Who’s in the mood for love? Apparently Marguerite Bennett as she brings together three “Love Stories” (from Digital Firsts 40, 41, and 42) in this issue of DC Bombshells, which can be treated as a one-shot in some regards, though it features characters in circumstances which we’ve been following throughout the saga so far.
We get three couples (or more if you count the flashback sequences). Each story furthers the ongoing plot while also providing some background information on at least two key characters (in those aforementioned flashbacks). I would say the stories are uniformly interesting, but not uniformly well-told, perhaps. Let’s take a closer look:
Mera and an Irish Arthur (Curry?)
I put “Curry” with a question mark there because we’re never given his last name and he’s Irish, so it might not actually be Curry in this universe. Other characters, Like Selina, have been given last names more appropriate for their new European roots.
Last we saw Mera, she’d been dragged down under and marked off as MIA in the Battle of London after successfully defeating the Kraken. We catch up with her drowning in the deep, escaping from beastly clutches, but robbed of her powers and unable to surface before losing consciousness. She’s rescued by lighthouse keeper Arthur, who drags her out of the ocean like the little mermaid, revives her, takes her back to his lighthouse, and warms her up with a nice bowl of soup.
Does he have a permit for this? Or is she considered salvage?
Laura Braga is on art for this story and does a lovely job with the characters and the nuances of their flirtation. Arthur is likable and you can see chemistry between them so even though they fall awfully fast, it’s at least believable by comic book standards. I liked this story the best–not only because of my bias for Arthur and Mera, but because of Braga’s lovely artwork (though I will kvetch a wee bit about the weird free-standing hammock Mera sleeps in; that just doesn’t work for me). There’s also some nice conflict with Mera as she’s lost her powers and feels useless to rejoin her sisters-in-arms.
Zatanna and John Constantine
Mirka Andolfo renders this section and unfortunately it’s the least consistent of the three. Not only is the art a mixed bag (there are pages where Zatanna’s face and body are strangely proportioned and the expressions much too exaggerated), but the story is a little messy as well. Part of the problem is the use of flashbacks that aren’t well-delineated. You have to remember what year we start in to know that the first scene is even a flashback. Not a good way to start off: wait–weren’t they captured last we saw? How did they get here–; only to release the whole story is a flashback within a flashback. We don’t get to the present time until the end.
Once you understand how it works, it’s kind of interesting to examine the layers. Zatanna has been used and abused by the Joker’s Daughter, preyed upon for her insecurities and made to serve cruddy JD’s agendas. The implication is that Zatanna has been prostituted or sexually exploited in some fashion, though it’s not explicit.
Great “Love Story” right? And yet this story of the three has a lovely bittersweet ending as we return to present–where, yes, Zatanna and John Constantine have been captured–and they are thrown into the ghetto together. Zatanna is distraught and it looks like she’s desperate for comfort sex, but Constantine manages to be a perfect gentleman (I’d call it out of character, but it’s played just right: Constantine was an arse, but he’d never take advantage of a situation like this. Well played, Bennett.
This part of the issue has some pretty rough themes and images
Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy (and that Creepy Clown Guy with the Smile)
Our last couple is that couple for whom a sexual relationship is often hinted, but never demonstrated too explicitly: the Maven of Mayhem and the Goddess of the Green. I feel like these days all my comic reviews are about Harley Quinn and there’s some truth in that, though it’s interesting to see how many “different” Harleys I’ve had on my plate in the last couple of weeks. This Harley (and Ivy) is rendered also by Andolfo, and the art here suffers some of the same lapses. A really nicely detailed page here, then a looser page with unremarkable backgrounds and sketchy figures there. The only thing consistent about Andolfo’s work is that it is inconsistent. That’s harsh, but it’s true: when it’s great, it’s awesome, but when it’s not, it’s really weak.
This story also features the Joker’s Daughter, which, thank the stars she’s not the New 52 version because that would have been too much to handle. Here she’s sinister and revolting, which works for both this story and the Zatanna one. But we also get to see the real “Mistah J” in flashbacks as a sort of “Clyde” to Harley’s “Bonnie”. What comes of their relationship is a bit strange, but it’s entertaining (extra half point for an unnamed Killer Croc also appearing).
Even with J-man, this story is the least compelling of the three. The action is interesting, but doesn’t feel that loaded in terms of the stakes, whereas the other two stories feel more relevant to the current ongoing plot. But Harley has really yet to be fully integrated into the larger picture, so perhaps that’s why.
I turned to this page and Berlin’s “No More Words” immediately started playing in my head
- You like cheesy love stories. These are pretty cheesy.
- You’re a fan of any of these particular pairings.
- You just need something with a little zip in your reading; these stories lean as much toward “horror” as they do “romance”, but J. Nanjan and Wendy Broome keep the colors bright, and Bennett always speckles in lots of little random cameos throughout.
I gave this book an extra point for doing something different for this issue, even if it wasn’t 100% successful. I love when books change things up just to get out of the potential rut of telling stories that become predictable in terms of their arc or style. When you have an issue like this that tells a variety of stories tied together thematically which can almost be enjoyed as pure standalone, I actually think it strengthens the value of the book (as opposed to those year-long arcs). Bombshells does the right thing by building on the broader narrative but also remembering to keep the arcs small enough that readers can come and go without the burden of lengthy commitments.