Jody Houser is slowly unraveling Mother Panic‘s complex first arc in what might be one of the most creative superhero series on the shelf. In Mother Panic #3, Houser unveils just enough of Violet Paige’s backstory to make the reader feel uncomfortable, concerned, and utterly off-kilter, while also providing intense action. What we end up with is a suspenseful chapter that leaves you begging for more.
In the previous two issues, we’ve learned very little about Violet Paige. We have only small clues as to why she’s so angry at the world, and we know even less about the white suit she dons to mete out revenge. Houser continues the slow pacing of Violet’s origin with ten minimal panels of flashback. We see Violet and her brother at their father’s funeral, and her brother leaving her at a strangely ominous Gotham boarding house.
This issue focuses on Violet’s present. Houser places Violet in a situation that forces her to play the hero as she comes face to face with Gala (potentially one of the more twisted villains in Gotham history). We also get to see Violet show utter disdain for the Bat as she encounters Batwoman (who’s keeping tabs on Violet for Batman) on several well-plotted occasions.
At times, the creeping pace of Violet’s childhood and her origin as a vigilante create moments of confusion. Violet is set on a clear path of revenge, however, we have yet to gain any real understanding of why she is focused on Gotham’s social elite. Houser further layers the plot by combining Violet’s mysterious desire for revenge by connecting the subject of her anger to a more grotesque threat that is shrouded in just as much mystery. This can cause frustration as you may find an intense desire to shake some clear answers out of the book.
That frustration, though, is what makes this book so great. In a world obsessed with instant gratification, Houser is teasing us. She gives us such a small amount of detail that the wait until the next issue is torturous — but then that issue comes out and just enough detail is given that you feel completely satisfied. Then you realize you have to wait another month to find out more. It’s a viciously enjoyable cycle, and it’s only the third issue!
Tommy Lee Edwards does a simply amazing job of creating a completely unique atmosphere with the artwork. Edwards fills the pages with surrealistic, scratchy detail that gives the entire issue a nightmarish atmosphere. Everything in Violet’s world is gritty, unflinching, and violent. The yellow and purple hues he uses during the intense confrontation between Violet and Gala instills a clear sense of horror and fear, while the dark grays, blacks of the flashback sequences provides the perfect Gotham setting to firmly root the series in that well-established environment. Like Houser, Edwards does a lot with very little.
It has to be incredibly hard to create a completely new, intriguing character and drop her into one of the most well-established superhero environments in comics. Houser and Edwards do just that. Three issues into this series and it’s clear that this creative team is taking us on a marathon. We might get exhausted during the journey, but I have a feeling the ultimate reward is going to leave us feeling completely satisfied in our dedication to seeing it through to the intense end.