“The Battle of Britain” storyline begins, pulling together the first three installments from Digital Firsts 31, 32, and 33, and at long last we see the Bombshells converging on a single location to fight as a cohesive team.
The question is: how cohesive is it? And secondarily (but no less important): can this immense group of diverse heroes really complement one another in a way that makes sense dramatically?
Including characters we’re barely seen up until now!
Marguerite Bennett’s got her work cut out for her on this book juggling a lot of storylines and a lot of characters. We don’t see the full slate of Bombshells here (the “villains” are largely left out of the mix), but almost all the heroes who have been introduced up until this point work their way into the action in this book (including the return of Amanda Waller herself), and that’s pretty exciting. It also brings back characters like Big Barda and Doctor Hoshi, who we haven’t seen in quite some time.
There’s a lot that happens in this kickoff to a big Battle over Britain, but I’m going to pick out my favorite bits and bullet them:
- The Tenebrae are still in the mix, but they’ve dredged up lots of goofy-cool sea monsters. While the execution leaves a little to be desired, I love the concept!
- Amanda Waller comes in for a good old-fashioned dogfight and proves an able pilot!
- Steve Trevor finally gets some closure for his PTSD storyline and Bennett does a nice satisfying job of making his non-super status work within this work and be effective on the ground (also mushy romance with Wonder Woman, because of course!).
- Big Barda and Kimiyo Hoshi fight a giant octopus!
- Edward Nygma isn’t out of the fight–he returns to continue plotting!
- Baroness Von Gunther also returns (and she’s got a cool sea horse!)
- And speaking of returns, we briefly get to see the Night Witches again!
So yeah, tons of action with Mirka Andolfo bookending an issue by Laura Braga in the middle on art duties. I think Braga’s sequence is the strongest here, with really nicely rendered action for Wonder Woman in particular. The scene between Hoshi and Big Barda feels a little heavy on the linework for some reason–perhaps because Hoshi’s hair isn’t given any texture or color other than flat black, and it seems like it absorbs all the focus as a result.
Giant octopi are my comic book crack!
Andolfo’s work is a bit of a mixed bag, with the opening section’s women all looking rather elf-like and too young to be the strong women superheroes we’ve already been presented. The same characters look much better in the final sequence and it’s nice to finally see the whole set of them united in the last panel.
For all the good, though, there is one big detractor in this book for me and it’s a seriously unfortunate one: Batwoman!
What has happened to this character? I feel like Bennett has been struggling with her all along, but now she’s deep-ended into a completely new personality and it’s not a strong choice of shift. When we first met Batwoman (in the opening installments of this series), she was a mature, strong-willed, adventurous woman with a voice made for leadership and demonstrating all the refinement of a good upbringing. Batwoman in this book is suddenly de-aged to look like a older teen, has a crazy cowlick hairstyle, and is shooting off flirty weird slang like Harley Quinn!
Don’cha sugar? Say what?
We’ve also lost Catwoman and Huntress, which is a crying shame. So even though we’ve amassed many of the big names here so far, the team is either not entirely complete or else perhaps the core of the team is not intended to include these supporting characters on a regular basis. Hard to tell, since I would have thought Hoshi and Barda were peripheral, but they get lots of front and center action here. Not that I mind a revolving cast, but it always does beg the question: if there’s some major evil thing happening why aren’t they all fighting together? Presumably because someone needs to stay and hold down the fort (as it were), but we’re still left to conjecture.
- You like your comics big and brawly! Lots of monsters and action here! Seriously: this is the start of a main event arc now that the recruiting and enlisting phase is over.
- You’re a fan of Amanda Waller (as a flying ace, no less!)
There was so much good in this issue, but it feel like it got seriously undercut by the strange treatment of Batwoman and the loss of her “support” team in Catwoman and Huntress. Still, the action is top notch as the other Bombshells combine forces to start a defense against the Tenebrae’s attack on England, including a fun mix of shadow creatures and deep-sea monstrosities. There are still many plot threads dangling off the hem of the cape on this comic, but gradually we’re seeing stuff cohese and it’s nice to get a sense of some of the character’s subplots gradually working their way out. On concept alone, this remains one of the stronger Elseworld-style books I’ve come across in a long time, and the consistency of the artwork (matching artists and having contiguous work throughout combined issues) has shown much improvement over the recent issues.