By Jarrod Jones. It’s easy to feel a bit beleaguered today, what with the walking personification of anti-intellectualism, inherited exceptionalism, and institutionalized racism shuffling his orthopedic loafers into the White House in January. The low, muted expressions we find in the grocery stores, the workplaces, and hell, even our own homes, are making even the safest places in our lives feel like holding cells. We need release. We need distraction. (Unless you’re feeling particularly chipper about the last two days, in which case I’d suggest you read something else, largely because I’ll be saying things here that will likely annoy you. Fair deal?)
So when we finally take time out of our misery to fall into our entertainments, it seems like the sensible thing to do is to expect our creators to churn out blistering works that will send our minds and hearts soaring. Mind you, it’s not appropriate to expect anything from anyone — aside from showing the very minimum of human decency, I suppose — and it’s certainly not appropriate to demand that creators roll up their sleeves and kick out great art in times of despair. (As Jen Bartel recently pointed out, it simply isn’t fair.)
They’ve been doing that for years now, those creators we’ve been following with respect and admiration, but in the circumstance of Jody Houser and Tommy Lee Edwards, their latest work just so happens to be imbued with a startling sense of timeliness.
To the uninitiated, it is my absolute pleasure to introduce you to Mother Panic.
Gotham City. Now. A private jet descends into a violent city. A socialite comes home to see justice done. It’s a story we’ve read before. And yet. Gotham City may be the most iconic city in the DC Universe, but you have never seen it like this before. Even when its legendary hero makes a cameo, he feels out of place. And he should. This is Violet Paige’s world. Batman has hounded the economically disenfranchised for decades. Violet has set her sights on the elite, and she’s packing vicious brass knuckles.
Jody Houser’s work on Valiant’s Faith is one example of comic books’ ability to inspire. Intriguingly enough, Mother Panic, while being the polar opposite of Faith (at least tonally), has that power too. They’re two halves to a whole. A creator’s magnificent strength, delivered with the power of a left hook and a solid right uppercut. If you needed another example as to why Houser is one of the most important voices in comics today, let Mother Panic run roughshod all over your expectations. Feel the energy of progress emanate from her words.
Tommy Lee Edwards has his sequential delivery down pat, so it should come as no surprise that the artist takes this debut and knocks it into the stratosphere. Edwards’ collaboration with Houser reaps magnificent visuals. A double-page spread features our Mother Panic effortlessly ripping through a small crew of goons, which would be exciting and cathartic enough on its own, but the creators intersperse startling images throughout the mayhem: A tree struck by a bolt of lightning. A goose struck down by seven cruel arrows. A birthday cake drowning in the bleeding wax of its own candles. A snake, unhinging its jaw enough to swallow a rodent whole. What’s more, the severity of this sequence is punctuated by John Workman’s sterling letter work. It’s a visual cacophony. It’s the storyboard to the coolest movie never made.
Mother Panic has the power to decimate. It also has the power to inspire. And it’s arrived just in time to remind us that when a bolt of lightning strikes, sometimes it sets the whole damn world on fire.
DC’s Young Animal/$3.99
Written by Jody Houser.
Art by Tommy Lee Edwards.
Letters by John Workman.
Edited by Molly Mahan.
9.5 out of 10