There’s a lot going on in Motherlands #1, DC Comics’ new Vertigo series from Si Spurrier and Rachael Stott. The comic introduces a whole new world. In fact, whole new worlds, plural. The core premise is that humanity worked out how to make contact with its equivalents in other dimensions, and now jumps between them freely.
For most comics, that’d be more than enough, but Motherlands piles on the sci-fi concepts. These dimensions are navigated using people’s psychic traces. They’re policed by Retrievers, bounty hunters who — at least in the early days — were essentially the multiverse’s biggest reality TV stars. This isn’t a world which is new to the idea of dimension-hopping, but it’s not the norm, either; we pick up 40 years after first contact.
It’s a broken-down world where everyone is, at the very least, pretty unpleasant. This is a comic which earns that “suggested for mature readers’ tag on the front cover, with plenty of exploding heads and — to be very British about it — willies, bums, and effing and jeffing. In terms of its Vertigo legacy, Motherlands feels like it’s shooting for a similar vibe to Transmetropolitan, maybe with a splash of Preacher.
Throw in Stott’s excellent designs for all the “alt-humans” from other dimensions — complete with extra arms, animalistic body hair and upside-down faces — and Spurrier’s stylized dialogue, which mixes in sci-fi neologisms like “aura trace” and “puncturer” among all the swearing and… again, there’s a lot going on. So much, in fact, that it can be hard to know where exactly the hook of this series lies.
All of the above, however, is really just the background that Motherlands’ plot whizzes past. We’re introduced to Tabitha Tubach, one of the aforementioned Retrievers, and her mother. Retrieving, it turns out, is the family trade. Tabitha’s mom was one of the first Retrievers, and one of the most famous — basically Dog the Interdimensional Bounty Hunter. The two are estranged, for reasons that are hinted at in flashback sequences, but by the end of the issue the plot has reunited them for one last mission.
At which point it becomes clear that this relationship is going to be the real hook of Motherlands; Gilmore Girls fired through a 2000 AD filter. The two couldn’t be much less alike. Selena, the mother, is a filter-free prima donna. Tabitha is an oasis of relative calm amidst all the chaos, brought to quiet life by Stott with small gestures like pinching the bridge of her nose when she’s frustrated, which is most of the time.
It’s a relationship I look forward to seeing develop, but this first issue only gives us a glimpse of the characters together. For all the noisy pleasures of the interdimensional setting, it might have been nice to get a little more of the “Mother-,” even if it meant a little less of the “-lands.”