Mother Panic thwarted her first villain (sort of) and scrapped with Batwoman last issue. Now, the book has a new artist, and we’re off on a new story in Broken Things Part 1.
Museums and Talk Shows
The story opens at a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Ashley Layton, the founder of Laytech Software and sporter of a magnificent hipster beard, is opening the Gotham Museum of technology complete with a wing dedicated to his mother Rosemary Layton. But not everyone is as excited about this as he is. A mysterious figure pulls the fire alarm and blows the place up.
Some time later, Violet is on a Gotham talk show being iconoclastic and irreverent as always. As she’s being booed offstage and handed a glass of champagne, Ashley Layton bumps past her. He’s here to talk about the tragedy of his new museum, but Violet recognizes his voice. This is the same man who fifteen years ago put the idea in her brother’s head to dump her at the Gather House boarding school.
Uh-oh. We have a feeling Layton is going to be sorry about that, and very soon.
Breaking and Entering
Violet stops by to see mom, who is puttering around in her garden. She tells mom that she found the guy responsible for her time at Gather House. Mom seems non-plussed, but she’s more concerned with her garden.
That evening, Violet pays a visit to Laytech for what, we’re not sure. Voilet doesn’t seem too sure what she’s looking for either. She wanders into what appears to be a company daycare center. This place is much cushier than what she had to endure as a child. We get a flash of images from Violet’s past before she hears something and snaps out of it.
The noise is being caused by our shadowy mad bomber from the cold open. It’s “Pretty”, a tall slim figure with a dead-eyed expressionless face. He spars with Mother Panic, who figures out that he is after revenge as well. Violet is once again plagued with images as she fights with him. She recognizes something. There is something about Pretty that looks familiar to Violet and, on a hunch, she sings the first verse of a song she was taught at Gather House. When Pretty sings the second verse, Violet realizes that he has been through exactly what she went through at Gather House
The two bomb Laytech and speed off on Violet’s jet.
Elsewhere, a stranger and his rats have been evicted from their apartment. They relocate together to the basement of the nearby Pike motel. Who is he and what is he up to? We’ll need to wait and find out.
The biggest deal in this issue is the change in artists. Tommy Lee Edwards helped design Mother Panic, and his art style defined the character through the first three issues. Unfortunately, an artist of Edwards’s popularity tends to be in high demand, and Mother Panic’s release schedule suffered. So how does the new penciller Shawn Crystal stack up to Edwards?
Edwards and Crystal have very different styles. Edwards’s style uses thick and deliberately rough linework, while Crystal’s is much cleaner, almost cartoonish at times. The colorist, Jean-Francois Beaulieu has captured Edward’s coloring well, which keeps the palette of the comic consistant despite the differences in linework. Overall, it works. Crystal and Edwards are very different, but this book could succeed with either.
This ish, like the last one, dropped some more tantalizing clues to Violet’s origin. Jody Houser is doing a masterful job of stringing us along, giving out just enough little nuggets to keep us intrigued, but not so much that we aren’t ravening for more with each issue. This week, we finally get some idea of Violet’s training and alluded-to surgery. When she finds the Laytech day care, she is flooded with images of her time at Gather House.
Among other things, it appears as though she was put into sensory deprivation as punishment, was put under the knife for who knows what, and was given intense combat training. Gather House claimed to be “building Gotham’s future”. Layton calls it an experimental program for “troubled kids”. His company provided them with upgraded software to carry out their as-yet unknown schemes. It appears as though this is where Violet was trained, and the odd images she sees while under combat stress originated with her Gather House training.
When she engages Pretty, she hallucinates him as a white elk, which is the first time the strange images that appear have bled into her vision. Is this getting worse? We aren’t sure, but we’re darn sure going to keep reading to find out.
So Many Questions
This issue left us with so many more questions than those it answered. Who is Pretty? What was done to him at Gather House? What is Layton’s connection? Did Gather House give Violet her powers? What even are her powers? Are Violet’s hallucinations getting worse? What is her endgame?
After earning–at least for now–the trust of the bat family by saving the lives of some kids, Violet seems to be swinging back into anti-hero territory by aiding the Pretty in destroying Laytech. She’s back on track with her revenge quest. Last time someone killed Hemsley for her. What will happen when she gets her big white gloves on Layton? Will she kill? Can she?
What about her brother Victor? She tells her mom she doesn’t want to hurt him… yet. Maybe he’s her endgame. There is still so much we don’t know and it’s driving us batty. Mother Panic is month after month, one of the most engaging, immersive comics out there. Hopefully the delay woes are behind them, and haven’t hurt the book’s sales, because we want to continue reading it for as long as there is a story to tell.
Next up, we’ll find out what Pretty’s deal is, as well as more about the rat wrangler living in a basement. He seems sinister, but hasn’t even done anything yet. We need answers.
Mother Panic #4: Broken Things Part 1
Writer: Jody Houser
Art: Shawn Crystal
Colors: Jean-Francois Beaulieu
Letterer: John Workman & Shawn Crystal
All Images Courtesy of DC Comics