Mother Panic: Gotham AD #1 Review

Written by: Jody Houser

Art by: Ibrahim Moustafa & Jordan Boyd

Published by: DC Comics

Penning a strong jumping on point sounds like a challenge. The issue has to simultaneously appeal to enfranchised readers, while also ensuring new readers don’t feel lost. I imagine it’s a delicate balance to strike, especially when rebranding and relaunching.

Conceptually, Mother Panic: Gotham A.D. #1 is the perfect place for a soft reboot. Post-Milk Wars, Violet finds herself trapped on a parallel Earth, with a host of new problems. There’s some carry over from Mother Panic, but similarly to last week’s Cave Carson Has an Interstellar Eye, it mostly feels new reader friendly. Which, admittedly, is hard for me to judge.

Unfortunately, that means the first six pages are drenched in clunky exposition. Look, I can’t really tell you how much utility that exposition has for new readers. Probably not much–I figure it will mostly just confuse new readers who don’t have a reason to be invested in the book. But hey, maybe they find it useful? I don’t know, and regardless, it’s poorly handled.

Obviously, exposition has a place in storytelling. But there are ways to inject it into a narrative beyond monologue boxes where the main character explains their problems and origin story. Every time those square boxes crop up, the quality of the book is damaged. And I assume they’ll go away pretty quickly, but they sure do take the wind out of the sails of an otherwise entertaining comic.

I’m a sucker for stories like one Houser is telling here. I’m not sure it entirely counts as Elseworlds, but it’s close enough to still be a useful descriptor. The Gotham envisioned here is recognizable, to be sure. However, subtle bits of world building sprinkled throughout the issue are incredibly effective at establishing that it isn’t the city we’re used to. A billboard or a piece of architecture brilliantly establish a sense of place.

If you can get over the information dumps, the character writing is just as strong. Rosie is a fun character to spend time with, as is her developing rapport with Violet. Unfortunately, she kind of disappears halfway through this issue. That said, what follows is far from bad. What starts as a fairly standard take on a well-known Batman villain quickly converts to strong world-building (which is certainly this issue’s strength).

I would be remiss to not specifically call out Ibrahim Moustafa’s art. I alluded to it earlier, as a key component of the world-building. The issue has a fantastic aesthetic to it, a neo-noir vision of Gotham that retains its grimy underbelly. Boyd’s colors come in handy here as well, selling the grit of the city.

Gotham A.D. #1 is mostly a solid start to the relaunched Mother Panic. Between the world building and character writing, I found it fairly easily to push clunky monologue to the back of my mind. I’m looking forward to spending more time with the cast in this new setting.