the players of the DCU like notes in a guitar solo -- attention isn't called to any one in particular, but collectively they combine to enhance the story as a whole. Back in the day, such appearances would have been blatantly splashed across the cover as a selling point, but under King, it's not necessary. King's story sells itself, and if a walk-on by Superman makes it even better -- which it does -- so be it.
Praising King's work at this point has become an exercise in redundancy -- but what a wonderful side effect of his stellar run on the title. With Batman #43, "Everyone Loves Ivy" might be over, but everyone still loves Tom King and his artistic collaborators, and continues to have good reason to.