By Jody Houser, Ty Templeton, Keiren Smith, John Workman, Molly Mahan, Magdalene Visaggio, Sonny Liew, and Todd Klein
Bless Young Animal. DC’s little imprint is home to some of the strangest and most creatively interesting work out there today, with Doom Patrol being its headliner. But compared to the other titles, Mother Panic has always been the odd one out, opting for a more grounded approach to its superheroics. That’s not to say it wasn’t just as fascinating as the others, capable of creating poignant scenes in its own visually unique style. Mother Panic/Batman Special decides to go all in on the weirdness of the line, complete with goofy and complex ideas while also serving as a welcome expansion to the main series’ story and themes. Along with it, the Eternity Girl back-up continues to set the stage for an increasingly mysterious debut.
As the second in the “Milk Wars” event, the special does a good job of maintaining its individuality. Jody Houser makes sure to keep Violet Page the center of attention, even when going up against an eccentric Batman known as Father Bruce. Her voice provides some much-needed deadpan to the craziness surrounding her, with talks of rewriting personal histories and mind controlling dairy products. The commentary is very meta, with a sense of humor that sometimes is of the same vein as the 1966 Batman TV show. In the midst of it all, what makes Mother Panic stand out is the continued effect the past has on her. While Batman does share tragic beginnings, Violet’s own approach to accepting herself as the end result of a series of traumatic events is a nice distinction. The juxtaposition of these darker moments with the overall tone is done really well, especially in leaving room to show off character growth.
While not as appealing as the previous art of the series, Ty Templeton sticks with the same aesthetic. The incorporation of metaphorically relevant imagery during the action still adds an extra element that makes it feel that it has more meaning behind it. Kieren Smith’s colors pay similar homage, the raging orange flames that marked a lot of the previous palette making an appearance. It definitely feels as if the art style was reined in to better fit with the other parts of the event, but luckily it provides its own brand of wackiness. From the new band of multi-colored Robins to Father Bruce’s origin, it must have been a lot of fun bringing this off-the-wall adventure to life.
Meanwhile, Magdalene Visaggio’s slow reveal of what Eternity Girl will be kept adding layers of intrigue. Moving along through different eras of comic book history, the two-pagers have been foreboding. The backstory of these titles dealing with the same characters throughout the years feels like the commentary found in retrospectives, giving enough context while touching on the overall ideas of recurrent loss. Artist Sonny Liew’s approach will be familiar to those who have reread Watchmen recently, the aging pages giving small peeks at a character that has a history with pain.
While definitely not for everyone, Mother Panic/Batman Special is another wild exercise for Young Animal. Its strange premise highlights both the gritty and more silly aspects of these superheroes, and puts the ball in the court of the next “Milk Wars” installment.