Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Yo Mama

It's a Mama-Thon, courtesy of Ragnell, who asks for posts about positive portrayals of mothers. I don't have a lot of time between now and Sunday, so I wanted to get this in while I could. I could write a six page essay on the multilayered story here, but I'll try and keep it short.

I'm going with a comic mama that may or may not turn out to be "positive" in the classic sense of the word, but who is a fascinating portrayal of motherhood nonetheless.

Liandra---"Lee"---from Peter David's excellent Fallen Angel.

For those of you unfamiliar, Lee is a fallen angel who is the protector of a shadowy city called Bete Noire, where absolutes don't exist and everyone is written in three dimensions.

The story thus far --- and mind you, I've only read the 4 issues from the IDW series, and none of the DC incarnation --- seems to revolve around the fact that Lee, who used to be an angel, used to regularly hook up with the guy running the city called the Dr. Juris, who ostensibly is her archnemesis and a descendant of Cain.

Turns out she bore him a son that she's kept hidden from him for, oh, about 20 years or so. The son, named Jude, had his wings torn off when he was a baby. Jude is a priest now.

(I believe that's what the literati refer to as irony.)

Well, recently, Jude came back to Bete Noire, and Dad is trying to get him to take over the position of Magistrate for him. Lee shows up, introduces herself as Mom, and tries to talk him out of it.

The usual questions about motives, abandonment, and free will follow. Next thing you know, they're both drowning.

Well, then.

So, is Lee a good mom or a bad mom?

GOOD: She stands up in order to keep her son from throwing away his life as Magistrate and becoming trapped in the city. ('Cause, um, that's what happens when you're Magistrate.)...

BAD: ...She tells Jude to leave, or she'll kill him. Which, you know, doesn't leave much room for compromise. And isn't entirely "motherly".

GOOD: She's a superhero, more or less, who watches over the inhabitants of Bete Noire...

BAD: ...which is nothing compared to being an angel, which she most certainly ain't no more, because God kicked her out of heaven...

GOOD: ...because she set a child molester/axe murderer on fire after he'd been found "not guilty" in a court of law, even though we all knew he was scum...

BAD: ...which means that in between her drinking binges, Lee gets in bar fights, generally hates her life, and doesn't really seem to want to be a hero or a mother, from what I can tell.

So, from the whopping 4 issues that I've read, to me Lee appears to be a conflicted, tortured person with self-doubt and an almost overwhelming sense of responsibility, along with a huge amount of power that could be used for good or evil. And despite her weaknesses as a person, she does the best that she can.

Yep, sounds like a pretty real description of a parent to me.

That's the beauty of the book: nothing is black and white, and everyone---I mean, EVERYONE has shades of gray to their character. No one is completely "good" or completely "evil" in the traditional senses, and it's fascinating to watch a very human drama played out in a very surreal setting.

And while Lee won't win any Mother Of The Year awards, it's clear that her son's reappearance has reignited her will, and she'll stop at nothing to make sure that he doesn't choose the wrong path. And the end of issue 4 is a powerful, powerful scene that shows us just how much Lee really does love her child.

Lee may not be getting her wings back for Mother's Day, but she'll certainly be getting a thumbs-up from me as one of the more nuanced, complex portrayals of a mother in comics today.


Anonymous Athelind said...

And there's pretty good evidence that she was Supergirl before Superboy punched the universe.

6:14 PM  
Blogger Ragnell said...

Even on her own, she sounds fairly positive to me. Not everyone can be Martha Kent.

5:06 AM  

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