Friday, July 19, 2024

Mother Panic Loses One Partner and Gains Another

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This month’s Mother Panic wraps up the story of Ashley Layton and Voilet’s old classmate, “Pretty”. It’s light on Mother Panic backstory, but big on action, culminating with the reveal of the mysterious rat wrangler living in the Paige’s basement. 

Ends With a Bang

I’m running out of buildings!

The issue opens on Ashley Layton. His properties have been bombed by Pretty (as we know from the last two issues) and he’s mighty sore about it. He’s about to call in the “big guns” when his car goes up in flames with him inside it. It seems Pretty has had his revenge.

From there, Pretty narrates his own story, comparing it to a fairy tale. He talks about slaying a dragon, but that is far from the end of the tale. There is still the princess. Typically a princess is a prize to be won, or a prisoner to be rescued, but what happens when the princess defies her role in the tale? That’s exactly what Violet is doing.

It’s clear Pretty took Violet’s rejection as a betrayal, and now he sees her as another enemy to be dealt with. They both grew up under the same roof, both mistreated by Gather House, but Violet has turned against him. She will pay.

Violet Self Destructs

During Pretty’s mad ramblings we see Violet out on a date with a new girl. She is approached by a paparazzo, and takes offense to him laying a hand on her. She deals with it as one would expect.

Take a picture, It’ll last longer!

Three days later, out with the same woman, Voilet gets dumped. Her girlfriend is alarmed, not so much by Violet’s actions, but by how much she seemed to enjoy it. Violet takes it in stride, and runs to the nearest bar for a drink. Her inner monologue opines on who the real monsters are, the ones you can see coming, or the ones dressed up in pretty clothes partying where there used to be a prison torture chamber (which sounds like a uniquely Gotham place to party).

After unceremoniously dealing with a barfly, she resolves to wait until tomorrow to figure out what happened with Layton and what’s next.  She heads to bed.

Pretty Meets the Fam

The second half of the book flies by pretty quickly. Pretty breaks into the mansion and bumps into Violet’s doctor. Remember? The one who used to work at gather house? Unfortunately for her, Pretty recognizes her and decides on some impromptu revenge, but not before she fixes what was done to him.

Meanwhile, mom is chilling on a toadstool in her Wonderland garden, but she senses something is off and goes to wake Violet. Violet as Mother Panic finds Pretty trying to force the doctor to do some spur-of-the-moment plastic surgery. He wants her to undo what they did to him at Gather House. He wants to be unpretty like TLC. Is that too dated a reference? 

I like it.

Pretty and Mother Panic scuffle while Mom and the Doc get away. Mom calls for reinforcements from her friend in the basement, and Pretty—in a way—gets his wish.

Some Batman fans might have recognized Otis Flanagan, the “Ratcatcher” from previous issues. This is him. He’s reformed and trying to put his life back together. Voilet agrees to let him and his army of rats stay in exchange for protecting the house, and for taking care of Pretty, who won’t be firebombing anyone else anytime soon.

Light on Reveals

Creepy grabby hands. That old chestnut.

Besides confirming the identity of the Ratcatcher, this issue was light on the usual breadcrumb trails we’ve come to expect from Mother Panic. Not for nothing, we do get a pretty nice bit of action, and some great Violet character moments, but no reveals into the mystery that is Mother Panic. There are a few flashbacks, but nothing we haven’t seen before; kids training in hand-to-hand combat, being watched over by shadowy figures. The usual Gather House stuff.

This feels like the end of the first arc, as Hemsley and Layton have both met their end, and Pretty is, well, not so pretty anymore. It’s anybody’s guess where Mother Panic will focus her energies next. There is still Gala to deal with, the homicidal artist working with Hemsley, but we’re not sure if Violet is still concerned about her. There’s also the Bat Family. Will they continue to monitor this dangerous new operator in Gotham? The sky is the limit as far as what’s next for Violet.

So much red.

Shawn Crystal and Jean-Francois Beaulieu continue as artistic team, and this is their best issue yet. The use of color especially is strikingly beautiful. From bright greens and yellows to dingy browns and greys, each page is shot through with dynamic colors that give the different locations their own sense of place and atmosphere while also being gorgeous to look at. And the flashback scenes, what few there are, continue to be creepy and macabre and bathed in crimson.

This book has been fun to read so far, especially with the unraveling mysteries about Mother Panic, and there is still so much more we want to know. Our one complaint is that Violet’s whole motivation seems to be “revenge and damn the consequences”, which is frankly difficult to empathize with. She’s a challenging protagonist to love, and can come off as an entitled emogirl. She showed flashes of heroism when she knew the Batfamily was watching, but that element of her has been absent these last two issues.

This issue didn’t deliver any big reveals, but it did wrap up the first arc in a satisfying way. Now we can look forward to what’s next and hope that Pretty’s downfall was the wake-up call that Violet needed.

Mother Panic #6: Broken Things Part 3

Written by Jody Houser

Art by Shawn Crystal

Colors by Jean-Francois Beaulieu

Letters by John Workman and Shawn Crystal

All images courtesy of DC Comics

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