Batman Secret Files: The Gardener #1
She is shrouded in mystery, her motives a secret, and one cannot help but ask: Who is Bella Garten, a.k.a. the Gardener, really? Learn not only how Bella Garten came to know Pamela Isley, but how she was integral to the origin of the woman who would one day be known to all as Poison Ivy.
Right from the first page, Ward’s art makes this comic simply gorgeous, enchanting, alluring and the best possible mystery you can get into, as almost every page could be framed as a work of art, and the sinuous lines guide you through the life of Bella Garten and her connection with Poison Ivy. And the story Tynion has to tell delivers on the mystery and feels at home with these characters, alongside how central and natural to it is their queerness.
With both Bella and Pamela’s motivations of ecological justice perfectly detailed, a somehow mundane and terrifying villain, and even a cameo of Harley Quinn (that gives us a perfect page of Harley and Ivy kissing), this issue has everything you could ask for, and it only fails, to some extent, in the how. Most of the Batman Secret Files line presents this prosaic narration with flashback style, but this one leans especially hard on it, having the story told very explicitly in the captions/Bella’s recollection of events (perfectly lettered by Napolitano in a very Sandman Universe style), with the visuals adding beauty and atmosphere to it, but sometimes not much more. There are some pages in which the connection between visual and caption is marvelous and fascinating in how they elevate the narrative and Bella’s point of view (specially when she meets Ivy and towards the cathartic end of the issue), but there are also moments in which the captions seem disconnected from the gorgeous visuals (and those feel like done for the sake of gorgeousness), and I can’t help but wish some interactions were showed more than told, or even allowed some dialogue for it to flow better.
And I well know these are conscious artistic decisions by the creative team, because every panel is tailored to the detail and every color is impressively feasting on the eyes of the reader, but I feel like that same strength of the book sometimes makes it loose itself in the beauty and not give the full potential to the story, specially when that beauty is mixed up with more action or darker scenes. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that this comic reaches both visual and thematic highs that are close to perfection, and would immediately get you interested in these characters, the motivations behind their ecological and revolutionary viewpoints, and what’s to unfold very soon in Gotham.
A gorgeous work of art, narrating an intriguing story and the equally intriguing psyche of captivating characters. Sometimes too much of a work of art, other times perfectly there, but with both a set up and a conclusion that are more than satisfying.
Batman Secret Files: The Gardener #1: To Protect The Green
- Writing - 7.5/107.5/10
- Storyline - 8.5/108.5/10
- Art - 9/109/10
- Color - 9/109/10
- Cover Art - 9/109/10
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