Cover to ‘Mother Panic’ #3. Art by Tommy Lee Edwards/DC Comics

By Arpad Okay. A new flower blooms in the garden of Gotham City. A rider in white. Violet Paige. The more we learn about her, the deeper her mystery grows.

The locale is familiar, but Mother Panic’s foremost priority is cultivating something new. Its first real supervillain seems as complex a character as Paige herself: Gala, a Murnau among Marlowes, whose surreal art crimes trigger dark memories from Violet’s childhood. Team Panic is also starting to solidify. Not a lot of time is spent fleshing them out, but mother, doctor, stranger, they all have genuine character, and their coming together feels right.

Best of all, this issue lets us see quite a bit of Paige in action, how she won’t be bullied, how she sets off for vengeance but ends up doing the right thing. How she fights. Her status in Gotham is currently undecided. Hero, antihero, whatever. Just give me more of it.

Mother Panic’s path of vengeance pits Paige against Batwoman. Here Mother Panic offers an interesting take on the modern Batman: an Orwellian Santa Claus that makes sure those who earned their coal get their due. Compared to the passion and drive of Violet Paige, Kate Kane comes off like a lackey. Violet and Kate spar — Paige’s combat training cleverly hinted at by combining attack styles with animal illustrations — and Violet wins.

I wish Kate was a bit more independent as a foil, but I think the contrast she brings to Mother Panic is effective. And I love knowing that Mother Panic is a martial artist simply by watching her throw Batwoman instead of sitting through an explicit origin story. That said, Mother Panic is Paige chasing down her past, her quest opening the floodgates of memory. In effect, the comic becomes a powerful three-part cocktail of what is, what isn’t, and what was. It’s a dense, thoughtful read with art to die for.

Modern and clear without being sparse, Mother Panic finds great success in picking the right details and hitting them hard. The eye for composition goes beyond fitting the right amount of action into a panel; its subtle symmetry can balance a page, or elevate the story beats. Always busy but never cluttered. Capable of making both fistfights and conversations crackle with presence. Told in rich colors that can make Paige’s white suit look natural without losing its intended pop. Mother Panic is a formidable book, challenging, rewarding, and beautiful.

DC’s Young Animal/$3.99

Written by Jody Houser.

Art and colors by Tommy Lee Edwards.

Letters by John Workman.

Edited by Molly Mahan.

8 out of 10