SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Batman #43, by Tom King, Mikel Janin, Hugo Petrus, June Chung and Clayton Cowles, on sale now.
“The War of Jokes and Riddles,” which took place in the pages of Batman #25-32, was the source of several ugly revelations in the world of the Dark Knight, most notably that the Caped Crusader nearly broke his most sacred rule when he attempted to kill The Riddler in cold blood. However, another seemingly out-of-character moment transpired in part two of the story arc, when Poison Ivy -- long depicted as more of an anti-hero than an outright villain -- not only joined forces with The Riddler, but also murdered five of Carmine Falcone’s thugs.
Of course, the argument can be made that, since these events took place merely one year after Bruce Wayne first suited up as Batman, it’s hardly outside the realm of possibilities that it was also before Ivy decided to take a more neutral stance in Gotham’s criminal underworld. Nevertheless, the act of her taking multiple lives still rubbed some fans of the character the wrong way, but in Batman #43, we learn her actions weren’t as cut and dried as they appeared.
Picking up immediately where Issue #42 left off, we find Bruce sitting in a hospital bed. He's talking to Ivy through Harley Quinn, attempting once again to dissuade her from using global-scale mind-control to try to “fix” their increasingly broken planet. Meanwhile, we see that Ivy’s physical form is trekking through a thick and tangled forest-side park with Selina Kyle, as the pair recollect their involvement (or in Selina’s case, lack thereof) in the aforementioned war between The Joker and The Riddler.
From there, we get a flashback to Falcone’s thugs being bound and constricted by vines all those years ago, as Ivy and Riddler casually strolled through that very same park she brought Selina to in the present-day. “I killed five men,” Ivy tells Selina. “I wore The Riddler’s signet on my arm.”
As we soon learn though, Ivy’s dual conversations with the soon-to-be Mr. and Mrs. Wayne, not to mention the added wildcard of Harley, leave her vulnerable, if only for a moment. Taking full advantage of this opening, both Bruce and Selina jump into action and bring Harley directly to Ivy, hoping to capitalize on the pair’s deep-seated relationship as a means of talking Ivy back to her senses.
Fortunately, this emotional reunion yields more positive results than any of them could have expected.
After reconnecting with Harley, what’s been hinted at throughout “Everyone Loves Ivy” becomes abundantly clear: Ivy isn’t just trying to save the world for the obvious reasons – she’s also trying to atone for the sins of her past. As it turns out, though, those sins aren’t her crosses to bear but rather The Riddler’s.
When Selina mentions the “men in the park,” in reference to Falcone’s thugs, the gears in the mind of the World’s Greatest Detective begin turning. “Wait,” he says. “Ivy… didn’t kill those… men… Riddler did.”
Once again, we flash back to Batman #26, when the Caped Crusader was forced to clean up Team Riddler’s mess in the park. As he reveals, though, each of the five men had suffered gunshot wounds and the bullets could all be traced back to Riddler’s gun. Furthermore, he was able to determine they’d been hanging in the park for at least 30 minutes before they were shot. Yes, Ivy restrained them, but it was The Riddler who returned to the scene to take their lives.
While this revelation hardly excuses Ivy’s recent actions, it does go miles in terms of redeeming her character, not just in the eyes of Batman but also in the eyes of longtime fans of the character who perhaps felt that King misrepresented her in “The War of Jokes and Riddles.” In any case, it’s all the more reason readers should have faith – as well as patience – when it comes to proven comic book writers and serialized storytelling.