Emilia Clarke’s first-ever comic book series continues this week in its second issue in a planned three-issue series. Paired with writer Marguerite Bennett and artist Leila Leiz, the first issue felt entirely new and like nothing we’ve seen before in comics. That can easily be said about this second issue as well, which takes readers past the midway point of the story and further fleshes out Maya Kuyper’s desire to become a superhero.
This issue opens in 2036, thirteen years before the present story events. In a surprising turn, the narrative shifts focus on an important topic of the day about identity and gender. Kuyper is feeling crummy as it’s her time of the month ,and her good friend Tiff is there to cheer her up. A lot is said about the expectations TV and magazines put on women, but also men. It’s well-written dialogue as the characters hash out their realization of what society puts on us and even go as far as to say gender is a scam. It’s an interesting point that is worth saying.
This scene doesn’t really factor into the main narrative — this issue even admits some of the flashbacks don’t connect directly to the grander scheme so far, but it still reads as important. This isn’t a conventional superhero comic of punching and fighting, but clearly, ideas Clarke wants to convey to maybe enact a little change. She said as much in the AIPT interview. For that reason, this issue feels elevated and different from a conventional story.
It certainly breaks rules, like having Kuyper speak directly to the reader, jump around in time and locations almost confusingly as she builds her support team, and how it transitions to the villain getting a chunk of the story. This is not conventional storytelling and for that reason, it can be confusing and even frustrating to read. And yet, there are intriguing ideas at work throughout. This is about trying something new, and thus it’s okay that it breaks boundaries.
The only loose end that doesn’t get fleshed out enough is Kuyper’s relationship with Benny. He’s a nice guy and seems to be around Kuyper and her son all the time, and yet the romantic element never presents itself. There’s one scene that seems to suggest there may be a reason why, but it’s unclear if he’s simply a very good friend that’s uninterested in Kuyper romantically, or something more.
The story runs 39 pages long here, but it does feel like it’s still just getting off the ground. It’s hard to see how the main villain plays into things at this point, though the appearance of Kuyper’s ex does begin to solidify what the main plot is focused on. This story is largely about Kuyper being a survivor, but also a victim of folks like her ex and how she moves on from them. How she becomes more powerful. That goes for her powers too, which are each tied to an emotion. There are bits here and there that have strong messages about being a woman and living a happy life. It may feel scattered, but those messages are still there.
The art by Leiz and colors by Triona Farrell is good, especially when the story dives into double-page montages. Leiz plays around with layout design to help convey a lot of action and story with only a few caption boxes to carry the visuals forward. There’s also a fabulous full-page splash of all of Kuyper’s friends and family that homages Norman Rockwell that’s well done.
Letters by Haley Rose-Lyon are also good, especially when there can be so much dialogue on the page. Words are clean to read and the flow feels right. At times Kuyper speaks outside of just saying words, like a drawn-out “hiiiii” and Rose-Lyon makes it clear we’re meant to say these things out loud.
M.O.M.: Mother of Madness #2 further fleshes out who the protagonist is and why the actions in her past life made her into this powerful superhero. Narratively speaking, the story can feel confused with odd false starts and stops, but somehow this feeds into the extremely personal connection you’ll have with the main character. In many ways, M.O.M.: Mother of Madness reads like a personal manifesto or diary that needs to be shared and respected in order to save the world. It explores the boundaries of comics art and the reader.
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