The Russian playwright Chekhov made a famous observation about drama that would be acknowledged by the worst Hollywood hack: “If there is a gun hanging on the wall in the first act, it must fire in the last.” Sadly, there’s no gun in today’s Momma. However, the attentive reader will note that the strip takes place on a beach. Marylou and Francis are dressed in bathing suits (and Momma presumably is as well, though her newspaper saves the artist from having to depict a swimsuit on her freakishly stunted frame) and some scattered dots on the ground are apparently meant to evoke sand. Yet there’s nothing beach-specific about the strip! Marylou’s vague accusations could have easily been sharpened into something about Francis’ seaside tomfoolery. Alas, all the bathing paraphernalia sits there unused, like a forlorn and neglected pistol decorating the set of an Edwardian comedy of manners.
My main problem with Momma is that it lacks a consistent point of view. Are Momma’s kids a gaggle of ungrateful spendthrifts who constantly ignore her advice despite their inability to manage their own lives? Or is Momma a hateful old busy-body who never says anything nice and who can’t stand to let go of a single bit of control over her adult children? From what I’ve seen, both statements are true, which is surely a recipe for whimsical entertainment.