‘Mother Nature’ Review – Debut Graphic Novel from Jamie Lee Curtis Delivers a Timely Eco-Horror Story

Around the same time she was filming John Carpenter’s Halloween, 19-year-old Jamie Lee Curtis conceived a concept in which nature fights back against humanity. After working on David Gordon Green’s Halloween rejuvenated her excitement about the possibilities of low-budget filmmaking, she decided to pursue the story. 45 years after its inception, the newly minted Oscar winner has made her graphic novel debut with Mother Nature via Titan Comics.

Curtis teamed with aspiring filmmaker Russell Goldman, who served as Green’s assistant on Halloween and as Curtis’ assistant on Halloween Kills, to turn the idea into a screenplay. While the movie version is in the early stages of development at Blumhouse, the opportunity for a comic book adaptation came when Curtis sent the script to Karl Stevens, an artist whose The New Yorker original cartoons she collects. Stevens immediately saw the potential for a graphic novel.

Following in the footsteps of titans like George A. Romero and Jordan Peele, Curtis utilizes the horror genre as a conduit for social commentary regarding causes that are important to her. Mother Nature explores themes of environmentalism, feminism, motherhood, and underrepresented cultures (in this case, Indigenous and LGBTQIA+ peoples).

The 1995-set prologue introduces Catch Creek, New Mexico, where Cobalt Electric is set to break ground with state-of-the-art oil drills. A freak accident results in the death of an engineer while his Indigenous wife, Kai Terrell, and their 11-year-old daughter, Nova, helplessly look on.

In the present day, Cobalt is looking to put its natural resource-depleting ways behind it under the new leadership of the affable but smug Cynthia Butterfield. A new initiative dubbed the Mother Nature Project promises to purify natural water tainted by gas production with a solvent.

The pilot facility is built in Cold Creek on land owned by Kai, for which she’s handsomely compensated. Nova, who has been on a rebellious streak since her father’s untimely death, believes the operation is poisoning the water supply and wants to sabotage it. A parallel mother-daughter struggle occurs between Nancy Denton, the brains behind the Mother Nature Project, and Riley, her queer teenage daughter.

Anomalous weather events, missing persons, mysterious deaths, and otherworldly visions ensue over the course of 184 pages, intriguingly intertwined with Navajo mythology. Stevens brings the story to life with detailed watercolor artwork that gives it a unique look. Sequences occasionally require a second glance to follow the action, but that’s more about the limitations of the medium than the art, which is striking in and of itself.

Brian Lee Young, one of several Indigenous advisers who helped guide the story’s depiction of Diné culture, provides an afterword. As he eloquently puts it, “Inviting cultural consultants as well as diverse creators onto your team isn’t just a gesture of respect, it also is an opportunity to discover additional heart in the story.” The tome also includes an interview with Curtis and Goldman along with images of Stevens’ art process.

Mother Nature lends itself to Blumhouse’s tried-and-true model of a high-concept story that can be accomplished on a modest budget. A fair amount of visual effects will be necessary to depict the numerous natural disasters, but the story has a relatively small ensemble contained to a handful of locations. The character of Cynthia bears more than a passing resemblance to Curtis, so I expect her to assume the role in the eventual film.

Mother Nature is not a plea but a visceral scream for climate crisis action. The messaging may not be subtle, but the timely and poignant eco-horror story does not come off as sanctimonious. Moreover, Curtis, Goldman, and Stevens never lose sight of its genre core, relishing in gory, creative deaths.

Mother Nature is available now via Titan Comics.

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