If there is one thing you can definitely say about Mother Panic, it’s that it’s in a class of its own. Take that as you will (good, bad, weird, etc), but in the Batman mythos, it stands out.
For many reasons, I loved the first issue! Yes, some people referred to it as “just a R rated Batman story,” but for me, it was much more than that. There was some great character work – albeit odd characters were involved – incredible symbolism, and an interesting plot. I’ll even embrace the definition of “weird,” because it’s fitting for certain portions. The tone and grit along with the story are dark enough to make Mother Panic unsettling, and there’s a world of mystery that’s just being tapped. This issue delivers on all of that again, but in varying levels.
Upon reading this issue, I immediately thought, “That wasn’t nearly as good.” Where the first issue crammed a lot of narrative and development into the chapter, this turnout left me a little unsatisfied. I was also left slightly confused. There were elements that weren’t completely making sense for me, so I decided to sit down and read the story again. Clearly, two to three readings is going to be a requirement going forward.
Most of my confusion was cleared up, while some of it still remained. I wish I could say that the confusion all ties into mystery, and that it will be cleared up in future issues, but that’s not necessarily the case. Some of my confusion stems from the art, and my inability to determine who certain characters are. When you’re already wondering “what’s going on here?” because it’s the intention of the narrative, that’s one thing. But when you throw in additional instances of that into the story just because the art isn’t clear or detailed enough, that creates a whole world of problems that will most likely just grow over time.
Despite some shortcomings, the issue is still strong though. I will stick to my assessment that the first issue was better, but this chapter was better than I originally thought. Houser spent more time providing character work. Typically I would be all for this, but moments that she added weren’t necessarily needed, nor did they do anything to add to the narrative… well, that we know of anyway. For instance, there’s a scene where Violet meets a guy at a party, goes home with him to have sex, then goes out of her way to draw bloody smiley faces all over the guy’s place so he won’t call her. Once the first arc is complete, maybe this will feel more prevalent or less bothersome, but for now, I can’t help but think those pages could have been used better.
Concerning the plot, things do progress concerning Violet’s hunt for Hemsley (who I still believe is the man with her father in flashbacks), but the results are quite surprising. I did appreciate seeing how Violet goes after Hemsley, and I also enjoy their encounter, but I would be fibbing if I said that it didn’t feel a little fast. The plot also progresses a little concerning Violet’s mother – granted, I wasn’t fond of how it happened – and we also learn more about Violet’s past. I have no doubt that a revelation concerning Violet’s past is meant to be shocking, but I honestly expected it. Actually seeing what goes down doesn’t take away from the impact though, and it’s clear that this could easily play into Violet’s current psyche.
Themes were also a large part of Mother Panic’s debut, but they aren’t as strong here. If I’m being honest, I feel as though everything relaxed in this issue: the themes, the creep factor, etc. Perhaps the moments and panels were less calculated considering the team didn’t make a first impression. I don’t consider this a negative but it was noticeable. What I was sad to see was that some of the more edgy characters and plot points that were introduced last month, aren’t covered here. I guess it leaves something to desire, but I was hungry for some of it now.
When all is said and done, there’s still quite a bit to like about it. I personally enjoy the parallels to some of my experiences in Los Angeles. I’ve been to those “socialite parties,” and Houser captures some of those people perfectly. It’s uncanny, really. I also appreciate the reminder in each issue that this story takes place in Gotham, as well as the fact that Batman and his team basically run this city.
All in all, if you enjoyed the debut, you will enjoy this issue as well. It may take more than one read – in fact, I highly recommend reading it more than once – but you should enjoy it. Granted, when you reach the last page, you will be wanting more. More from this issue, and more issues to drop sooner rather than later. And don’t forge the short “Gotham Radio” that closes out each chapter. I have a feeling I’m going to look forward to this as much as I am the main story going forward.
The Art: I referenced this in my previous review, but Tommy Lee Edwards suffers from “Gary Brown syndrome.” If you remember, Gary Brown was the first artist for Genevieve Valentine’s Catwoman. In both situations, I love the texture and grit that they bring to the narrative because it blends with the tone. Strictly from a stylistic standpoint, there’s so much that I love… But then the necessity of cleaner art comes into play. When discover who characters are through appearance alone, you’re going to have your work cut out for you. There were a few times where I became confused while reading the story simply because I wasn’t sure who the character was at first. This style is one of those double-edged swords that gives as much as it takes.
Breakdowns for this issue can be found in the spoiler tag.
The hunt. I really enjoyed watching Violet stalk then attack Hemsley. The entire attack was entertaining, and I like watching Mother Panic’s approach. The art left something to be desired, but the narrative surrounding all of this was strong.
Themes. Although the themes weren’t as strong here, there were moments where they landed. The bit with Violet going for the kill after hunting her target, then symbolically showing the buck with cross-hairs was nice. What made it even better, is following that with Violet not being able to kill Hemsley, and following that with an image of a necklace of teeth – a clear signal that she’s usually proud of her kills. It’s two, small panels, but they add so much to the story in the grand scheme of things.
Won’t leave any marks. During the first issue, I wondered if Violet had been molested as a child. There were hints towards this, but nothing was ever revealed. This issue also hinted very heavily that this happened to Violet in her youth when the flashback showed her father making an arrangement.
As it turns out, the arrangement wasn’t for Violet, but for Violet’s mother. Something that drove a little girl who was incapable of shooting a deer to kill her own father.
I feel as if there’s so much more to this than we know, and I can’t wait to find out how big this “iceberg” really is once we actually dive in.
Batwoman. Another Bat character for the win! I came into this issue wondering, “Will they show Batman again, or have they made their point?” To my surprise, they showed Batwoman! Now I’m curious to see who pops up in future issues!
Gotham Radio. Seriously, this is going to be the little story that could. It’s bleak, but it’s damn good. If there’s one thing this book portrays, it’s that people are hurting. All through this world, people are hurting. You can try to numb that pain, ignore it, escape it with movies, books, television, whatever… it’s there. We all deal with it in some form or fashion, and this story captures that. Yes, it’s kind of depressing, but it’s good.
Missed opportunities. This issue didn’t even touch on two of the highlights from the first issue: the mystery of what Hemsley had locked away, and Gala. I know it’s coming, but I was really hoping to get something in this issue, and there’s nada!
Run, you idiot. Last month Violet kidnapped Hemsley’s lover – partially for his own protection – and locked him in a room. He manages to escape the room and… has tea with Violet’s mother? Idiot. If I were kidnapped and handcuffed in a room, you better believe I would be out of that house as soon as possible.
Someone is listening. And who was that listening to their conversation? The idea of it is very intriguing, but I have no idea who that is! Is that Violet’s assistant that was at the beginning of issue #1? Is it someone else? Does Violet know/ have her listening, or is she spying on Violet and family? These are good and bad questions to have, but I supposed only time will tell.
- You enjoyed Mother Panic #1
- You prefer grittier, edgier stories.
- You want to see a tire iron get thrown through a window.
Overall: Mother Panic continues to deliver, and Houser is making it clear that she has a lot of characters and plots to cover. This issue slows the narrative down a little to focus a little more on character work, but also manages to create new mysteries and questions while answering a few as well. If there is going to be one thing that leads to this titles downfall, it will probably be the art… The irony is that the art is also one of its strongest attributes.