Mother Panic/ Batman Special #1 review

“Milk Wars” kicked off in the wonderfully weird JLA/ Doom Patrol Special #1, and I was surprised by how much heart the issue had, despite the oddity of the concept. The question now, is whether or not this trend will continue in the other titles?

The basic concept of “Milk Wars” is that Retcon, an evil organization found within the pages of Doom Patrol, is rewriting the story of our favorite heroes. In the debut issue, we saw how their involvement in retconning the origin stories of superheroes created a vastly different world… And as you may have suspected, they’re doing it with milk. Each member of the JLA was altered, as was Superman (Who became Milkman Man)! Yes, it’s silly and weird, but it’s fun. Clearly, Retcon isn’t going to stop with just the Justice League of America and Supes, so that begged the question of who would be next, and how would they be different?

We get that answer in this chapter of “Milk Wars,” Mother Panic/ Batman Special #1. The character that’s been retconned: Batman. Who is he now? Father Bruce. Yes, as in a priest. Batman is a freaking priest! If you let yourself enjoy the absurdity of this idea, it becomes quite fun! Rather than live in a quaint, 1950’s-esque neighborhood, Father Bruce has taken over the Gather House… And if you’re familiar with Mother Panic, then you know why this would get under her skin.

If you’ve never read Mother Panic, then don’t fret. Jody Houser does a solid job of making this crossover issue friendly for readers that are unfamiliar with the character. The first quarter of the issue sets up Violet Page, her upbringing in the Gather House – an orphanage-type facility that experimented on kids for various outcomes – what led her to become Mother Panic, and even establishes the foundation of her relationship with her mother. I’m not a fan of exposition, but there are times that it’s needed, and this is one of those instances. Typically, I’d prefer for writers to find creative ways of infusing exposition into their story as well, but with such a short page count, I think Houser’s execution was spot on.

As the issue progresses, we learn that Father Bruce is taking in young kids, and through the power of honey and milk, he’s relieving them of their burdens. Any dark experience or memory these children have ever faced becomes washed away. Their lives are rewritten much in the way that our heroes’ origins are being rewritten. Although weird (and yes, it really is weird), I like that this serves as the core plot for this issue, because it opens up some interesting themes and conversations. On the surface, it plays into the idea of Batman recruiting kids for his war on crime. Violet has a funny one-liner about it, and although it isn’t explored in depth, the conversation is there. In addition to that, the chapter also touches on the danger/ recklessness of removing trauma from people’s lives. This is a theme that I’ve always wanted to explore as a writer, and while it is only touched on here, I hope it’s something Houser explores in the future.

In the end, though, this is really just a giant teaser for Mather Panic. The problem with this is that the one thing Mother Panic desperately needs as a book, is a distinct identity. Violet as a character hasn’t been consistent. She’s essentially a cross between Batwoman and Midnighter, and operates in Gotham. Her book started with a distinct tone, but that changed the moment co-creator Tommy Lee Edwards stepped away. Ever since then, Mother Panic has felt like an experiment to determine what will work best… And quite frankly, that needs to be figured out before a book is published.

Also, since its debut, DC has toyed with how involved Violet Page would be with the Bat family. Ultimately, she’s a hero (but don’t call her that) that operates in Gotham. At first, they teased her crossing paths with Batman and even had her come to blows with Batwoman, before quickly moving away to act as if the story where set in a separate universe – something they did with the entire Young Animal line. Now, this crossover crashes Batman and Mother Panic together, and teases a number of storylines that could make Mother Panic an interesting book in its own right… The problem here, is that when Mother Panic returns to regular publication, it will take place in a time that’s post-Batman. It’s clear DC wants to do some fun, intriguing things, they just can’t seem to commit to it due to fear. So as long as that’s the case, I can’t see Mother Panic reaching its full potential.

So, in the end, what we have here, is an issue that plays well in a stand-alone nature of the over-arching “Milk Wars” narrative, but doesn’t do much to help Mother Panic as a whole. And while this issue is stand-alone, there are ties to “Milk Wars” altogether in the respect of Retcon, milk, and Cave Carson’s Cybernetic Eye. If you plan on reading Doomsday/ Justice League of America Special #1, then I recommend you check this out. If you’re looking to read this because it brings Batman and Mother Panic together… Then I’d recommend skipping it.

The Art:

Frank Quietly delivers an incredible cover, and we’d expect nothing less from him. Right away, you know what to expect concerning the narrative because Batman is front and center as a priest! The internal art by Sonny Liew, however, leaves something to be desired. The interiors look cartoony, and while it works with the offbeat nature of “Milk Wars,” it doesn’t work with the edge that is supposed to be found in Mother Panic. In fact, this is also one of the major issues with Mother Panic’s solo title. But even when paired well with the tone of “Milk Wars” milky goodness, Liew’s pencils don’t contain the detail and textures to elevate the script. In fact, I’d venture to say it hinders Houser’s script. It’s not bad, but it isn’t great either.

Recommended if:

  • You’re invested in “Milk Wars.”
  • You’re curious to see what Mother Panic is all about.
  • You’re looking for a stroll through absurdity (in a good way).

Overall: As a product of “Milk Wars,” Mother Panic/ Batman does exactly what it needs to do! The story is offbeat and connected to the arcing story, while also serving as a complete stand-alone read. Jody Houser deserves tons of kudos because that’s not an easy feat to accomplish. Unfortunately, if this crossover does anything, it highlights the nagging problem with Mother Panic in its own respect – and that appears to be that DC seems too afraid to commit to what would make this book intriguing.

SCORE: 7/10