Mother And Daughter Bounty Hunting Bonding: Motherlands # 1

by Richard Bruton

A new Vertigo issue 1. And with Motherlands, Si Spencer and Rachael Stott deliver this sweary, violent, action-packed, and bloody great first issue in the very best of ways. Give it a chance, and you’ll be as eager to get your hands on issue 2 as I am right now.

It’s Earth. The future. 40 years after first contact. But this was first contact with a difference. Instead of bug-eyed little green men, we were simply meeting ourselves from parallel Earths. How rubbish is that?

Welcome to the parallel universes of Motherlands. 40 years after some genius discovered the way to puncture through to different parallel universes – the “strings”.

The big problem is that humanity can only access realities with a similar “aura trace” to Earth’s own, the only contacts we get are with more of us, all the alt-humans mixing together. All this different tech to pilfer, the “deregulated scientific hybridization”, or “the pollination revolution” as it became known…basically all humanity has to look forward to is more of us. You can almost feel the disappointment from here. The world of Motherlands is not going to be a pleasant utopian future, that’s for sure.

And of course, seeing as humanity is the same all over, parallel Earths or not, most of these tech advances seem to involve screwing others over. Which is why there’s a big market for cross-parallel bounty hunters.

No surprise there, after all it’s right on the cover…

Tagging trash and earning cash:
Multiversal manhunting with Momma.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves… back to the beginning of Motherlands.

30 years ago. Here’s Tabitha, a little girl pulled out of class, possibly not the most well balanced little girl either, given those drawings she’s been doing…

Off to the principle’s office where Mom is busy tearing the unfortunate man a new one. Language turning the air blue, Mom turns on the charm to Tabitha, but it’s a hollow thing, all for the cameras she’s brought with her, a woman used to the limelight.

But it’s not Tabitha in trouble, it’s her brother Bubba. And it’s not school trouble either, it’s estranged dad stealing him away from school sort of trouble. Mom is not happy, not happy at all. And Bubba’s gone missing…

[… “he’s left me behind.”
Those first two panels…Rachael Stott evoking images of Brian Bolland there?]

Cut to 30 years later.

A manic chase through the strings, the bad guys chased by a bounty hunter, firing up their puncturer in a desperate attempt to escape. But there is no escape. Not this time, even after the final bad guy jumps from string to string to string. The bounty hunters always a step behind and catching up.

“Fire up the puncturer. He’s coming.”

“Oh Christs, oh Christs, Oh Christs, I got no destination set! Th-th-there’s all spunk and glandex in the keypad!”

“Just set it to auto… any string with a psi-field. Human trace means human conditions… We’ll hold the bastard off till you’re clear.”

“H-h-he’s here! H-he’s HEEERE!”

“She.”

Oh yes. SHE. And yes, we all know who that she is.

That would be the grown-up Tabitha, armored up, gloved fists dripping in bad guys’ blood, and chasing that last remaining bad guy through the strings, one after another, jumping from one parallel Earth to another. All in the certain knowledge that she’s going to get her man.

It’s not meant to be the big mystery at all. In fact, nothing in this first issue of Motherlands is meant to be a big mystery. Hell, the final page reveal is one you probably saw coming a mile off.

No, the fun of Motherlands is the sheer exhilarating pace of things once we get to the action. Spurrier and Stott are really going for it with this first issue, exposition mixes nicely with the action, the background to it all unfolds without feeling we’re being talked at, and dammit, this is a great first issue.

The final showdown gives the bad guy a chance to chat, a chance for Spurrier to reintroduce the potty-mouthed Mom of 30-years back that we saw in the first couple of pages. She’d be Selena Tubach, The Scarlet Sylph, crime-fighter, bounty-hunter, reality TV star, beautiful, vivacious, and with her own unique way of subduing her targets. Oh, it’s a cliche, the bad guy stopped in his tracks by a flash of skin, but it’s played ever so well. Mom as a throwback to a ridiculous age, where the dumb sexism of this sort of reality TV superhero Kardashian made sense.

As you can imagine, Tabitha and Mom have something of a difficult relationship. How would you want to be the child of a superhero bounty hunting reality TV star who captures her targets by flashing them? Yeah, it must have been shit growing up being Tabitha.

Which might well be why she’s a low-level bounty hunter now, chasing the next crappy target just to pay the rent, never going to be the big star, but never wants to be either.

But circumstances are catching up with her, as is her history, and family always comes back to mess up your life. Turns out the moron bad guy Tabitha brought in has crucial info on the most wanted of the most wanted. Suddenly Tabitha, along with every other bounty hunter, is chasing down the 12 million for the leader of the Scab Pickles crew, who always eludes every bit of modern tech the bounty hunters and authorities can track them with.

The answer, much to Tabitha’s annoyance, is to turn to someone with ancient tech, something the Scab Pickles crew won’t be set up to evade.

Yep…like the man says…she’s talking about her dear mother…

So, here we are. The setup is done and we’re off. But damn, it’s been a fine, fine bit of setup. Spurrier plays it for laughs when he needs to, pushes the exposition onto you when he can, without making it too in your face, and the action taking up a fair chunk of the issue is handled ever so well.

Of course, a lot of the credit there has to go to Stott. Her art just works really well for the story, little bits of Bolland here, Chris Sprouse there, but it’s still all Rachael Stott, and it’s great to look at.

So. it’s Tabitha and Mom on the hunt for the most notorious criminal across all the strings. It’s going to be a blast. If Tabitha doesn’t kill Mom first.

All in all, this one sure passes that essential first issue test. Did I enjoy it enough to be looking forward to issue 2 in a month’s time? Hell, yes. Motherlands feels like a classic bit of Warren Ellis-era Vertigo fare, big sci-fi ideas, dirtied down to the human level, complicated by the whole Mom and daughter relationship. It’s going to be a fun ride from here on in.

Motherlands Issue 1 is out right now, published by DC Comics / Vertigo. Written by Si Spurrier, art by Rachael Stott, colors by Felipe Sobreiro, letters by Simon Bowland, cover by Eric Canete.