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Review: Mother Panic #5

MotherPanicCoverMother Panic #5 is chock full of information about Violet Paige’s backstory that writer Jody Houser seeds between stake-outs, surreal and sad conversations with her mentally unstable mother, and a night at the club to keep up appearances. Houser, artist Shawn Crystal, and colorist Jean-Francois Beaulieu create a blunt contrast between Mother Panic and her new ally Pretty where she wants to take out Gather House in as few moves and words as possible while Pretty waxes poetic and quotes Lewis Carroll. The main plot inches forward, but at the end of the issue, readers will have a fuller understanding of the pain that motivates Violet Paige to become Mother Panic as well as her moral code.

In his art, Crystal melds twisted, belongs-in-a-Tim Burton film figures (Especially Pretty.) with iconic layout choices like a juxtaposition of a deer in Violet’s rifle scope when she hunted with her dad and a child sleeping in the house that she is infiltrating. Violet will do anything and kill anyone who gets in the way of her revenge on the Gather House, which tortured her and made her into a Weapon X-like lab rat under the guise of her brother sending her to boarding school. But she draws the line at killing kids, which would make her no worse than Mother Patrick and the other doctors, nuns, and teachers, who were responsible for a childhood and adolescence full of torment. This is why they pop up as sharp toothed monsters in her flashbacks, which are almost always red courtesy of Beaulieu. Mother Panic truly has some demons that need exorcising.

Along with flashbacks and a botched team-up with Pretty, Mother Panic #5 has several MotherPanicInteriorscenes of conversation between Violet and her mother. Houser’s dialogue is stylish and full of Shakespearean and Carroll-eque non sequiturs, but the bond between mother daughter shows in Crystal’s body language for them. Violet is always unmasked when she talks with her mom and looks uneasy around her constantly trying to read and play along with her moods as she goes from anger to delirium and all the places in between. However, she also uses these chats with her mom to air out some deep emotions she has like a gnawing feeling of loneliness as Violet has no friends just a mission. Sure, she sleeps with both women and men, but only to get information on her next target or keep up her image as a vapid, hard partying socialite. Without her mom, Violet would be alone with her revenge.

Writer Jim Krueger and artists Phil Hester, Ande Parks, and Trish Mulvihill “Gotham Radio” backup story takes a turn for the compelling with the appearance of a fan favorite DC Comics, whose reveals is like slowly unwrapping your favorite Christmas present. Hester’s clean art and Krueger’s sometimes deadpan comedic dialogue give the story a laidback feel until it takes a turn for the dark (and awesome) at the end. A Batman-free Gotham detective story is definitely a treat, and I look forward to reading this mystery/commentary on vigilante justice and media alarmism in one sitting when it is all finished.

Jody Houser, Shawn Crystal, and Jean-Francois Beaulieu put Violet Paige’s ultraviolent crusade in psychologically scarring context in Mother Panic #5, which will make you want to give Mother Panic a hug before she pushes you off her and tells you to “Fuck off” before disappearing into Gotham’s dark night.

Story: Jody Houser Art: Shawn Crystal Colors: Jean-Francois Beaulieu
Story: 9.5 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics/Young Animal provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review