Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Review: DC Comics Bombshells #8

DC Comics Bombshells #8 came out last week and brought us back to the front of the war after last issue's look at problems on the American shore. Writer Marguerite Bennett continues to weave a great war time story, bringing in heroes from varying backgrounds and uniting them under the Allied cause. One of the things I love about this book is that these characters are recognizable, valid versions of these established characters, but are also fresh in this new environment and world.

This issue we get a deeper look at Supergirl and Stargirl, learning more about their origins and feelings. I will always be more particular about Supergirl so I have to say that I am pretty happy with how Kara is presented in this book. One thing I always say about Supergirl is that she is a pretty complicated character with layers of personality, an optimistic outlook mixed with a ferocity and loyalty. There can be some heaviness in her as well given her losses. Bennett seems to get that and that makes me very happy.

And the art Bomb-cadre continues to sparkle here. Laura Braga brings some nice horror to the Wonder Woman story. And Sandy Jarrell and Laura Sanapo have a wonderfully smooth polished style for the Supergirl/Mera/Stargirl section of the book. It has me hoping one or more of them will make it to the Northeast for a convention in the summer.

The first third of the book is Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor operating in the front in Greece.

I don't know if I totally like Steve Trevor being such a broken person in this book. He is both physically and psychologically destroyed and Diana really needs to watch over him closely. Here she wonders if on some other world their relationship is different, if they are closer and happier. Riffing on other continuities works for me all the time. And it is ironic that, at least in the current DCU, they aren't happier. Still, as she says, all things come back.

Also in this scene, we hear that Diana buried an entire village of innocents slaughtered by the Axis. She knows her role now as a symbol of victory so she did this quietly and unseen so that Americans wouldn't see her burying the dead. That is some heady stuff and it shows how Diana understands her role and her duty.


But this was the ka-pow moment. We see the threat of the undead Tenebrau growing, consuming the dead of Allies, Axis soldiers, and any of the dead. And leading this battalion is a name from Wonder Woman's classic past, Baroness Paula Von Gunther. Von Gunther was a major villain in the classic Golden Age Wonder Woman stories so seeing her reimagined here is superb.

Boom!

The rest of the book focuses on Mera, Supergirl, and Stargirl in London.

I would say that Mera is the sauciest of the Bombshells, singing siren songs and charming the men while flouncing around in her beach wear. She seems the happiest of the heroes maybe because it's better down where it's wetter? Under the sea?

Supergirl in this book has been about as far away from Mera's sunny disposition as possible. She has seemed stern and determined, loyal to her family and initially to Mother Russia. She hasn't been cold. She clearly loves her family dearly. But she doesn't suffer fools.

I like how Mera kisses her, comparing her to Diana. And Jarrell says so much with Kara's side-eye and stiff almost bristling body language.

But you sense that there is a sort of sadness in Kara as well. That opening panel, holding herself, in shadows, looking away. It screams sorrow.

She feels that she has let her family down by letting her adoptive father, Ipati Dugin, get kidnapped. (Making Kortni's father be a version of Stripesy is a brilliant stroke.)

But it is clear that Kara loves this man for accepting her and loving her.


We then learn that Dugin isn't Kortni's biological father. Stargirl's mother had a whirlwind romance with an English suitor in Russia and got pregnant. Her mother was cast out into a desolate village where she would have starved had it not been for the love of the animals and forest.

And Dugin, disgraced, found her and they fell in love. We learn that Ipati was able to build the cosmic rod, powered by the stars. But that second panel, with talks of lantern lights and moving planets makes me think that a Star Sapphire or Jade is going to show up soon.

Jarrell shines again here, setting up the pages like tapestries or wood carvings, adding a fairy tale feel to this magical story of nature providing.


Kortni's father is Sam Whitmore, aligning her with her main DC history. She is sent by her mother to engage her father.

Now I'm not always a fan of Kara crying at the drop of a hat but this panel also worked. It makes you understand that Kara really feels alone on this world. Despite being in this family, she has always felt apart. And now she thinks all the bad things that have happened to this family are because of her.

This sort of feeling of 'otherness' isn't always a prominent feature of Kara but it has had its moments in her history. Definitely this sort of sadness and loss is part of it. I thought this gave some depth to Kara, as if that gruff exterior is a sort of emotional armor.

And once more, Jarell's art conveys that so much. You almost feel her recoiling in sadness and sobbing.


Laura Sanapo finishes art in this issue.

Kortni, now Courtney, meets her father and is welcomed with open arms.

But you can see that he is a bit old-fashioned, thinking that girls shouldn't play with war machines. He wants to get her dolls and ponies.

I think we'll see Courtney squelch that pretty quickly. She isn't going to stop being Stargirl, helping the war effort, and putting her life on the line to be a hero.

To be honest, I was glad that this father acted this way. Let's face it, this attitude of a 'woman's place' was probably the norm for the time. I needed to see this voice here if only to be shot down by the more liberated heroes here.

Meanwhile, Mera is called to fight the now undead crew of the U-boats she sank last issue. These water-logged Tenebrau have littered the English seaside with mines. This is something not even Mera can handle alone. Using telepathy (?), she calls on Supergirl for help.

A skirmish unfolds until a Kraken/Elder God shows up to challenge our heroes. It was great to see these two unload, using their powers to blow up the mines and fight the zombies.

I thought this underwater action sequence was drawn brilliantly, and the colors here (J. Nanian and Kelly Fitzpatrick) are murky and dark when needed to convey the environment. Wonderful.

So another great issue in this series. I read comics to escape a bit and to be entertained. This book has continued to do both. Action, characterization, multiple locales, it has it all. This is wonderful, a 'top of the stack' book every time.

Overall grade: A

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