I am glad that I did not realize who Emilia Clarke is before I read this book. If you have been under a rock (like I obviously have) she is an actress from Game of Thrones (at least I have heard of that). The why of that is I am a snob when it comes to celebrity books (not completely convinced of quality to be blunt). Even with a psychedelic cover that made me a bit stomach upset, I am glad I gave this graphic novel a shot. Marguerite Bennett and Clarke have created something that should be read, and opinions will be had about.
This is a look at women in society and how she can obtain becoming the ideal woman, mother, and lover. She must do it all, but can a mere mortal do it all? Supernaturally (maybe) accessing her natural powers, our heroine finds a way to be all that and have time to bake cookies for her kid’s class. Taking what makes her “icky” (her womanly ways, bodily events, etc.) she becomes a super-bada$$ Mother! She takes down misogyny wherever she can. And sometimes it comes in forms you might not expect.
M.O.M.: Mother of Madness, Volume 1 is a lot of things. It is hyperbole. It is humorous. It is serious. There are stereotypes, ideal images and a kid who probably is autistic and way too smart for his own good. Yet maybe that is just what the world needs. This looks at a near future society that has not changed much, but Clark and Bennett give us hope as well.
And Leila Leiz and Jo Ratcliffe gives us this idea in bizarre, over-the-top, and simple imagery. Everything is crowded, like a comic graphic novel tends to be. The colors are blurry and bold and solid. There are several contradictions that all play into the point of things. The art is not its own character, but it does have character and supports the people within them.
There are some triggers such as human trafficking, abuse, language, and at the end some fantasy imagery and violence occurs. But I felt it is there for the message and not to shock. And yet, it can be shocking. This is not for everyone because it is a little messed up, powerful and has a few potholes in the plot and execution. There are great images such as Maya, our heroine, starting her period in the middle of a party for “Women” yet the paintings on the walls show their “assets” and not their assets. The text is powerful and real (Guy: No girlfriend of mine would do that. Woman: she didn’t do it on purpose). And there is humor (Maya swears and her son calls her on it, so she owes him a dollar). You can say everything is over the top and it is. But that is the point, that humor (okay there is a fart joke, I admit I laughed, groaned, laughed) takes the edge off things, and still, you are in the moment. (And I have so many moments I loved and hated.)
The comments I read from Goodreads had three camps: Women who gave it fives (because GO GIRL! Women Power!). Women and men who gave it 3-4 for yes, it is good, but maybe a bit cliché, yet the art is a Like. And the ones who gave it Ones. (I don’t think he was “woke” to be honest.) One person did mention the fart joke (I know they don’t always go over well, but you know they had to go there… I mean they didn’t have to, but it fleshes out the character of Maya). I have to say I am in the 3-4 rating. It is good, it makes good points, maybe the love interest was too “perfect” (becoming a “friends to lover”), yes, the plot point holes, and sometimes it is a little pushy (a little too Woman good; Guys bad”) but it is still something interesting. There are representations of people of color, various abilities, sexuality, and gender (Henrietta deadnames herself, making a possible trigger moment, but her point is made crystal clear).
This is not a quick read, but you will want to read it quickly. Take your time, savor it, pick up points (one of my favorites is how she is a sex worker, but not what you think of when you think of sex work. Yet, she is a sex worker). You will come away with loving this or hating it, there really is little in between. Would I want to be friends with Maya and her crew? Maybe. But I wouldn’t mind Henrietta putting together an outfit for me!