Jody Houser, over the last six issues of Mother Panic (DC Comics), has been disassembling the Batman mythos and looking at its parts. Violet is in some ways a funhouse mirror for Batman, her power and heroic drive coming from a lifetime of abuse instead of one traumatic moment, her shallow socialite facade more acidic and brittle than playboy Bruce Wayne. But with its seventh issue, still looking through that lens, she turns to her own hero and starts taking her apart to see what makes her tick.
The Batman ideas are still very present, of course: In fact, this issue opens with a child, in this case a young girl, watching her parents senselessly murdered in front of her. It gets under Violet’s skin in some fascinating ways, not least because the little girl in question is happy to see her, happy, in some sense, to know somebody cares and wants to help. Violet, for her part, struggles with being a hero as opposed to just a vigilante. John Paul Leon helps matters with a thick-lined, moody style that amplifies both the tragedy and the emotional moments, and makes the villain, still something of a cipher, creepy on his own terms.
Mother Panic consistently pulls off the rare feat of being both a fun superhero book and questioning the tropes behind what makes them tick, and this new arc brings both aspects to the fore without planting a metaphorical elbow in your ribs. If you like your superhero comics with a dose of postmodernism, Mother Panic is a shining example.