[Editor’s note: This review may contain spoilers.]
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artists: Tula Lotay, Francesco Francavilla
The issue begins with Batman walking through a desert toward an unknown destination. He is wearing a specialized version of the Bat-suit – presumably designed for a desert environment.
Then the story cuts to Pamela Isley making a stop for supplies near Death Valley, Nevada. The storekeeper tells her that others had been there looking for her and attempts to blackmail him into not keeping his silence if they come back.
Pamela, also known as Poison Ivy, uses her powers to enthrall the storekeeper and orders him to keep her presence in Death Valley secret.
Arriving in Death Valley, Ivy stops at a single large tree, and changes into her Poison Ivy outfit and sets up camp. She then commences to work on her botanical research until she is interrupted by the unexpected arrival of Batman.
She uses her control of plant life to ensnare Batman in vines, but Batman insists that he’s not there to capture her, but to ask for her help.
Batman tells Ivy of a 14-year-old girl, an amateur botanist, was infected by the bacterial released by Mister Freeze last issue. Apparently the firebombing had failed to totally destroy the bacteria, and some of the surviving bacteria spread to Washington state, where young Lilly Seguro was infected.
Ivy suspects that Batman is holding something back from his story and demands to know what. So, he reveals that the strike force that came after Freeze is now coming for her. They have gotten wind of the biological weapons that Ivy has discovered in her research.
But Batman believes that Ivy isn’t looking for biological weapons in her research in Death Valley, but cures. Ivy tells Batman, that she believes the tree to be one of the “Great Copse” – trees that are reputed to cure disease and extend life. Legend tells that one such copse existed in Death Valley, and Ivy believes this tree to be the remnant of that copse.
Ivy still feels Batman is holding something back, and deduces that Lilly is already dead, and that the disease is spreading. What Batman really wants is a cure for everyone affected, and was using Lilly’s story to play on Ivy’s sympathies. Batman admits that Lilly has died and the disease is being called “Lilly’s Cradle” after her.
The strike force arrives, and Ivy kisses Batman to put him under her control, then orders him to defend her. The strike force members are using what Batman calls “quantum stealth”, which makes them invisible. Batman recognizes this technology and demands to know where they got it, and who they are, but gets no answers.
Batman and Ivy manage to fight them off, but the tree was destroyed in the battle, putting an end to her years of research into cures the tree could have provided.
Ivy angrily orders Batman to leave immediately, but Batman reveals that he isn’t actually under her control. He had been wearing wax lips when she kissed him. Batman was fighting to defend her of his own free will.
Touched by this, Ivy gives Batman a flower from which a possible cure for the bacteria might be created. However, she demands that Batman doesn’t allow the plague to be named after Lilly.
The second story opens with Duke Thomas having to solve a riddle to save his parents from the Riddler. Duke is unable to solve the riddle in time, but fortunately this scenario turns out to be only a simulation being run in the Batcave.
Batman ends the situation, admonishing Duke for running the simulation when he should be recuperating from his injuries. Batman and Duke discuss what’s really bothering Duke. Duke is worried that he won’t find himself like Batman’s other partners did when they went through the Cursed Wheel training.
Later, we see Duke quietly contemplating in his room at Wayne Manor. Eventually, Alfred enters to bring him breakfast, to find the room empty.
I am intrigued by this mysterious strike force. Why are they targeting Batman’s rogues gallery? Batman doesn’t know who they are, which in itself is quite a feat. So who are they, and what is their objective? They seem to be the connecting thread in the stories of the current arc, so I am certain we will learn more about them and their motivations in upcoming issues.
I loved the nod to the much-reviled Batman and Robin, in which Batman also made use of wax lips to avoid Ivy’s mind control kiss. Although a bit silly, it seems a plausible precaution to take with Ivy.
The second story featuring Duke Thomas seemed too short, and didn’t really advance his story much. Perhaps Duke’s story needs to have more space devoted to it. Maybe an issue dedicated to this story or his own mini-series might work better to move his story forward.
Despite a weak chapter in the backup storyline, the main story was strong and deepened the mystery of this strike force that is attacking Batman’s villains.