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Mother Panic Vol. 1: A Work in Progress (Young Animal) Paperback – June 20, 2017
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“Teens who love gritty Batman Stories will find plenty to like in this latest Gotham City Vigilante…Violet’s bitterness, long-buried secrets, and tightrope walk between bravery and recklessness make this a nice fit for fans of Greg Rucka’s Batwoman: Elegy.” —BOOKLIST
“Houser’s dialogue and characters are superb. Edwards is in top form; his pacing is wonderful and the action is fantastic.”—NERDIST
“While there is no shortage of women heroes, there is a major shortage of woman antiheroes and MOTHER PANIC looks to fill that gap.” —NEWSARAMA
“Mother Panic is a somewhat more traditional superhero story, but the psychedelic visual style and and surreal, fractured narrative give the book a flavor all its own.” —IGN
About the Author
Jody Houser is the creator behind the webcomic Cupcake POW! Houser has written Faith for Valiant Comics, Max Ride: Ultimate Flight and Agent May for Marvel, and Orphan Black for IDW. She has been a contributing writer to numerous comics anthologies, including Avengers: No More Bullying, Vertigo CMYK: Magenta, and both Womanthology series. Houser contributed to Justice League of America: Road to Rebirth and is currently writing Mother Panic for DC.
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However, I was not aware that he would switch out after a couple of issues, and the drastic shift in the art completely threw off the story for me.
For one thing, it disrupted the visual continuity, the difference was incredibly difficult to ignore. The new style was very comical, which took away from the seriousness of the plot. The change was enough for me to put down the book prematurely.
It was too much like when J H Williams iii and W. Haden Blackman left the New 52 Batwoman series... :(
To be fair, I should have looked up if the series would have one consistent artist; which is why I'm not going below 3 stars.
Mother Panic vol 1 is interesting in that it isn't well defined at all. The story line and the characters are as blurry and messy as the great illustration work by Tommy Lee Edwards. Reading this in a monthly format is certainly way more difficult than reading it one chunk. Thankfully, the book has an impressionistic / passive narrative style that is executed well enough to not be an issue. There are a lot of books that try to do stuff like this and just turn into pretentious drivel quickly.
It's important too as the basic plot is rather well worn. Random character is out for revenge is the basic line for the book. They have Batman level money and they can pay for all the roids and robot bits. Author Jody Houser seems to think that the thing that makes her unique is that she has ambiguous sexuality. I disagree and this may be an accident but the bits about the character that seems most interesting is that she's extremely creepy, which the slave labor and mom stuff for example, and selfish. It's like if you took the characters from The Crow and mashed them up with surly rich girl who doesn't care about you and thinks immigrants are great cause they cost less than poor people. Basically, all the faults of Batman but from a different gender perspective and frankly more vindictive and vicious. The inner dialogue boxes of the character are bitter and childish. It adds a level of danger as the character never seems mature enough or aware of the outside world enough to pull anything off.
The illustration is good too. Tommy Lee Edwards nails the impressionism well. Shawn Crystal despite being the complete opposite style works pretty well. Funnily, Crystal gets the segments that have the most narrative definition overall. Not by much but more than the other story line here. The coloring work is great too. It keeps a tonal consistency between illustration teams in that it matches Edwards original coloring scheme but also does just enough to let you know something new is happening. It's a great looking book. Looks like Michael Mann in the 80s but with Batman style characters running about.
I'd definitely recommend this book to just about anyone. It's a superhero story, crime story, old school vertigo story, has just enough lefty virtue signalling for those that need it, an interesting narrative conceit, and it looks great. It's definitely not perfect. However, it's worth checking out to make the decision. It's better to be interesting and messy like this than uninteresting and technically sound like a Nick Spencer book.
When the book presented is this good, absolutely.
Mother Panic, by necessity, serves as a foil to Batman. Whereas Bruce Wayne fakes being a gossip-mag paparazzi-magnet playboy, this book is lead by a character who actually is the kind of high-intensity a-hole drama celebrity, and the difference is palpable. That's not to say that Violet Paige isn't an interesting or dynamic character, mind you; everything you see feels like she is trying to work through her traumas in the best way her warped worldview can. And despite what the cover might have you believe, with Batman taking up a majority of the cover-space, it is definitely not a Batman story; he only makes a few tiny appearances, with Batwoman grabbing a couple more, and otherwise no connection to the direct Bat-family at all. It is definitely its own book.
The story is definitely a fairly dark one. Topics like dementia and pedophilia are throughout, and the "mature audience" focus of the Young Animal imprint is front and center with courser language being the most obvious first sign. That's not to say any of it gets gratuitous, though. Mother Panic manages to balance all of these things with an inherent humanity to the characters, playing the dark themes for tragedy rather than a misplaced sense of edginess.
I definitely recommend this book. Violet Paige is one of the most broken and flawed superheroes I have seen; she's not necessarily the best at what she's trying, nor the most focused within her own goals, and that's what makes her feel so believable.
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Writer: Jody Houser
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