The “Enlisted” introduction continues in this second installment of DC Comics Bombshells and if you’re picking this up in print instead of keeping up with the Digital Firsts, you’re in for some surprises: both good and bad.
Let’s get the unpleasant surprise out of the way first: this book is handled by not two, but three different artists. Lara Braga and colorist Wendy Broome start the book with Diana getting an assist from Mera in her efforts to join forces against the growing global threat outside of Themyscira, Stephen Mooney and Broome carry the Soviet section with Supergirl and Star Girl being interrogated by General Arkayn (yes, I suspect it’s that Arkayn), and Ted Naifeh and colorist Doug Garbark round it out with the introduction of newcomers Zatanna and the Joker’s Daughter (no, not that Joker’s Daughter). We also get to see an unexpected magician infiltrating the Nazi cabaret in this sequence.
Mera and Diana: worlds apart but only a dolphin chariot away!
Too Many Acrobats on the High Wire
Any time you have this many artists working on a single book you’re going to have mixed results if the editors (in this case Jessica Chen and Jim Chadwick) can’t make the work complimentary enough to not be a distraction. It’s a huge distraction in this book for several reasons.
- The first book was well-matched in terms of consistency and overall aesthetic. The artists seemed to be taking their cues from Ant Lucia’s character designs and were creating a world of clean lines and a slightly “animated” atmosphere. Suddenly we’ve been dropped into a landscape that goes from matching that aesthetic (Braga), to completely upending it (Mooney), and then landing somewhere in the middle where the art feels so weirdly distorted (Naifeh), I had to make sure I wasn’t getting a contact high from the neighbors smoke drifting in my window (I live in Washington these days and it’s 420-friendly).
- To expound on the “aesthetic” of the book: obviously it’s early in the series, but when the first issue was consistently creating that bright clean-line world, to now have a much darker, rougher looking environment feels like a 180 in terms of audience appeal. Mooney’s work is interesting, but definitely a different kind of comic than I was expecting. Does that make it a bad thing? Not necessarily. Your mileage may vary.
- Of the three contributors, Naifeh’s work is just not up to snuff. I know that’s harsh, but his characters are weird. Their faces are slanted, their bodies rubbery, and there are literally panels in which people or things are unformed or the linework is incomplete. Zatanna’s crotch is so weird throughout (and her pants so inconsistent) it becomes the only thing you see on the page. And look at those snakes: did those just pop out of one of those snakes-in-a-can novelties?
Despite All That Mrs. Kennedy Still Enjoyed the Parade
Marguerite Bennett is packing a lot of action and information into each issue and even though we’re still in the introductions phase, it all feels like it’s going to come together quite nicely. I miss Batwoman this go-round, but the situation involving Zatanna and the Joker’s Daughter is well-written and sets up some intriguing interactions. I’m no fan of any of the Joker’s Daughters ever conceived by DC, but this one takes after the original (circa her first appearance in Batman Family no. 6 ) and is well-placed in a Nazi den of vice. Her rotted mouth is particularly effective in showing her rotten inner-being as compared to her reasonably attractive exterior.
This ain’t no self-tortured teenager with a wanna-be fixation!
I love that Bennett continues to play with the cultural identities of the various characters. The chilling reveal about Zatanna at the end of Mooney’s sequence is beyond grim and, again, brings a weight to the story that isn’t immediately telegraphed by the cheery covers Ant Lucia has been providing. That’s an incongruity I am enjoying, however. Incongruity=good, inconsistency=bad. Anyone who has watched Grave of the Fireflies can appreciate that a cartoon aesthetic need not preclude very dark underpinnings.
While Kortni and Kara’s transformation tracks a little sudden and a little silly (the costumes are a bit much under the circumstances), I do like the situation that compels them to act (and I’m thinking at the moment that it is an “act”; they’re going to make a break as soon as they can get away with it, though who knows how long that might take). Again, placing the characters in a place of extreme peril has given this book a clear sense of urgency even as we wade through what is essentially whole issues full of exposition.
Kara and Kortni don’t exactly have the support of their Soviet sisters.
Big Reasons to Pay the Admission Fee
DC’s female lineup is awesome. Diana and Mera working together is awesome. The pre-World War II setting is awesome.
The cast of this book may not be wildly diverse, but it’s chock-full of women who are more invested in the broad political and social landscape than petty self-interests. They’re still “human”: Diana has an attraction to Steve that’s pushing her to act on his behalf. Batwoman’s relationship with Maggie (in issue no. 1) clearly needs some work. And Kortni and Kara obviously have a spark of the fashionista at play in their hearts. But the balance is perfect. Heroes first. If you’re buying comics to see ordinary people doing ordinary things, you might need to get out into the world more.
- You like to take a trip to the dark side of comics now and then–and not that speculative dystopian Frank Miller-type stuff, I’m talking about real evil in the real world.
- You love these alternate universes where you can be surprised by the appearance of all sorts of characters from across DC Comics’ broad spectrum
- You can’t get enough of Ant Lucia’s beautiful Bombshell covers.
Some of the artistic choices made in this issue are a bit on the rough side, but the story remains compelling as ever. We’re still in start-up mode, but that doesn’t mean this book is light on action or character development. Bringing the Nazis right into the mix also adds a dark undercurrent that’s so well done it’s downright uncomfortable–but that’s what you’ve signed up for with DC Comics Bombshells, and who doesn’t want to see our favorite superhero women kick the Gestapo in the teeth?