Written by Simon Spurrier
Art by Rachael Stott and Felipe Sobreiro
Lettering by Simon Bowland
Published by DC Comics/Vertigo
‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10
Imagine a world where the biggest celebrities are bounty hunters. Now imagine that same world spread across a multiverse with limitless tech, infinite possibilities, and populated with different incarnations and mutations of humanity. This is the world of Motherlands, a screamingly funny new debut from Vertigo created by writer Simon Spurrier and artist Rachael Stott. Made complete by the crisp colors of Felipe Sobreiro and the sharp, attuned letters of Simon Bowland Motherlands #1 is a ready-made new universe armed to the teeth with a compelling lead, an acerbic wit, and a deceptively emotional plot.
Thirty years ago, Tabitha’s mother was the greatest star in the “huntertainment” universe, but now Tab has bills to pay, working the same gig as her mom, but with much less glitz and much more by the book. As a “Retriever,” it is Tab’s job to wade into the mass multiverse known as the Trawl and bring back criminals taking advantage of the possibilities therein. Though on paper this sounds like really basic stuff, Simon Spurrier makes it feel so much deeper through his skillful dissemination of world-building, which is usually delivered either in passing or through context-heavy dialogue. From the first page, the reader already has a solid picture of the both the overall conceit of the Trawl and how it affected humanity. But Motherlands has much more to offer than just a rich and truly insane sci-fi setting.
As readers go on, they will be pleased to find that the out-there designs of Stott and trippy science fiction ideas of Spurrier are deeply rooted in character and comedy, as we are treated to a day in the life of Tab, who is just trying to make ends meet while living in the shadow of her famous mother. Tab emerges early as a fully fleshed-out and relatable leading woman as she is disrespected for her gender (or her species) despite her own talents. But instead of making this just disposable, off-color set dressing, both Spurrier and Stott use it to inform their characterization with Tab’s frustrations and hangdog version of zen either coming across in a hilarious speech or emotive blocking from Stott.
And speaking of Rachael Stott, I truly believe that the debut of Motherlands will be the issue that finally gets her the recognition she truly deserves as an artist. Though she has often impressed handling other people’s creations with stints on Sex Criminals and various arcs of Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor, this debut is her at her rawest, rowdiest, and most realized. Given even cleaner lines by the clear, defined colors of Felipe Sobreiro, Stott goes hog-wild with the design of the worlds and denizens of the Trawl. But also like Spurrier’s script, even the most insane scenes and sets are still based in character.
For example, in the issue’s most cinematic scene, Tab is chasing a naked criminal through the Trawl in order to bring him in. But as we and the characters hop from universe to universe, Stott keeps the action firmly focused on Tab and the runner, peppering in the background panels with all manner of sci-fi and fantasy set dressing leading to an emotionally raw showdown between the two and a goading flashback to Tab’s mom’s glory days just to rile her up. Though Motherlands #1 brings plenty of visual flair and keen design work, I really feel that it is Stott’s eye for emotion and character work here that will finally give her the breakout moment she needs and has, quite frankly, deserved.
Equally hilarious and heartfelt, albeit with an raunchy attitude all its own, Motherlands #1 could very well be Vertigo’s next standout hit. It certainly has all the makings of a hit, what with the talents of Felipe Sobreiro, Rachael Stott, and Simon Spurrier on full display and an obscenely funny, but still affecting opening gambit. If you like your comics bristling with ideas, stocked with gorgeous artwork, and more than a few well-placed F-bombs, then take a trip down to the Motherlands and have yourself one hell of a time.