For most fans of DC Comics, or comic book movies in general, it doesn't get much better than Batman. He's a hero as iconic, unsettling, and inherently tortured as the city he calls home - but Gotham City has a brand new vigilante to go along with the likes of Batwoman, Nightwing, and Batgirl. We should warn you, though: a hero the likes of Mother Panic is most certainly not for the faint of heart... or any but mature readers.
Following the life of a Violet Paige, a troubled, but nevertheless determined member of Gotham City's elite glitterati, the new comic series from writer Jody Houser and artist Tommy Lee Edwards is looking into the filthy, disturbed underbelly of Batman's hometown. And by "disturbed," we mean the parts of the criminal underworld that DC can't actually explore in a comic written for Bat-fans of all ages... but the Dark Knight is guaranteed to take an interest in Violet's wake of destruction.
"Mother Panic" is just one more title being released under DC's new imprint, Young Animal (like Vertigo, or Wildstorm before it) - a re-imagining of several classic comic characters with one foot in the larger DC Universe, but written and drawn for a mature audience. And believe us, "Mother Panic" #1 wastes no time in showing that Gotham can get a lot uglier than people are used to seeing.
It's the attitude and grime of the book's first chapter that sets it apart, pairing Houser's talents for elusive storytelling (seen in the "X-Files" and "Orphan Black" comics) with Edwards' evocative style, put to use in countless movie-inspired comics and style guides. Following Violet's descent back into the depths of Gotham's indulgent rich, you can almost smell the garbage and stained alleyways... that's a compliment, we promise.
We still know very little about Violet's actual mission, or where her pursuit of vengeance will take her. Having recently recovered from an injury (or treatment?) the infamous heiress is back in Gotham's party scene, donning a white costume and beating her targets bloody - all while working to take care of her Alzheimer's afflicted mother.
Have a look at the official synopsis:
Meet Violet Paige, a celebutante with a bad attitude and a temper to match, who no one suspects of having anything lying beneath the surface of her outrageous exploits. But Violet isn’t just another bored heiress in the upper echelons of Gotham City’s elite. Motivated by her traumatic youth, Violet seeks to exact vengeance on her privileged peers as the terrifying new vigilante known only as Mother Panic.
That description doesn't make mention of the most disturbing plot elements being alluded to in the form of Gala, the new crime kingpin who makes art out of the spilled blood of her captured victims (it's as disturbing as it sounds). It's here where the real "Mature Readers Only" classification is likely to rear its head, with the tease that a new art instalation may soon become Mother Panic's real goal... one involving lost or kidnapped children.
While the content isn't conducive to a supporting role from Batman himself, Houser and Edwards make sure to include a cameo/reference or two as a reminder that there are corners of Gotham to which even Bruce Wayne is blind. Still, Violet's costume choice seems to trade on the cultural capitol of the Bat, instilling terror or an added intimidation factor in her targets. More than one character makes the assumption that her cape and cowl mean she's a member of the Batman family, which pulls more weight than an unknown, oddly-dressed vigilante using a voice modifier to hide her socialite identity.
There's more questions than answers so far, and the constant references to Batman mean a larger role is possible. But for now, Houser and Edwards have delivered a tantalizing tease - if an unpleasant, seedy social scene qualifies. As for an explanation for the costume, crusade, or 'Mother Panic' moniker, well, readers will have to wait and see.
"Mother Panic" #1 is available now.