“Allies and Enemies” now continues in this collected edition of Digital Firsts 25, 26, and 27 which focus on the characters of Mera, Wonder Woman, Supergirl and Stargirl. Sorry Batfans, we haven’t gotten back around to seeing what Batwoman or any of the other Batfamily-related characters are up to. If it’s any consolation, a certain Mr. Nygma plays an important role in this story, however. Just don’t expect him to be wearing a green suit or speaking in riddles.
Women in the Writing
Marguerite Bennett’s story game has been strong these last couple of issues after warbling a bit around the Catwoman and Lex Luthor subplot. She has created nicely well-rounded characters from the defecting Russian sisters, and in this book we get more development particularly on Mera as she and Supergirl battle against the Tenebrae underwater where Mera’s ex-fiance rears his ugly head as an ally of the darkness. If you’re wondering where Aquaman is in all of this, he’s been deliberately left out of the picture for now (as all the regular male superheroes have been for the most part). Ostensibly they’re off fighting on the frontlines (that’s what we’ve been to believe), but Arthur Curry hasn’t been mentioned at all.
The rest of the book concerns itself with Wonder Woman and Stargirl. Wonder Woman is having it out with the Baroness, whose own army of darkness is overrunning the allies. Steve Trevor continues to be more of a liability than anything else so I hope his presence on this battlefield will ultimately prove to have more purpose than just lamenting how awful war is and giving Diana someone off of whom to bounce exposition.
Meanwhile. Stargirl, having found her father, comes to realize that not everything is as great as it seems and does a complete 180: from happy-to-be-home-again teenager to defiant superhero launching out on her own after her sister. While this all seems to happen rather suddenly, Bennett does a good job motivating the change and it serves to keep the action driving forward. We also get a slighty zany rooftop battle with Nygma that’s actually kind of fun even if it is rather too simply resolved. As with a number of other minor character appearances, it feels doubtful at the moment whether we will see this madman butler again, but I guess you never know.
Girls in the Graphics
Mirka Andolfo and Laura Braga cover all the art duties in this compilation, with Andolfo doing the lionness’ share in both the opening and closing sections that heavily feature Mera, Supergirl, and Stargirl. Braga focuses on the middle section, which is exclusively Diana and the Baroness. In a nice bit of continuity, J. Nanjan covers colors on all three sections, which helps make the book look uniform in terms of the tone.
Even so, Andolfo’s work is occasionally a little rough. Her faces continue to demonstrate strong manga influence which can be a little jarring at times especially since her characters are rendered very young-looking by their sharp chins and big eyes. This works well enough for a character like Kortni (Stargirl), but to see the same features and expressions on Mera, who has been handled as older and more mature by artists in the past creates a little bit of a disconnect. It’s also just too bad generally that all the women look the same. In a book with such a heavily female cast produced by a largely female creative team you would think a diversity of female features would be emphasized. Again, other artists have done this in the past on Bombshells, which makes Andolfo’s work feel a bit one-note.
Braga’s own section does some very nice things. I’ve repeated criticized the depiction of horses in this comic, but the Baroness’ steed is well-executed here and even though we only get three panels of it, the horse is prominently featured and drawn at angles that are generally difficult to begin with, let alone including horse anatomy.
Braga also does some nice things with the paneling to represent callbacks for heavy exposition regarding the Tenebrae, and one mirror image of the Nazi Reich juxtaposed with the Tenebrae’s dark rise makes for a stunning splash page.
The Baroness is also just a great, nasty villain. I really look forward to seeing what other female villains they might bring into this book to give our Bombshells girls a real challenge.
- You enjoy seeing Wonder Woman in a kick-butt role against a kick-butt Baroness.
- Underwater action involving cephalopods!
- You want to learn more about Mera and the Tenebrae (both heavily featured!)
The mix of characters who are heavily featured in this book work really well together. Even though Wonder Woman is off fighting her own battle against the Baroness, the scene provides information and action relevant to the rise of the Tenebrae, linking what might seem like disparate events. Bennett has also seamlessly created an organic tie between Supergirl, Stargirl, and Mera that will now doubt strengthen their friendship going forward, even as secrets about each of them are slowly being revealed. This book may not have the epic gravitas of Injustice when it began its run, but it’s full of great old-fashioned comic book action with an endless splash of classic characters.