Written by Simon Spurrier
Illustrated by Rachael Stott
In a crazed future where unhinged technologies and interconnected parallel Earths have given rise to a spectacular class of super-criminal, the most beloved celebrities aren’t actors or rock stars, but the bounty hunters who traverse an exotic multiverse in search of impossible prey! But when the spotlight-shunning, strait-laced tracer known as Tab finds herself in an ultra-violent race for her greatest prize yet, she’s forced to work with her greatest enemy, the only person capable of IDing him: her own elderly, overbearing and hypercritical mother, who was once the most fabulous and celebrated bounty hunter of them all.
Bounty hunters blast holes through parallel dimensions in search of their next target—and a quick paycheck. A mother sought fame in this multiversal murder business while her daughter quietly followed in her footsteps—and a son was lost in the multi-dimensional shuffle. Read on for our review of Vertigo’s latest which contains minor spoilers.
Infinite parallel realities or “strings” offer a mother lode of story potential in “Motherlands,” a frenetic action series that dives deep into its science fiction premise. Think Alan Moore’s “Top 10” with the portal gun from “Rick Morty.” There’s an impressive amount of world building done in its first 22 pages, detailing the lunacy traveling to parallel Earths have wrought. It isn’t long before we’re thrown into the madcap world of interdimensional bounty hunting in the issue’s standout action sequence. Our lead heroine, Tabitha Tubach, chases a naked, hirsute man as he streaks toward escape. String 4333981, String 4333984…with each blast of the puncturer, Tab rips through parallel strings, thrown into various settings and the alt-humans who inhabit them. It’s an exciting chase scene that establishes the quickfire pacing and brutality of the series.
The panel structure itself smartly incorporates parallel Earth traversal into its design. Between each string jump, the panels have jagged concave and convex edges, infusing them with a sense of permeability. The black lines of each panel border are erased when connecting with the odd cubist geometry of every punctured portal. It’s a subtle way of showing the malleable nature of the multiverse. Even the word balloons themselves can’t escape the reality-slicing nature of the puncturers. Dialogue continues uninterrupted despite string-hopping, and the word balloons acknowledge this. Upper-right or lower-left edges are excised by the dimensional edges depending on whether their speakers are leaving or entering new strings.
At the center of this multiverse madness lies the strained relationship between mother and daughter. One used to soak in the spotlight, but now the other seeks obscurity. We’re first introduced to Mrs. Selena Tubach (aka Scarlet Sylph) thirty years ago amid her retinue of hovering cameras. She’s a foul-mouthed star of the huntertainment world, a figure who isn’t held in high esteem by her daughter, Tabitha. In fact, the very first panel is Tabitha’s stick figure facsimile of her mother, riddled with bullets and knives, X’s in her eyes. It immediately establishes their relationship and smartly sets the tone for their future partnership. Other brief flashbacks establish Tab’s mother at the top of her game as the sex symbol of “Trawl Hunters” and at her low as she “amicably part ways” with a purple-hued lover. And when Tab reunites with her now elderly mother at the Lovely Gloaming retirement resort toward the end, it’s bittersweet. Nothing has changed except their age.
As with most first issues, especially those about strange new worlds, the unique properties and rules need to quickly established. Info dumps are partially disguised in the lectures of the floating drone teachers and enthusiastic tour group guides. The Hub Massmind, pollination revolution, aura traces, alt-human evolution—there’s a lot of sci-fi ground to cover and Spurrier is mostly successful at conveying the information in an organic manner. The abundance of world-building info never slows down the pacing, so ultimately, it’s a win.
String 0, or the Hub, is a place with no surprises for its citizens. The Hub is ground zero for the puncturer technology and appears more alien than any Earth you’ve ever seen. The Hub natives and retrievers have seen it all—a world forty years morphed by deregulated scientific hybridization. Other supporting players are introduced here, and their character designs showcase the mad science the multiverse has brought into everyday existence. Oona, a hyper-competent trawlrunner, has the appearance of a musclebound mutant turned inside out. Jed, a strange-limbed Hub clerk who doles out cash for returned bounties, has strange insectile appendages to compensate for his missing arms.Continued below
Stott revels in all this alt-human weirdness. Skin colors run the gamut, cybernetic enhancements adorn faces and bodies, and size is relative. Whether they’re in the background or foreground, each setting is peppered with visually diverse characters. The inking is as crisp and clean not unlike the DC and Marvel’s current output—but the style serves the story well. “Motherlands” offers a sci-fi sandbox with no end, and it’ll be interesting to witness the zany creations Spurrier and Stott will show us in future issues.
“Motherlands” #1 is a confident debut issue that mixes maniacal action and profane humor into a sci-fi cocktail Vertigo fans will gleefully enjoy. A cavalcade of quasi-human freaks populates peripheral dimensions in an exploration of—as the students learn—“an endless parade of the people we could have become.” But ultimately, it’s about one family attempting to reassemble under the worst of circumstances—with two powerful, yet querulous, women at the center. The next dive into this side of the multiverse can’t come soon enough.
Final Verdict: 8.0 – In an insane future corrupted by the multiverse , “Motherlands” turns bounty hunting on its head with a fractious mother and daughter team-up at the center.