Yesterday saw the release of the fourth of four new titles from DC’s “Young Animal” imprint, Mother Panic #1 written by Jody Houser (Faith, Orphan Black) art by Tommy Lee Edwards. The new Young Animal comics are curated by musician and comics writer Gerard Way, and focus on a darker, more mature world than standard DC comics (read: it’s violent and they swear and stuff).
This newest title finds us in Gotham City. (I know, like Gotham needed another vigilante hero, right?) This time, it’s a society debutante, Violet Paige, a rebellious trust-fund youth who loves to give the paparazzi the bird, literally.
We open with Violet landing in her private jet. She’s just had some kind of surgery, and is being counseled by someone, a doctor presumably, about taking it easy. She exits the plane facing a swath of reporters clamoring for an interview, and simply gives them the aforementioned obscene gesture.
From there a flashback introduces us to young Violet, her dementia-addled mother and her father who takes her out into nature for daddy-daughter time. Then we jump back to the present and are introduced to Dominic Hemsley and his lover/bodyguard. Hemsley is showing his companion a piece of art that we don’t get to see before heading to a party of some kind. His bodyguard seems taken aback by what he’s seen. What could it be?
Then we are whisked away to a high society party. Violet dodges an old flame and is looking for Hemsley, who is at the same party. Then back to flashback with Violet and her father out deer hunting. They see a deer and Violet can’t bear to pull the trigger. Back to the present at the party, Violet dodges a reporter digging for details about her father’s “mysterious death” and goes after Hemsley’s bodyguard. She intends to interrogate him for something we don’t know, but before she can get him, some armed goons in Hemsley’s employ remove him from the party. He’s seen something and must be dealt with.
Violet as “Mother Panic” appears and does her superhero thing, beating up the bad guys, who take her for one of the Bat-family. She knocks out Hemsley’s bodyguard before he can thank her, and sails off with him on her personal airplane/motorcycle. They land at Violet’s palatial mansion. Violet, now sans costume carries her unconscious catch through the atrium where mother is singing in the garden. She gives Violet a flower. Back to Hemsley, who is frantic to see someone named Gala. He is warned what happens when she is interrupted, but he accepts the consequences. Gala is the artist to whom he commissioned the piece he and his bodyguard were looking at from earlier. He is afraid that the bodyguard was too disturbed by it and was going to the police, but was picked up possibly by one of The Bat’s associates. Gala is working on a new piece of her own.
Violet, back in her Mother Panic outfit is interrogating the bodyguard who pleads for help related to the “art” he saw, but she’s not that kind of hero. She has to help, he insists. “They are only kids”.
This comic introduced a bunch of new faces and a ton of backstory in just a few pages to start with. It accomplished this very well without being infodumpy. They used minimal text cues to indicate what was a flashback, and what was now. It took tremendous trust in the reader to figure it out, and once we get a feel for who the characters are and the set pieces, it’s pretty easy to follow, though it definitely benefits from a second read-through.
Violet is an intriguing character right off the bat. She seems to wear this iconoclastic image as a kind of facade. Her father’s death was evidently some kind of mystery, and she does not like talking about it. The “operations” hinted at on the first page are very interesting. Is she enhanced in some way? We are never clued in to what beef she has with Hemsley that takes a back seat to whatever kind of perversion the bodyguard saw, but it will be revealed in time for sure.
Gala is another story. She is some kind of homicidal artist when we see her actively at her craft, which makes the unseen commission of Hemsley’s that much more terrifying. Add to it the fact that Hemsley is afraid to see her despite the urgency of his news, and Gala is shaping up to be a frightening villain.
Violet’s mom is suffering from Alzheimer’s and just seems to be milling about in her garden singing and picking flowers. We’re not really sure what connection she has to the story yet besides being Violet’s only connection to her childhood.
Tommy Lee Edwards’s art uses a lot of deliberate dark linework and a cool color palette with splashes of vibrant color here and there to accent characters and specific panels. The backgrounds are largely monotone even when detailed which helps the characters pop, especially Violet who mostly dresses in dark colors. Mother Panic’s bright White outfit is a stark contrast both to the darkness of the setting as well as the other Gotham heroes, one of whom makes a brief cameo appearance. The one fight scene includes a montage of panels with seemingly-random gothic art in striking pinks and purples, such as a rose with an eyeball at its center, or a bunny sitting in an upturned human skull. These images seem random, and it’s unclear yet what purpose they serve, but they add to the alt-gothic ambiance of the comic, and are very cool to look at.
Mother Panic’s superhero design is very cool. The pointy ears hint at a relation to the bat family, as is pointed out by one of the goons she beats up, but it is apparent that there is not any affiliation (yet). The helmet appears to be pretty high-tech, but we aren’t given any shots of “panic-vision” to see what she sees just yet, or what kind of gadgetry it houses. The rest of her costume resembles practical light armor with thick studded gauntlets perfect for putting the hurt on bad-guy faces.
This was a great first issue. It introduced a lot of new characters and story elegantly, and in few pages, so it could get right to the mystery and action. It’s a bit of a challenging read at first, but once the characters and settings are introduced, it’s easy to follow. The mystery is definitely intriguing, and we get just enough detail to leave us wanting more. The main character has a definite Rebel Without a Cause feel to her, and it will be interesting to see how she arcs going forward. This is a definite recommend.
Images courtesy of DC Comics.