As Violet Page’s (aka Mother Panic) recovers from the surgery that saved her life, she continues her personal investigation into ‘Gather House’ the mysterious place that helped create what she is today. She soon discovers another possible Gather House survivor, one who might just unleash feelings and memories the stoic Violet has little patience for. But is this other woman friend or foe? Was she perhaps something even more?
Mother Panic #10
“Under The Skin Part 1”
Written by: Jody Houser
Art by: Shawn Crystal
Colors by: Jean-Francois Beaulieu
Letters by: John Workman & Shawn Crystal
Cover by: Tommy Lee Edwards
Variant Cover by: Sana Takeda
Mother Panic created by: Gerard Way, Jody Houser and Tommy Lee Edwards
Jody Houser continues to write a deeply three-dimensional character in Violet. I mean, sure she is a cybernetically engineered and enhanced fighter (this is a comic book!) but under all that (hence the title of this arc) is an emotionally scarred young woman. We are always privy to Violet’s thoughts, and they tell us so much about her. Her narration in this chapter, sprinkled with great bits of snark, show us a highly intelligent woman, one who is always on the defensive because she is wounded; emotionally and physically. The centerpiece scene is an encounter at a party between Violet and another young woman from Gather House. The meeting stirs up all sorts of feelings for Violet and causes her to lose the razor sharp focus she had going into the party. It’s almost like a sucker punch for her. It’s great writing by Houser.
On the actual action side, it does lack a little. The fan boy in me would love to see more fighting, more encounters with other Gotham masks (I can just imagine Violet running into little Damian Wayne/Robin. I think he would be in love). But it’d be easy for Houser to just write her as another bad-ass and she doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong, when she’s gone out as Mother Panic, the character is one tough vigilante and there’s been action before. This issues costume scene is brief, but it at least shows she’ prone to losing her cool, like she does at the end here, giving into her growing emotions that are starting to betray the cold and calculated ‘hero’ we started with at the beginning of the series. Violet is on the verge of becoming a fully realized character and it’s great to read. I can wait on the action for now.
Shawn Crystal’s line work is great here. There’s a cartoony, stylized vibe that sets him apart from the other artists that have worked on the series, but that style is great for capturing the subtle emotions in faces. He brings a level of subtle softness that highlights that emotion. He’s also great at capturing small details. The art and layouts are crisp, with the word balloons and dialog boxes sometimes serving as connective markers. And for my money, he always draws the best version of Violet in costume.
Colorist Jean-Francois Beaulieu puts the vibrancy on the whole thing that gives in that extra push that makes it leap off the page or screen. I have read the book both on paper and digitally and either way it pops. The art team in tandem creates a world of dark shadows and dim lights that occasionally pops with color, especially when we see that beautiful stark white Mother Panic costume on the page. I think I have said it before, but the design of the character has always been one of my favorite things about this title.
I also want to add a quick word about the great covers this book has had. I’m not a big fan of variant covers, but the Young Animal books have been doing it right by having unique artists draw the occasional cover. The variant for Mother Panic #10 is by artist Sana Takeda (Monstress). You can see part of it as the featured image at the top of this review.
Mother Panic has in a way been the odd ball of Young Animal. And that is not to say it’s the strangest in the imprint (far from it!). Its oddball status stems from how, on the surface, this seems like just another vigilante tale set in Gotham. But the further the book goes along, the more we see this is turning into a story of abuse and survival, both emotional and physical. Maybe the lack of action is part of the point? Maybe there is more to Violet’s life than being just another Gotham City Mask? I guess only time will tell. But I’ll continue reading. You should too.