For this, my 100th review for Batman-News.com, I am especially pleased to be bringing you a new No. 1 from a series that I’m personally excited about.
DC Comics Bombshells has a freshness factor that feels lacking in the DCU right now. It’s a book about female characters in an alternate history context that makes the absence of men organic and pertinent. It also looks like it’s going to be bringing together a whole legion of women superheroes against the greatest real-life foe of the 20th century: the Nazi Regime.
Okay, so she’s not a Valkyrie per se, but she’s nevertheless awesome
We can pay chicken and egg all day about whether this comic was conceived before Ant Lucia designed the DC Comics Bombshells line or whether the popularity of the line led to the development of the series, but what really matters is that it looks like we’ve got a great team to kick it off. Marguerite Bennett and Marguerite Sauvage work words and pictures (respectively), with the aforementioned Ant Lucia knocking out the covers (at least for the beginning of the run).
The opening story is a bit of a formula one, but not without a few small surprises and some great character interactions. Titled “Enlisted”, it looks like we’re going to be doing a pretty broad round of introductions as the team sets the stage for the world in which this book takes place and the characters who will take part in the main action. That’s a tall order and, as with any introductory issue, could fall flat if not pushed along with a strong hook. So how does DC Comics Bombshells do coming out of the gate? Let’s take a look:
Five Reasons this Book is Already a Win
A lot of people buy first issues because they hope for later markup if the book gets big or they just like to see new things. Because this is a Digital First title, anyone who’s picking it up through the DC Comics app or Comixology can read it well ahead of its print date (digital issues are released on Saturdays). But regardless if you can’t wait to download the latest issue or you prefer it on paper, here are five reasons you should give this a try:
- It’s a who’s who of the DC female superheroverse: in the opening issue alone you’ll meet Batwoman, Firebird, Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Stargirl, and I’ll leave at least one surprise. Clearly there are plenty more on the horizon too (one look at the solicit covers and you know both Mera and Zatanna are due to arrive within the next couple of months). Not everyone’s in costume yet, so expect some origin-like build up in the short term.
- These are not girly versions of female superheroes. These are women portrayed as women with confident assertive personalities. I know I have a bias against the “reluctant hero” type; I admit I feel strongly that the last thing we need for a role model in comics is an awkward whiner. You’ll get none of that here. These women are cops, vigilantes, and soldiers. They fly airplanes (and eagles), and don’t take guff from anyone.
- Kate Kane is back and she’s shacked up with Maggie Sawyer. If you miss these two, then this a chance to welcome them back in all their complexity.
- The alternate history timeline means this is an “anything goes” series. While Bennett is not recreating the characters entirely, their relationships are being redefined in this new world. So, for example, Kara and Kortni are Russian now. How awesome is that?
- The opening book is fun. For those of you tired of gloomy Gotham or heavy death death and more death in other titles, here’s a series with a weighty premise (it is Hitler, after all), but Bennett so far has kept a light touch. In the spirit of the Golden Age, we’re looking at a book that puts the adventure first (just like the good ol’ days).
As a bonus, look for all the little nods to other familiar characters throughout the book.
Yep: that’s “General Arkayn” back there.
Three Small Reasons You Might Hesitate
Maybe female team-ups aren’t your thing. Maybe non-continuity is not for you. But it you like to sample, if you like to dive into new things, I don’t think you can be disappointed. Even at the $3.99 price point, you’re getting a comic book and a half worth of material (for a comic book and a third the price). And if you decide to try this out digitally, it’s yours for a dollar less (at 99¢ per issue). My point is, don’t let the tag dissuade you for giving it a chance.
Here are some wee things to consider:
- I am enjoying Marguerite Sauvage’s art (she’s doing the digital drawing and coloring); it’s bright, it’s got a good strong flow of action, and her talking scenes are well-paced and well-composed to keep them interesting. But: I find her linework rather soft–literally. Some of her renderings are so faded they almost look blurred. I don’t think it takes anything away from the sequential storytelling, I just found it a bit distracting: almost as if it was a little bit unfinished. This is a style choice and ultimately I think it works, but if you like your comics heavily traditional (such as what Bruno Redondo produces for the Injustice series), you might not love the lines here. I should also mention that while I love Sauvage’s background environments in general, I find her rendering of airplanes a bit too loose: there’s not a lot of detail there on heavy machines that should be full of plates, rivets, etc. And there are a lot of planes in this, so that gives me pause.
- “Enlisted” is, as I mentioned before, largely introductory. I think there’s enough action to keep it interesting (I‘m very excited about the appearance of DC’s best recruiter), but we’re going to be playing set up for a little while yet. If the latest digital issue is any indication (it states that the story is 9 parts long), then it could be November before the team is truly pulled together for their first official mission. I’m okay with that. Your own level of tolerance for build-up might vary. We’ll see what issue No. 2 brings.
- There are aspects of the Batwoman story that I absolutely love (the inclusion of Maggie Sawyer, Kate Kane’s pseudo-domestic life in Burnside, her relationship with Bette, her run-in at the movie theater [check out that marquee!]), but there are also aspects that I found distracting and confusing. Kate and Bette being on opposite baseball teams was weird, the fact that Kate’s publicly in her “Gotham Knights” uniform while doubling as a baseball bat-wielding vigilante by night felt like a push (even though the ball-players are supposed to be anonymous and Maggie is tacitly thwarting her pursuit). I also feel like some of the writing in this first section is a bit weak (the stadium muggers, the somewhat anachronistic lingo). It might just be some out of the gate woggling, as I felt the succeeding stories were very solid. But as Batwoman’s introduction really sets the tone for the book, I thought it could have been a little stronger.
Hmmm, with a public persona like this, the GCPD must really be blind
All that said, my caveats are very minor compared to the promise that this new title brings to the table. Go forth and give it a try. I honestly think there’s something here for most everybody.
- You’re a fan of alternate universes in the DCU (this one, set during the second world war, looks like it’s going to be a fabulous one).
- You love awesome female characters who are treated like women instead of giggling teenagers (even if some of them are teenagers).
- A weekly digital series beats waiting a whole month to see what happens next (c’mon, what’s not to love?)
DC Comics Bombshells releases digitally on Saturdays and the monthly collected edition gives you 40 pages for your four bucks. It’s got an all-star female lineup that puts Marvel’s concessionary female Thor to shame. And it’s set in an alternate WWII past with fun attention to 1940s aesthetics including the architecture, costumes, hairstyles, and other culturally recognizable nods. While the opening issue is mostly introductions and scene-setting, it’s clearly and aptly laying in the groundwork for exciting adventures ahead. The two Marguerites (Bennett and Sauvage) make comics fun again (with a high appeal to a young female audience) without sacrificing any character integrity. I am very much looking forward to seeing where this book takes us!