Saturday, August 15, 2015

Bullet Review: DC Bombshells #1

DC Comics Bombshells #1, a digital first comic based on the popular merchandise line, came out in print this week and that meant that I finally got a chance to read this book that has been lauded on-line.

I was not disappointed! What a fun book!

The book is placed in the forties, during WW2, and looks at the adventures of the female super-heroes of the time. While the merchandise line seems to lean on a sort of Vargas pinup girl or air force bomber iconography, this is not a cheesecake book. The entire book revolves around these women as heroes, not eye candy. And with this period piece feel, and on the heels of the show Agent Carter, this was entertaining and engaging.

Writer Marguerite Bennett introduces us to Batwoman, Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and Stargirl in this issue. And we see the struggles these characters are having in their personal and private lives, all while the omen of war looms over the world.

And artist Marguerite Sauvage really dives into the material. I felt like I was watching something on Turner Classic Movies. That is about the highest compliment I can give.

Kate Kane is Batwoman in this book, living with Maggie Sawyer, and somewhat unhappy in her life. We learn that Kate has always been a freedom fighter, acting as a soldier in the Spanish Revolution.

Now she is the vigilante Batwoman who also is a pro baseball player in the Woman's pro league (like in League of Their Own). But stopping petty crime and hitting home runs isn't enough. And that saddens Maggie who was hoping their love would be enough meaning.

Maybe things will be shaken up because Amanda Waller arrives to recruit Kate into the war.

This was my favorite chapter for a number of reasons. The first time we see Kate, she is apparently saving the Waynes from being murdered. Then we learn all the women ball players wear masks during games to keep their identity hidden from those who hate a women's league (thus explaining the look of the statue). And lastly, set in Gotham, this chapter gives Sauvage some latitude to show the style of the time.

The middle chapter retells the Wonder Woman origin. We see Steve Trevor crash onto Paradise Island. Injured and confused, Steve talks about the ongoing war, the battle against fascism, and what he is fighting for. This felt very familiar, really echoing the original origin.

While we don't get to see the 'We can do it' Bombshell Wonder Woman here, we do get Sauvage's take on the Amazons which was beautiful.

While I loved the Batwoman chapter most, the Supergirl/Stargirl chapter is the one which fascinated me the most. Here we see Kara and Kortni living in a dorm, training to be 'Night Witches', the famous women flyers in the Soviet Air Force.

I have to say that I was hoping for a more classic riff on Superman/Supergirl in this book. Wouldn't it have been novel to have Kara simply step into the classic Siegel/Shuster Superman origin. I can picture the famous panels of standing by gravestones and telling a doc to try to vaccinate her again but with Kara in there instead.

So this Soviet take sort of took me by surprise. I wasn't happy ... initially.

They are step-sisters trying to join the war not because they necessarily buy into the Communist Party but more to fight the Nazis.

And you immediately get a sense of the characters. The golden haired Kortni is a rule follower. She is always on time. And she follows the rules, says the right thing. And she wags her finger at Kara when her sister steps out of line.

Meanwhile Kara, the dirtier blonde, flouts the rules a bit. She wakes late. She talks against the party. And when a Russian soldier tries to get handsy with the sister, she throws him into a wall with a flick of the finger.

It is clear the two love each other as family. And we learn that Papa was a scientist (maybe that will explain how Kortni gets a star rod?) while Mama taught them to be good.

But Papa also told them to be careful ... which means Kara hasn't shown her powers.

That changes when Kortni and Kara take planes up on practice runs, trying to prove they should be part of the Night Witches. Unfortunately, Kortni's engine explodes. With no other choice, Kara has to reveal herself. She abandons her plane, flying and saving her sister. And then Kara grabs the two planes and lowes herself to the ground.

Kara is the hero we want her to be.

Now you would think that the Soviets would be thrilled to have such a powerful woman on their side. But instead, the nearby troops call Kara a traitor and open fire on her.

I do have to say, my one quibble about this chapter is that at times I had to look closely at the panel to figure out who was talking. There is a subtle hair color difference, a hair style difference. We see that Kortni has star earrings. But I found myself looking at the panel first to simply identify who was who first, then reading the dialogue. That took me out of the story just a bit.

But otherwise, I thought this was also a fun chapter bringing in the history of the Night Witches and showcasing the military uniforms of the time.

Sadly, I think the Supergirl bombshell design is one of my least favorite of the run. That said, this rule-breaking Kara probably would wear a bustier.

Anyways, this book was a ton of fun. Count me on board!

Overall grade: A


Uncle Screensaver said...

The whole Soviet Kara seems to go against the "canon" of the Bombshells line, as artwork shows her both on an American magazine referencing her cousin, not to mention that "Buy War Bonds" "poster," but maybe she'll become an American later. We also have on the latest round of Bombshells covers Power Girl with Superman, so I wonder if they'll come to play in this series. Also, Supergirl is portrayed much older than what the series portrays, and this is especially seen in the Tonner Character Figure of her. I didn't like her costume that much but seeing it on the doll, as well as on some Cosplayers has changed my mind.

Uncle Screensaver said...

I did like Kara's last name, "Starikov," a nice play on "El" meaning "star" and, thus, Kara-2's last name of "Starr."

Also, I agree that it was difficult at times telling the girls apart, even with hair length and colour and star earrings, and I think in one panel the speech balloons were off.

Despite some of the maturity, it was lighthearted and a nice break in all the grimdark out there in comicbookland. It's upsetting there's no solo book for Supergirl, at least we have a version of her here - and maybe one that isn't first shown as full of rage and angst and so on.

Also, of note, since this is a Digital First book, all of The Daring New Adventures of Supergirl/ Supergirl is out digitally for purchase, as well as Matrix's mini-series, some of Linda Danvers, and Pre-Flashpoint Supergirl, Adventure Comics of the Legion featuring Supergirl, Power Girl's series, Showcase mini and more! It's so cool!

Martin Gray said...

Glad you enjoyed this, Anj - the only thing I wasn't happy with was the Amazons' slaughter of the airmen. OK, they felt threatened, but still ...

garyb said...

The up-skirt shot of Kate on page one seemed a bit cheesecake to me.

Anonymous said...

Unimpressed, "Batwoman" seems equal parts fan service and preciousness (masked female baseball players....), Wonder Woman is the same old semi homicidal swordswoman and Supergirl is a Soviet Pilot?
Dunno I have my doubts.


Anj said...

Thanks for comments!

1) Nice pick up on Starikov Uncle. I'll bide my time with Kara. Maybe this turn of events in Russia leads her to defect to the US.

2) Gary, yes there is some cheesecake. But it isn't unrelenting like in some other books.

3) Mart, maybe the amazons killing the airmen is a device to differentiate Diana?

4) John, I think that the creators are a bit stuck given the designs of the statues. A Batwoman ballplayer 'had' to happen.