Poison Ivy has been one of Batman's foes since 1966, but some of her best portrayals have positioned her somewhere in between a full-on villain and a misguided person with strong goals regarding the protection of plant life. "Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death" #2 firmly locks in the latter tactic for Poison Ivy, as Amy Chu, Clay Mann, Seth Mann, Jonathan Glapion and Art Thibert deliver a character whose intentions are good, though her methods are sometimes on shaky ground -- and, quite frankly, that's exactly what the character needs.
After a couple of years of a more villainous approach to the character -- betraying/enslaving the Birds of Prey and then trying to capture Clayface -- I like seeing Ivy back as Pamela Isley, a scientist specializing in botany and horticulture. Her goal of living a quiet life while creating human/plant hybrids similar to herself is more than a little admirable, at least for now. As we watch her trying to stay out of trouble even as the mystery of Dr. Luisa Cruz's death hovers over her head, you can even feel a bit of sympathy for her. This is about the closest we'll probably get to seeing Poison Ivy on the up and up, and that attempt has been jeopardized by the murder of her mentor and a blackmailer within the upper management.
At the same time, Chu makes sure to remind the reader that Poison Ivy isn't all sweetness. She has her own moral compass, and she's not afraid to use her abilities to hurt or kill others who get in her way. Her cold-hearted murder of one character in this issue comes at just the right moment, right after Chu lures the reader into a false sense of security. After all, she's trying to solve a murder and even being somewhat nice to characters like Darshan. Speaking of whom, the fact there's a character in this comic who practices Jainism is an interesting touch; it's not a religion seen in much fiction and it's an apt character to have in a Poison Ivy story.
Mann's pencils are good overall, although there are a few hiccups along the way. Mann draws Ivy as looking self-assured and strong at all times, something that fits the character. There's also the occasional fun little touch too, like using a trail of ivy for panel borders during a flashback. I was also impressed that the look stays consistent from one page to the next, with inkers Seth Mann, Glapion and Thibert's pages all looking similar overall. I do wish some of the transitions were a little better, though; moments like the dogs bursting out from behind the fence aren't telegraphed very well, and the flashback to the scene at the bar is actually a little hard to follow because the action it's depicting looks so static that everything seems spun around and strangely placed. Fortunately, these issues don't crop up very often, and the art works on the whole.
I'd definitely be up for more "Poison Ivy" helmed by Chu once this miniseries is over. Chu gives us a real mystery to try and solve, complete with multiple suspects and motives. Her depiction of Ivy is strong and interesting, yet still dangerous. This is exactly the take on the character I've been hoping we'd see again, and so far, so good. I'll definitely buy the remaining issues.