Better late than never, I suppose. I meant to review the first volume of Jody Houser’s Mother Panic back when it came out a few weeks ago, but life gets in the way sometimes. So here we go. Mother Panic is one of the several new comics from the Young Animal line from DC, headed by Gerard Way.
Written by Jody Houser and illustrated by Tommy Lee Edwards, Mother Panic: A Work in Progress tells the story of Violet Paige, a rich young celebutante with a bad attitude and a worse reputation. No one would ever suspect that this tabloid-fodder wild child has a secret hidden beneath her spoiled heiress exterior—a secret that has driven her to become the terrifying force of vengeance against her privileged peers known as Mother Panic! But even as Violet launches her all-out assault on the rich and twisted, her shaky allies threaten to betray her, and every one of Gotham’s guardians—from Batwoman to the Dark Knight himself—is hot on her trail. Will Mother Panic continue to strike terror into her enemies’ hearts? Or will her violent quest for justice reach an equally violent end?
At first, I wasn’t really sold on Tommy Lew Edwards’ artwork. It was a bit hard to follow and just didn’t really work for me. Partially because I didn’t have a good grip on the characters that were being illustrated, so it just made everything a bit of a muddled up mess. But as I learned more about Violet and the others, his artwork began to click for me. He excels at his background work, really making Gotham City feel dark and grimy. Once you get used to his style and become acquainted with the characters, his facial expressions really stand out as well, giving further depth to the characters than they were already written with.
As for the writing itself, Jody Houser crafts a really gripping story. It’s possibly my favorite of the Young Animal line so far, though the fact that it’s set in the Batman universe might make me a bit biased. I just love how Houser has written the character of Violet Paige/Mother Panic. She feels so layered and real. I mean, her backstory isn’t the most original. It sort of boils down to “woman takes revenge on those who abused her earlier in life”, but that’s fine. It’s the way that backstory is used and molded around her character and the characters of her family that makes it work as well as it does.
The plotline itself revolves around Violet tracking down two people from her past: the first being her dad’s working partner who was somehow involved in his death. The second being the man who steered her brother towards the boarding school she was sent to (and later, essentially, tortured at.) There are two separate story arcs in the novel, the first being about her dad’s working partner and the second focusing on the man who influenced her brother. However, the two arcs work seamlessly as one whole arc that explores Violet’s character and follows her as she navigates through solving the mysteries and interacting (briefly) with members of the Bat-family.
There’s a backup story, that runs through all the issues, that tells the story of radio producer Debbie Stoner whose boss, Danny Ruby, was murdered live on air while he was praising Batman. In the aftermath of Ruby’s murder, a new presenter is found in Cory Edgars, a podcaster who is vehemently anti-costumed vigilantes. However, Debbie is contacted by a mysterious man who claims that Edgars is not who he says he is and that all costumed vigilantes, current or former, (which includes her dad, the now retired Odd Man) are in danger. It’s a fun supplement to the main plotline of Mother Panic and it goes a long way towards continuing the process of fleshing out Gotham City as a real place.
All in all, Mother Panic: A Work in Progress is an excellent graphic novel. It’s a great introduction to an interesting character and a great addition to the Batman/Gotham City mythos. I give it four and a half out of five wands.