With intentionally unfiltered dialogue and an incredible stage presence, former celebrity bounty hunter Selena Tubach commands our attention as she tries to reclaim the limelight. The rest of the book would do well to rise up to her level.
Written by Si Spurrier
Illustrated by Stephen Byrne
Colored by Felipe Sobreiro
and Stephen Byrne
Lettered by Simon Bowland
After years of estrangement, Tab and her foul-mouthed mom Selena must work together to track the multiverse’s most wanted criminal! But in a city made of fungus, their hunt hits an immediate snag: our mother-daughter duo aren’t the only bounty hunters on the job…
Narratively, “Motherlands” #1 ended with a bang, revealing the inevitable mother-daughter team up between interdimensional bounty hunters Tabitha and Selena Tubach. The foulmouthed, sarcastic aesthetic was also firmly established with Selena cast in the role of the old school former celebrity still clamoring for attention while her daughter Tabitha is content to play things by the book, do the job and get paid. The worldbuilding was also on point, immersing the reader in a high concept multiverse that is somehow equal parts “Dog the Bounty Hunter” and an obscure, long forgotten Philip K. Dick novella. In short, the debut issue did a lot of heavy lifting and accomplished everything it needed to do. Weirdly, after the first few pages of issue number two it all starts to feel a little too familiar.
That said, the opening panels are brilliant, immediately hooking the reader into Selena’s incredibly media savvy, self-referential, “reality” performance. With an innate sense of timing and narrative structure, she continually plays to the camera, establishing an easy rapport with her unseen audience. Clearly, she’s several steps ahead of her daughter, not so much improvising but writing, directing and starring in a piece she was born to play. It’s unbelievably meta, with layers on top of layers on top of layers. Unfortunately, not everybody is quite on the same level.
While Selena hogs the spotlight, alternately mugging for the camera, providing comic relief and delivering an F-bomb laced, real-time running commentary, Tabitha is left deliver bits of exposition that almost sound like AI generated word salad. “Why would the trawl’s most advanced criminal gestalt use a cut-price soulsuit to come after you?” she muses at one point. Later, after getting shot, she proclaims: “Well, let’s see. I got two inches of ablative armor, quick scab dermal spores, three anti-sepsis implants, and a didactic dampener to switch off the agony. I’ll live.” You totally get what she’s saying, and it all sounds pretty cool, but also just a little absurd. Especially, I imagine, if you’ve not been seriously steeped science fiction aesthetics.
Visually, too much of the time the illustrations feel uneven and out of sync with the script. While Selena’s character design rings true and fits with the overall vibe, once again the problem lies primarily with Tabitha. For a book with such salty language and implicitly mature themes, Tabitha’s character design tends to feel cartoony. Colored a bold red and blue that dominate virtually any scene in which she appears, her puffy gray arms and enormous collar are a little too reminiscent of Buzz Lightyear, creating a disconnect that’s hard to shake. The as-yet-unnamed female character whom Selena coarsely describes as looking like “pickled afterbirth,” on the other hand, features a unique and compelling design that immediately commands our attention. Clearly she is set to play a sizable role in the series, which bodes well, but I can’t help but wish Tabitha looked more like her, sort of creepy and unsettling with an unspoken backstory that must be captivating.
So far, the artwork is all about the characters. Look at any panel and the character basically fills the frame. Consequently, there’s not a lot of room for architectural details or other scenic elements. For the most part, that makes sense. This is a character driven piece. Nonetheless, as we move from string to string through this multiverse, it would be nice to see more visual cues to help differentiate one world from the next. Instead, as it is, the words carry the load. Even in a two-page flashback that centers on Bubba (Tabitha’s brother, Selena’s son) as he checks in with his sister from one exotic world after another, we see very little of what he describes. We read about people with “milk glands all up and down their arms” and a “new alt Earth with a whole technology based on hair,” but we don’t get to see these things. Instead, we get a collection of Tabitha’s changing hairstyles that imply the passage of time as she stares at a lackluster sequence of hologram projections of her distant brother. In the end it’s merely a series of super high tech emails that leave the promise of writer Si Spurrier’s quirky ideas unfulfilled.Continued below
Ultimately, that’s the issue. Spurrier’s script is outstanding – wry, imaginative, ribald and brimming with ideas. Sadly, a lot of that potential remains visually untapped. Even when the characters are fully realized, they feel ungrounded, moving through a multiverse that has yet to come to life.
Final Verdict: 6.8 – The script of “Motherlands” #2 fully embraces its foulmouthed, wisecracking, high concept sci-fi aesthetic, but the artwork feels uninspired and decidedly less imaginative. For now, the words can carry the load. Hopefully the artwork will soon follow suit.