Ricky Church reviews Mother Panic Vol. 1: A Work in Progress…
There’s a new vigilante on the streets of Gotham City, and she’s got her own brand of violent justice. Enter Mother Panic! By day, Violet Paige is a celebutante with a bad attitude and a temper to match, whom no one suspects of having anything lying beneath the surface of her outrageous exploits. But Violet isn’t just another bored heiress in the upper echelons of Gotham City’s elite. Motivated by her traumatic youth, Violet seeks to exact vengeance on her privileged peers as the terrifying new vigilante known only as Mother Panic. Collects issues #1-6 of this new series!
Mother Panic is DC’s second book in its Young Animal imprint aimed at older readers. The imprint takes place within the DC universe, but only on the peripheral. Mother Panic somewhat changes that as it takes place directly in Gotham City, but despite Batman’s prominence on the cover this book is all about the new vigilante Mother Panic.
Mother Panic Vol. 1: A Work in Progress introduces Violet Paige, a young woman who is incredibly wealthy, but haunted by a traumatic upbringing and the experiments forced upon her. She returns to Gotham City to hunt down the people responsible as Mother Panic, a very tough, ruthless vigilante that doesn’t care so much about whether the people she hunts live or die.
Writer Jody Houser creates an interesting character in Violet. She’s got a chip on her shoulder and doesn’t let anyone get too close, but still cares for her very ill mother and struggles with some of the actions she takes. The beating-up criminals part she loves, but though she’s willing to cross the line to take a life that’s something she has yet to overcome. Its an interesting contrast to her hard personality.
Young Animal is meant to be more for older, mature readers and it definitely shows. Houser doesn’t play around with the story’s themes, imagery or wording, dropping plenty of F-bombs (perhaps excessively so) throughout. Since this takes place in Gotham, it’s a stark contrast to the usual Batman books, showing just how seedier the city can be. It works fairly well in creating an unsettling atmosphere that sets it apart from other Batman titles and even Young Animal’s Doom Patrol.
The story is overall well told, though it may take readers a little bit to understand what exactly is going on or who is who in the first couple chapters. Houser drops you in right in the thick of it and takes her time to fill in the blanks. It’s a bit of a jarring introduction, but after that the book moves along at a nice pace and peels back more and more of Violet’s personality and how she came to be.
Houser also wisely does not rely on Batman’s presence; he and Batwoman appear briefly, but are still relegated to a cameo or maybe a supporting role in Batwoman’s case. This allows for readers to get attached to Violet rather than waiting for a sign of Batman of another member of the Bat-family, and even by the time they do appear you’d want the focus to go back to Violet.
The art is split between Tommy Lee Edwards and Shawn Crystal. Edwards does the first half of the book while Crystal does the second. While both have different styles, they’re similar enough that it doesn’t cause much inconsistency between their work as the book transitions from Edwards to Crystal. This is largely due to Jean-Francois Beaulieu’s colouring. Beaulieu adapts well to their styles by retaining the same moody atmosphere throughout the book and plays a lot of the shadows and reds of Gotham to make it look demonic-looking.
Included in the book are some sketches from Edwards, an afterward by Young Animals’ header Gerard Way, character bios and some back-up stories take are separate to the main story, written by comics veteran Jim Krueger. That extra content adds to the book’s enjoyment.
Mother Panic Vol. 1: A Work in Progress is a good book that introduces an interesting character and a new look at Gotham City. Readers should enjoy this new character thanks to Houser’s writing and wit, though may be a bit lost at the beginning of the story. Regardless, Houser crafts an earned intro to this new ‘hero’ backed up by the art from Edwards, Crystal and Beaulieu.