Today, DC Comics released Batman Secret Files: The Gardener #1, a one-shot set in the current Gotham City. You guessed it, it focuses on The Gardener, a new character to the DC Universe. Now, if you're like me, the only thing you know about her is that The Gardener is Pamela Isley's ex. I love Pamela Isley and I am very bi, so my interest was piqued when I heard about this. However, while I don't hate the current Batman line, it lost my interest after Joker War (I do still read Harley Quinn, though, which has been fabulous!). That said, I sat down to read this today and... my GOD. It's SO great I had to sit down and write a review about it, especially because I'm afraid people will overlook it!
What makes THE GARDENER so great?
Okay, so first thing's first- THE ART. HOLY SHIT. CHRISTIAN WARD, WHAT, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE??! This art is MIND-BLOWING! I mean, check this credits page out:
I am in LOVE with the lines, the inks, and the COLORS?!? Holy sh*t. The colors remind me of the series The Swamp Thing, with Mike Spicer's colors. Ward's colors are magnificent; bright, neon, and yet they still manage to be haunting and bring a chill to my skin. I can't get enough!
I've been learning more about comic panels and how they are structured lately. One thing that I LOVE about Ward's art in this is that not all the panels are separated nicely and easily. Yet, even when panels do not have a "clear" separation, the flow is so natural that our eyes don't need the separation to follow it. Just look at the page below!
While there is still a small separation made, with the curved line, it's a very abnormal one, and can easily go unnoticed unless you look for it. Ward is utterly GENIUS here. Goodness!
So, you've seen some panels, you're probably like "what the world is the story attached to this glorious art? is it as glorious as what Ward's done?". If you know who this is by, then you know the answer is: Yes. James Tynion V has crafted a glorious story to pair with Ward's art!
We learn more about The Gardener herself. We learn that she knows the system is broken and seeks to break it completely and make a new one. We learn about how she and Ivy met and how they became involved. Most of all, we learn that The Gardener is much like Ivy. She's a villain (gray character? someone help me out here) with purpose. She seeks to destroy what isn't good and create what is good- even if others don't see her vision. However, she was fortunate enough to avoid the trauma that Ivy went through- so she feels like her plans and motivations are less corrupt.
Tynion is the BEST when he is building characters that aren't already established. His original characters ALWAYS thrive the most. The Gardener is further evidence of this. Through amazing narration, I've become more invested in The Gardener than I've ever been in Tynion's entire Gotham. She's calculated, intelligent, diligent, empathetic, and flawed.
The parts where she talks about how much it hurt her to watch what Ivy went through and how she felt watching Harley put Ivy back together emotionally? Hit. Me. DEEP. Her characterization here reminds me of someone like Angelica from the musical Hamilton. She could be jealous, she could be selfish, she could be resentful- but she isn't. Her love and respect for Ivy go deeper than that, and even more than that, her belief in her cause is the core of who she is. She can't separate her cause from the person who lit the original spark.
I love seeing The Gardener explaining this all to Batman. Her interactions with him and her thoughts after she's done interacting with him prove that she is one of Tynion's original characters that will be leaving a mark even after he's gone. The Gardener is shaping up to be one of the most interesting characters in Gotham I've read about in a long time!
Whether you read the current Batman run or not, this issue is a must-read! I still can't believe what a masterpiece this book is. I would LOVE to see The Gardener get her own series as her character continues to flourish. PICK. THIS. UP!
Your Friendly Neighborhood Bi gives this....