Friday, April 12, 2024

Mother Panic Offers Tantalizing Clues But No Answers

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Through 4 issues now, Mother Panic has masterfully dropped hints and tidbits about Violet Paige. We still know precious little. We know she accidentally killed her father, for which her brother blamed her and sent her to a shadowy children’s home. Something was done to her there, and now she can fight and has been enhanced. She’s had some kind of surgery. And, she is out for revenge on everyone involved in setting her awful childhood in motion.

That’s what you always say.

Last week, we met Pretty, a tall slim guy with a weirdly perfect face. He was discovered to be another “graduate” of Gather House. Like Violet, we received precious little detail about him, but he appears to be after the same goals as she is. This week, revealed aspects of his and Violet’s history, as well as offered more insight into Violet’s character.

The Deal with Pretty

Right off the bat, this issue starts with some of Pretty’s backstory, and how he was made “pretty”. He tells his story poetically, speaking about a boy who wished to become beautiful. The Gather House doctors promised perfection, but they went beyond, and now he is an abomination (and very much bonkers to boot). Violet listens. She’s picking up what he’s cryptically laying down. They share a similar history and similar goals, but that doesn’t mean they are friends.

They are still admiring their handiwork from the end of last issue, but Violet has a doctor’s appointment, so she leaves him there to go for a checkup. At the doctor’s, they talk about Pretty. Her doctor seems familiar with Gather House and their methods. Violet has a sweet spot for children (or, rather, a sour spot for abusers of children). We get a few more hints about her surgeries, but once again, Houser leaves enough unsaid to keep us guessing.

From there, Violet visits with mom. Mom appears to be chatting with her flowers. Violet has scared them away, which is frustrating for mom. She isn’t often understood. But then again, she still thinks Violet is in school. Just to make sure we know how messed up mom is, she starts reciting Opehelia’s lines from Hamlet. Could this be foreshadowing a tragedy to come? We don’t know, but we do know she was talking to rats, not to flowers. Creepy.

Every day at school is a good day, Mother dear.

A Night on the Town

Violet meets with Pretty to hit their next target, but it seems that Layton has hired a private army after the last two bombings. They are thwarted this time. Pretty asks Violet out for drinks, but a frustrated Mother Panic has her own plan in mind.

What I meant to say was “no thank you”.

Violet’s favorite pastime when she’s not punching badguys or blowing up their stuff is going out on the town and making a scene. She abuses a paparazzo. She also sucks face with a random woman at a club, but her heart isn’t in it. She’s still thinking about revenge. Flashback to Violet in the hands of Gather House. Her fight training is going so well that Mother Patrick earmarks her for some new program. This is presumably where Violet goes under the knife.

Back in the present, Mother Panic meets up with Pretty at their next target. He hands her a rifle, a weapon she presumably hasn’t used since she killed her own father. It makes her visibly uncomfortable. Pretty proposes taking something important away from Layton, but Violet refuses. There are some lines she won’t cross, lest she become like the monsters she is fighting against. She dissolves her partnership with Pretty, and we get one more clue about her surgeries. It looks like the doctor she is seeing is the one who experimented on her at Gather House. What?

What I meant to say was “no thank you”.

Back home, Violet has cake with mom. Mom shoos her off to bed so she can visit her friend, but this is no imaginary friend. It’s a mysterious character we’ve seen before. He appears to be living in or near the mansion, and mom’s brought him some cake, too.


You said it, pal.

Mother Panic stays true to form this issue, dropping clues and leaving hints, but not laying all the cards on the table. Now we know that Gather House operated somewhat like the “Red Room” from Marvel comics. (For those who don’t know, this is where Black Widow and the Unstoppable Wasp were trained from childhood). There, Violet showed an aptitude for fighting, and even killed someone (accidentally, probably). She is placed into an experimental surgical program by the very doctor she is still seeing. Does she know it was her? We aren’t sure.

It seems like Gather house had no rhyme or reason to the way they operated. They turned Pretty into some kind of freak for… what? We don’t really know. Even Violet’s doctor admits that they kind of just did whatever to see what would happen, all under the diabolical direction of Mother Patrick. And we mean diabolical. All of Violet’s flashback scenes (and Pretty’s as well) are rendered in violent reds and ashen grey. The doctors and nurses appear demonic, and skeletal shapes dance maniacally in the background, evoking a chilling quality.

The artwork throughout gives a nightmarish energy to the story, including what’s taking place in the present. The only exception is the atrium where mom hangs out. Even there, however, it’s not quite total serenity. Ominous faces carved into trees watch over them, and giant mushrooms loom in the background. Something is off. It’s unsettling in an Alice Through the Looking Glass kind of way.

Downward Spiral

Three syllables! She must be pretty pissed.

Violet is losing whatever small amount of control she had over her own life. The one person she had who could relate to her experiences turned out to be a terrible partner. Even her own mother is escaping her confinement to meet with shady characters. Going clubbing to take the edge off isn’t working, and she can’t get at Layton to punch his face into jelly.

This issue moved at a frantic pace, offered up some tantalizing revelations, but stayed true to form by withholding enough to keep us biting our nails in anticipation. What could be standard fare Dark & Gritty™, wallowing in unpleasantness in unskilled hands, Houser, Crystal, and Beaulieu masterfully turn into a macabre tale of angst. We’ve all got demons in our past we’d love to punch, but they have private armies of their own. What would punching them accomplish anyway? No one stands a better chance of finding out than Violet, and we can’t wait until she does.

All Images Courtesy of DC Comics

Mother Panic #5: Broken Things Part 2 Credits

Writer: Jody Houser

Art: Shawn Crystal

Colors: Jean-Francois Beaulieu

Letterer: John Workman & Shawn Crystal


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