It’s amazing what a legendary art team can bring to a comic series. Mother Panic wasn’t a bad title before artist John Paul Leon and colorist Dave Stewart jumped on board for a three-issue arc, but the series has been significantly elevated by their arrival. Some of that is due to Jody Houser’s story threads coming together more tightly in this storyline, but there’s also a sense that she knows she’s working with two masters that can handle anything she throws at them, so she’s giving them meatier content. “Victim Complex” features Mother Panic’s creepiest villain yet, a killer who wears a Gotham City Coroner body bag and goes after people who have already been victims to test their capacity for survival, and it’s allowed Houser to delve even deeper into Violet Page’s personal trauma, from the murder of her father to her time at a sadistic school that trained her be a living weapon.
Physically augmented and emotionally scarred as a student-prisoner of Gather House, Violet has been driven as a vigilante by the pain caused to her as an adolescent. This exclusive preview of this week’s Mother Panic #9 explores the full scope of Violet’s damage, starting with her inability to partake in the joys of nightlife because of malfunctioning cybernetics. Leon tucks Violet into the very back of the first panel, surrounding her with motion as dancers make her especially aware of her immobility, and there’s a gray pallor over the entire scene that reflects Violet’s deeper emotional paralysis. (This nightclub also highlights Leon’s attention to detail in each environment’s architecture and interior design, pulling the reader deeper into the action.)
The flashback that immediately follows has a warmer palette, and Stewart uses orange to reinforce teenage Violet’s growing rage, which is intense but still restrained (she can’t go full red because she’s still subservient at this point in her life). Even though Mother Patrick is in charge here, Leon keeps the panels tight on Violet for most of the page, to the point where the nun is pushed out of the panel until all we see is the anger and hatred in Violet’s face. Emotional storytelling is at the core of the final scene in this preview, and Stewart dulls his coloring considerably to put all the focus on the facial expressions and body language Leon is breaking down with impeccable clarity on the page. The writing and the art are in perfect sync on Mother Panic right now, and hopefully Leon and Stewart will make their way back to the title after finishing this story.