M.O.M.: Mother of Madness #1. Writers: Emilia Clarke, Isobel Richardson, Marguerite Bennett; Artist: Leila Leiz; Colorist: Triona Farrell; Letterer: Haley Rose-Lyon; Cover: Jo Ratcliffe.
M.O.M.: Mother of Madness #1, a 3-issue miniseries from Image Comics, delves into the life of Maya, a single mother who wants what’s best for her son while also coming to grips with super-powers. Actor Emilia (Game of Thrones) Clarke — with her fellow writers, of course — heads this all-woman creative team to create a comic that wowed me with every page.
I am always hesitant when I hear a celebrity is involved with a medium they are often unassociated with. I assumed Emilia Clarke writing a comic book was the newest headline that would fade with the next day’s presses. Well, you know what they say about assumptions.
Maya Kuyper, our hero, gives us a meta-expositional rundown as she walks us through her astrological sign, deepest anxieties, and why she is currently surrounded by rich folks at a gala. The whole book teems with this meta-commentary, an idea that typically upends itself narratively — unless it’s Deadpool — but here it more than works. It helps to actually put the reader in the perspective of the character, allowing us to feel the weight of her experiences. The first few pages paint a thematically patriarchal environment at the gala (a “Female Empowerment in the Workplace initiative): the male host chuckles nervously while making #MeToo jokes, while further splash pages give us a smattering of party-goer dialogue rife with “oof” moments.
All of these misogynistic one-liners are heard by our protagonist, who uses this preface of sorts to introduce us to her origin. We are given an image of a watch on Maya’s wrist that measures...something (it’s explained later), which then leads to an artistic rendition of her powers. I won’t go into it here because it’s interesting enough to wait for a read through, but Maya’s powers essentially stem from her hormones. The rest of the book continues accordingly, giving us snapshots of her origin story intermingled with actual human moments. Having received her powers at a young age, we see Maya grow up and experience the objectification and bullying that comes hand in hand with puberty. In these moments the writing shines through with real heart. I literally teared up a bit. Many of Maya’s abilities stem from the typical societal standards of femininity —a singular example being that Maya’s armpit hair can pull a Mr. Fantastic, nuff said.
The art in this book is wild...in a good way. Leila Leiz’s art utilizes Ben-Day dots and detailed line work that couples so beautifully with Triona Farrel’s robust coloring that almost seems like paint on canvas. This teamwork achieves great moments of emotionality. Heavier shadows contrasting with the bright colors of a rising sun create childhood moments of hope, while panels of heavy lines and dark blues posit a morose state of mind. All of this works to establish a constancy of character and a unique take on the traditional origin story. We are not only given the visual/written account of Maya’s experiences, we are treated to a knowing, creative use of the medium to convey depth of emotion. Writing, art, color, and structure build a strong narrative core.
The important characters feel real. There are, of course, characters that are used as patriarchal cannon fodder. This didn’t bother me, because in the grand scheme of this title, who gives a sh!t? The human moments in these pages are genuine and will have me running back to my LOCAL COMIC BOOK SHOP for M.O.M: Mother of Madness #2 when it comes out August 25th from Image Comics. For now, you all will have to settle for issue #1 this Wednesday, July 21st. Pick it up at...you guessed it...your LOCAL COMIC BOOK SHOP or Comixology!
Lastly, lemme hit y'all with some Recommended Reading. If you like the prose of Marguerite Bennett, check out her run of Red Sonja: The Falcon Throne. Like Leila Leiz’s art? Go find her messed up reimagining of Peter Pan called NVRLND. Then go check out Emilia Clarke’s film Last Christmas, because I love it and I shouldn’t have to recommend Game of Thrones to you all.