• Brad Gullickson

'Batman Secret Files: The Gardner' Plunges into Poisonous Pathos

We review the latest Fear State tie-in comic from James Tynion IV and Christian Ward and find bliss in its Poison Ivy celebration.

Despite the proper nouns in the title, Batman Secret Files: The Gardner is more concerned about another character. James Tynion IV and Christian Ward use the two titular figures to explore Poison Ivy's history and future and her ever-growing importance within and without Gotham City. The comic almost operates as a demand; it's time to give Pamela her solo book. She doesn't deserve it. We do.


Our planet is screaming. It's been screaming. Deaf ears are all its encountered, mostly. The few listening are ready to do more than echo that scream; they're prepared to fight. They're not prepared to burn this mother down, just you, the ignorant human offender, off it.


As environmental concern quickly (not slowly) increases, the characters who fight for The Green within DC Comics only become more interesting and a lot less villainous. Poison Ivy is no longer some interchangeable member of Batman's Rogue's Gallery. She's a warrior deserving of a title, and maybe even rule over Gotham if not the whole DC universe.


In Batman Secret Files: The Gardner, the Dark Knight wanders into a rich man's greenhouse. Billionaire William Cole, his fourth wife, and two kids are trapped inside their panic room. Outside, The Gardner waits with her ravenous vegetable hounds, hoping to spark a conversation with the winged rodent.


As she tells us, her readers, she's not much for towns with costumed wannabe guardians. Usually, she'd stay away and concern herself with her own special projects. But Gotham has something she still cares about, Pamela Isley. They share a deep history, and while The Gardner doesn't want to relay all that backstory upon Batman, she does want to give him a taste. And an understanding.


This is who Poison Ivy was. This is who she is. Get ready.


Secret Files lays it all out there: The Gardner is connected with Ivy, Jason Woodrue, and Swamp Thing. Each character offers hope for the Earth and terror to the fleshy pulps threatening it. James Tynion IV stitches these titanic Green characters together in a tantalizing fashion, revealing a potentially epic purpose, and one comics' enthusiasts are ready to explore in a way they previously were not.


No one currently does cosmic illustration better than Christian Ward, making him the best artist to challenge the Green and its glorious Innerspace. He makes an infinite cosmos from The Gardner and Ivy's backstory, stretching their history into these wide, bottomlessly deep spaces. This is not a dialogue book; it's an investigative monologue from The Gardner to Batman. In the hands of another illustrator, the comic could drone and drop. Ward transforms Tynion's lesson into a sumptuous, tangible odyssey. One you could sail a starship across or break into a sixty-issue saga. Yes, please.


Batman Secret Files: The Gardner suggests a massive plan for Poison Ivy. Here's hoping it does not end with her learning that extreme violence distracts from her "important" message. It's time for that narrative cycle to snap.


Quickie Review: An essential read for Poison Ivy fans. James Tynion IV and Christian Ward excel together, showcasing what each other does exceptionally well in comics. Batman Secret Files: The Gardner finally roots DC's floral crusaders into one gloriously scary tapestry. 8/10


Image Credit: © 2021 DC Comics

Batman Secret Files: The Gardner


Writer: James Tynion IV

Artist: Christian Ward

Colorist: Christian Ward

Letterer: Tom Napolitano


On Sale: Now


Synopsis: 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? Green-thumbed storytellers James Tynion IV and Christian Ward dig deep into her past and unearth the secret origin of the latest addition to Batman’s rogues gallery. 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.