Mother Panic has been one of the more superhero-like comics out of the Young Animal series, but it continues to have a darker underbelly than any average comic. Jody Houser is writing a hero who’s angry and in some ways opposite of Batman, yet they must continue on in the same city. New artist Shawn Crystal takes over for this issue (and the next 3), but is it good?
Mother Panic #4 (DC Comics)
So what’s it about? The synopsis reads:
Mother Panic isn’t the only one hunting for revenge in Gotham City as the terrifying Pretty goes after the next name on her hit list. But is he a friend or foe?
Why does this book matter?
This series offers an action packed story, but with a deeply flawed hero leading the way. Houser has made the protagonist compelling and one that you can relate to, but also disagree with in her tactics. Hell, she picked a fight with Batwoman last issue with a big grin on her face. It’s the type of character that feels unique from anything we’ve seen before.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Talk shows, ugh.
This is a good jumping on point for new readers, with Jody Houser introducing protagonist Shawna Schulz via a talk show visit. The complexity of answers she delivers whilst the captions explain her tactical thinking help convey her interesting personality. Fortunately for the plot, the next guest on the show leads to a memory of her brother and the Gather House orphanage. This kicks off the plot, which leads to a conflict that adds a new layer for Shawna’s story.
The art has a very expressive cartooning look at times which enhances the emotions at key moments. Crystal’s art reminded me of Eric Powell’s work at times, though it continues the highly detailed backgrounds and cityscapes that keep the narrative grounded. The colors by Jean-Francois Beaulieu keep the poppy color theme from previous issues which work with Crystal’s lines well. There’s a dreamlike flashback or two which create incredibly vivid moments that help convey the tragedy of the orphanage well. Props go to the creative sound effects as if they were blown up too (see below).
Cool sound effect!
It can’t be perfect can it?
The expressions Crystal use are sometimes way over the top, which pulled me out of the story. Shawna would go from contemplative to rage in a heartbeat which made scenes feel overacted. The style seems to shift from realistic to cartoony too much too, making the visuals seem all over the place. It’s relatively minor, but it irked me a few times.
The plot of this issue seems too convenient adding up to a narrative that’s not as compelling as it could be. That includes a fight between Shawna and Pretty that is well drawn, but ends in a way that doesn’t feel genuine. This series is good at capturing damaged characters, but the plotting is almost dreamlike as it shifts around here.
Is It Good?
Mother Panic is excellent at capturing the damaged nature of the vigilante hero. In a way it’s more realistic than Batman though its visuals are much more colorful. This issue’s new artist does a great job, though it’s uneven in its style.
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