Written by Jody Houser (@Jody_Houser)
Illustrations by Tommy Lee Edwards (@tommyleeedwards)
Letters by John Workman
Review by Hernan Guarderas (@hguarderas93)
Mother Panic is the newest vigilante in Gotham City with Violet Paige, a high society figure who detests the social norms of the establishment she’s in. She’s angry and ready to act on that anger by finding a conspiracy that the reader only gets in fragments. Violet is dangerous and she’s ready to subvert those around her for her own need to discover some truth.
The origin story is a difficult task, but Houser, Edwards, and Workman handle it with the confidence that the other DC’s Young Animal books have established. It’s another book about loss which comes in the form of Violet’s mother developing Alzheimer’s Disease before losing her father in a tragic hunting accident. Then there’s anger that bites through the book elicited by conversations with a reporter at a social gathering and again when she arrives back in Gotham. She flips off the paparazzi and assaults a reporter at the bar who tried to get information on her father’s death.
There are scenes that allow the reader to understand Violet by showing her on a hunt with her father. Violet is about to shoot and she can’t. It’s a scene that highlights her lack of violent tendencies. She isn’t someone who will use them for the sake of violence, she needs a purpose and in that she reflects the philosophy of Batman.
Houser, Edwards, and Workman do their best work in a scene where Violet as Mother Panic is saving someone she intends to kidnap to gain answers for herself. She confronts thugs with guns and immediately springs into action, but with odd illustrations of a bunny in a skull, a blooming rose revealing an eyeball, and lightning striking a tree. The illustrations seem to be of how Mother Panic views these acts of violence or how she handles the stress of going into gunfire, but it makes a reader think about how deeply it involves her origin.
The big bad of the book is an artist/serial killer named Gala who could only be a reflection of Mother Panic. She’s violent, but in a that produces art that Violet would probably find boring and trite. They both use violence with a purpose. Gala uses it to ensure she has control over her emotions and the organization she runs, while Violet is trying to find out about Mr. Hemsley, a Gotham socialite.
Though the reader can see the lighter sensibilities, Violet truly encapsulates when interacting with her mother. She’s very careful with her and her kindness shines while she’s putting her captive away somewhere for his interrogation.
The world Houser and Edwards created is familiar because it is Gotham, but the perspective of how Gotham is viewed has changed. This isn’t a vigilante the likes of Batman, in fact it leans more toward the Red Hood’s sensibilities. Violet is out for blood, but only of someone who the reader can only assume changed her life for the worst. She’s connecting dots and giving the caped crusader a run for his money by saving someone before he arrives. She’s a detective, but only investigating a piece of her buried past that the reader has seen but a glimpse of. It’s also the first book in Young Animal imprint to get as close to the DC comics in terms of proximity and that’s exciting. Houser, Edwards, and Workman have a special opportunity to affect the DC universe with Mother Panic with an in-your-face and hyper-stylized property.
BUY! It’s a great origin that has a ton of questions that deserve to be answered. The mythology is rich with Gotham City and Batman mythos, but it lies on the fringes of those books. It’s created its own mythology that makes a reader want to dive deeper while platforming its own voice and vision. The book has the grit of a Batman book without needing to worry about gratifying any particular audience which is what the DC’s Young Animal imprint is doing. It’s violent, relentless, and audacious like the titular character herself and a reader couldn’t ask for more.