Marguerite Bennett brings us the first installment of the 3-part “Allies” storyline (or 9-part, if you’re counting in Digital Firsts as this covers digital issues No. 19, 20, and 21). The focus for this storyline is back in Burnside/Gotham where Kate Kane’s underlings have taken it upon themselves to form up a Batfamily in defense of the oppressed.
The big fun here is how many familiar faces Bennett manages to squeeze in (everyone from Alysia Yeoh to Harper Row). And the story is a fun one, that struck me as having a curiously Manga/Animé aesthetic both in terms of the art (provided by consistently throughout all 3 digital parts by artist Mirka Andolfo, with colors by Wendy Broome).
If you’ve been following my reviews for this book you know that I’ve been complaining about the roller coaster of art styles since the inception of this series. For once we have a complete story (literally a one-and-done almost) that has complete uniformity throughout.
Definitely worth celebrating!
Batgirls to the Rescue
We have yet to meet the Barbara Gordon version of Batgirl in this world, but for now we have no lack of variations on the theme as the girls in Batwoman’s neighborhood form a gang to go up against the Pinkney School, picking up the work Kate Kane had to leave off when she opted to join the fight overseas.
The thrust of the action here is Dickensian: rich vs. poor with children being pressed into labor and an evil organization plotting against “American” interests from within. Hanging in the balance is not only the poor children of Gotham, but Harper’s brother Cullen specifically, who was arrested for being a troublemaker street urchin.
Betty Kane feels like the de facto leader of this motley crew, but everyone does their share to infiltrate the Pinkney lair and this is where things go full-on battle mecha vs. girls in flip skirts.
In a good way, though. Not in a creepy pigtailed upshot way.
Replete with rough-hewn robots!
Where They Could Use an Assist
Despite a fun storyline that channels a little of Gotham Academy (but with an evil headmistress), and features Batboys Tim Drake and Cullen Row (as well as a brief guest appearance from a young Felicity Smoak), and despite the fact that we get the luxury of a single artist working through all the pages, there is a tradeoff:
Some of the art just isn’t very strong.
Andolfo does a nice job with the girls, their faces, their costumes, and she draws a really sweet Batmobile (1930s-style coupe). But her rendering of Officer Daniels’ horse is lamentable; its anatomy is a mess, the scale is off, and in one large panel, it literally looks like it was drawn from a model for one of those pretty pony ribbons and bows toys for girls. The saddle is even unfinished (and unattached to the horse). It’s unfortunate because it knocked me right out of the story which, up until that point, had been wonderfully immersive (Andolfo’s brownstone neighborhood is lovely and full of nice historic-looking details).
Later, when the girls meet Moloch the Mecha at the Pinkney school, the action suffers quite a bit. There’s business with a worktable that doesn’t track well, and many panels of the ensuing fight sequence just aren’t that dynamic and feel like they lack a strong focal point.
Also, the design of the so-called war machines isn’t very imaginative. It’s like a weird marriage of C-3PO and the Maschinenmensch from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. I have a feeling that the latter influence was intentional, which is actually kind of cool, but I kind of wish the overall design had been a little more intimidating.
Still, Andolfo’s human characters are lovely and fun, and their interactions carry the issue.
You don’t want to be on the receiving end of this gang!
And, as usual, we get a fun cover from Ant Lucia that shows off the Batgirls uniforms. I think this, and the final page of all the Batkids hanging out at the end are my two favorite things about this.
- You love the girls of the Batfamily!
- A semi-stand-alone Bombshells story sounds like a good time.
- You enjoy steampunky mecha crossovers into the DC Universe.
The “Allies” arc comes out of the gate at full force with a storyline grounded in Gotham and away from the bigger concerns of the warfront, but still tied into the main action of the book overall. If you ever wanted to see what some of your favorite Bat-characters might look like in the Bombshells setting (not all of them have been done up all glossy in Ant Lucia’s promotional art), this is a fine, fun adventure to pick up–even if you’re not reading the rest of the series. Some of the art is a little rough in places, but Bennett does well juggling a large cast and keeping the story active and engaging.