Looking at the cover of this issue and considering the content of the previous one (“Love Stories”), you might be thinking to yourself: what is this mush?
This time around Marguerite Bennett brings us three “Ghost Stories” (from Digital Firsts 43, 44, and 45) featuring not only Mera and Arthur, but a heavy focus on finally integrating Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy into the principle plot. Additionally Batwoman features heavily in this book as she not only struggles with her place in the Bombshells line-up thus far (and the horror of what happened to Stargirl), but also comes face to face with her former lover, Renee Montoya (who we initially heard about way back at the beginning of the series.
Other characters who make an appearance here include Zatanna and Raven (along with some backstory for Raven with regard to Joker’s Daughter), and Selina Kyle, who looks less and less like Catwoman and more like a mere plot device, unfortunately (seriously, she sends the others to do her dirty cat-work when it seems like she ought to be out prowling around herself.
Catwoman, for me, has been a disappointing interpretation out of all the DC Bombshells: as the Contessa she just throws parties and swills wine and plots; her participation in the slam-bang action has been pretty minimal thus far when it feels like she ought to be right in the thick of it!
But let’s get back to the mush, shall we? Because that’s how this book opens: continuing with the romance between Mera and Arthur that was featured in last month’s “Love Stories” and is the subject of Ant Lucia’s always-awesome cover.
You have nothing to fear; while the story picks up from last issue and we see Mera and Arthur preparing to go to a romantic dance with all the accompanying “cute” you can tolerate such as Mera gussying herself up in a dress for the first time and them sharing a bicycle ride (cheap date, Arthur), the anticipated festivities end abruptly with this:
Much better than a bicycle that’s not even built for two!
Yes, a shoreside assault from the denizens of the deep. Cardinal of Atlantis Hagen has tracked Mera down to call her back home: her little escapist adventure has come to an end. Laura Braga’s art in this first section of the book is the highlight: her characters are beautiful without being Barbie-like, and her monsters are monstrous without being generic. The fight between Mera and Hagen is exciting (and uses some interesting lighting, casting Mera in shadows to suggest how she is outpowered). There’s also real emotional depth to this section since Mera’s pain of being torn between worlds is so nicely rendered.
The second section (with art by Mirka Andolfo) isn’t quite as tightly scripted or rendered. This mid-section feels like it’s trying to tackle too much: reintroducing Batwoman with new conflicts about her place among the Bombshells, showing Poison Ivy to be a part of Selina (not Kyle) Digatti’s smuggling ring (and therefore bringing Harley and Ivy to Italy), and providing some rather intense (and strange) backstory for Raven, who is still struggling with Zatanna to escape the slave-state of working for Joker’s Daughter.
The Zatanna/Raven stuff is still very dark compared to the other characters’ stories. Almost too much to be juxtaposed with the sort of silliness Harley brings to this book. Perhaps it works in a weird way to emphasize the horror of what the evil masterminds are up to in Europe with respect to the Jewish citizenry, but I feel like it also gets lost in the fantasy aspects. And Andolfo’s art feels just too loose and messy; the characters are caricatures and there’s something weirdly Disneyesque about their plight: robbed of gravitas.
Harley and Ivy, meanwhile, just being Harley and Ivy
In the final third of the book, once again it feels like Marguerite Bennett just doesn’t really know how to write Batwoman consistently. The nice thing is returning to plot points set up really early in the series (in the first few Digital First issues, in fact): Kate Kane’s slightly strained relationship with Maggie Sawyer with regards to a past love affair Kate had with Renee Montoya. Well Montoya is back and the two are partnered together to do a job for Selina.
I enjoyed this section the least of the whole. Sandy Jarrell’s art is choppy and the character proportions are overly exaggerated (Selina looks like a long-necked gazelle throughout and pretty much everyone is seriously suffering from anorexia). There’s a lot of backstory here too, and frankly, it’s the better part of the book: the flashback is bordered like Spanish ceramic tile which gives that section a nice old-world feel.
The rest of it just looks like:
One well-placed kick could break Batwoman’s twiggy legs
So this is the last collected Digital First floppies issue that we’re going to review here at Batman News. The book is pretty good, but since much of the content doesn’t actually deal with the Batman-related characters, it’s been decided to move this into a trade-wait review position. To be honest, the story is best read in a binge; I’m not entirely convinced it works on a week-to-week basis and I definitely don’t think it works as a monthly (the digital issues are so far ahead at this point I can barely “keep up” with the past, so to speak).
The first trade is already out, but we’ll put the new one on the docket as soon as we’re caught up and looking at new material again!
- You still enjoy a comic with a lot of moving parts, an all-star cast, and a great mix of adventure and fun character relationship dynamics.
- Learning about real history through a superhero alternate history turns you on.
- You just can’t get enough estrogen from the regular lineup.
As much I enjoy this book, it’s always a bit of a mixed bag. The story is really good, but occasionally the characters seem a little off. The mix of fantasy and history works for the most part, but occasionally rubs wrong when you’re confronted by the real-life horrors of the Nazi era. The artists range from awesome to so-so to a weird inconsistency even within a single Digital First. I want to love everything about Bombshells, but I don’t. This issue is a great example of what best and worst in the series: some awesome action sequences, wonderfully creative paneling for some flashback sequences, but then also some art that’s less than stellar and a few plot points that suffer feeling out of character and not well-motivated. I wish this book was more consistently great instead of just nicely entertaining. It’s had flashes of brilliance, so I know it’s possible. We just need more of them.