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Review: ‘War Mother’ by Fred Van Lente

January 12, 2018
War Mother by Fred Van Lent

War MotherWar Mother by Fred Van Lente
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

War Mother had an interesting concept. It was a fascinating mix of different works of the genre. The character of War Mother had elements of Furiosa from Mad Max: Fury Road and Aeon Flux with the aesthetic of video games like Horizon: Zero Dawn and Dishonoured. It just didn’t do enough with it.

The titular character of War Mother is bad-ass motherhood personified. She has no identity beyond what she means to her family and her tribe. This could have opened up the narrative to some interesting discussions on motherhood and sense of self but didn’t tackle anything that deep. Not in an effective way, anyway.

The whole narrative began with some incredibly clunky exposition which failed to naturally build the setting of War Mother. Ana (aka War Mother) has a symbiotic bond with her weapon which is newly ‘born’ at the beginning of the story. This gave a convenient excuse to explain the world rather than letting it play out and develop naturally through the narrative. What followed was some incredibly pedestrian and cliched dialogue between herself and the gun which made the story begin with a jolt, rather than easing the reader into the world that is being built.

For the most part, the art is excellent, but it does seem to change from scene to scene which bothered me. Ana was the only consistent character, and it broke my immersion to have the style change so dramatically. The most glaring aspect this occurs with is her husband, Ignacio, who is light-haired and handsome in one scene, and dark-haired and blurry in another. Also, some of the faces in the prologue were nightmare inducing. Not really sure what was going on there or how that passed muster.

From a plot perspective, there were some bizarre things going on. Ana wasn’t really developed as a character enough to make me invested in her. The narrative also seemed to hinge entirely on some really out of the blue events that we are just meant to accept. Without spoiling anything, there are people killed who we are told are evil, but nothing in the plot indicated that that might be the case. Motivations for actions don’t make a lot of sense, and a great deal happens that ultimately doesn’t mean anything. New characters get introduced who do nothing. Journeys are undertaken that mean nothing. Things are discovered that go nowhere. It all just seemed a string of random things, rather than a cohesive plot with meaning and growth.

Ultimately Ana just seems like a bit of a dick. She goes around killing a whole bunch of things, none of which I’m entirely convinced were actually villainous. In fact, War Mother is the one who comes across as the villain most of the time. So maybe that’s the point? I don’t know.

War Mother left me entirely underwhelmed. There are so many fantastic graphic novels out there that it’s easy to give this one a miss.

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