Friday, February 12, 2016

Review: DC Bombshells #9

DC Comics Bombshells #9 came out this week and, as usual, the book just sizzles. I have said over and over that I had low expectations for this book, based on cheesecake statues. I didn't even really like the Supergirl design. But I decided to pick the book up for the Supergirl and I am so glad I did. This book is so much fun and so entertaining.

Writer Marguerite Bennett has been weaving this story set in World War II, placing the heroes in key fronts of the war efforts, and slowly drawing them together. She also has kept this group diverse, having the heroes represent Britain, America, Russia, and more otherworldly places like Atlantis and Paradise Island.

But the style and the plots have thrilled me making this one of the books I look forward to every single month, certain it will be high quality.

This issue focuses on two of the plots running through the book. One is Wonder Woman who is fighting the Tenebrau army and the Baroness in the battlefields of Greece. The other is Supergirl, Stargirl, and Mera all fighting in the waters outside of London. Both progress the overall plot of a mystical dark army entering the fray. But each also has powerful character moments as well. The issue is therefore a rich experience.

The art on the book has been just spectacular, another reason why this book is great. Mirka Andolfo draws the Supergirl/Mera portions of the book and brings a nice, fresh style. She is solid in both the battle sequences and the quieter civilian moments. And Laura Braga continues to bring a gritty feel to the Wonder Woman pages.

On to the issue:



Last issue, Mera and Supergirl were dealing with two major problems in the Thames. One, the waters are littered with mines, hemming in the British fleet. Second, a giant mystical squid, an avatar of the sea king, has appeared, threatening the fleet as well.

It turns out that this is a simulacrum of Nereus, the King of Atlantis and Mera's brother-in-law. In comics, Mera's sister is Siren, someone who has always dabbled in evil. In this universe Mera isn't the Queen of Atlantis. Siren sitting in that seat is concerning and may explain why Nereus is siding on the side of the Axis.

I also have to add that I like the camaraderie between Kara and Mera. Mera is a flirty, free spirit. Supergirl is a more tense, devoted soldier, fiercely loyal to her family. These personalities might not jibe easily. But these two seem to understand each other and work well together.

As for Stargirl, Supergirl's adoptive sister, she has been away meeting her birth father, a munitions manufacturer Sylvester Pemberton.

Pemberton is an oily, controlling, man of his times. He won't let his daughter leave him again, even when her cosmic staff alarms of Supergirl's battle. Pemberton's assistant Edward Nygma chloroforms Courtney and takes her staff. And Pemberton locks her up in a bedroom decorated for a schoolgirl, pink and laden with teddy bears.

While Bombshells is a progressive book, showing these women as heroes, I am happy that the stodgy social norms of thinking women should be kept in their place is at least being shown. And I am glad that when shown, it is immediately shot down as being inane.


Through the battle with Nereus and the Tenebrau forces, it becomes clear that Mera was either cast out of Atlantis or ran away. Mera isn't this happy-go-lucky adventurer who roams the sea only for fun. There is deeper back story. She has no home to go back to. So while she might be happy with who she is and what she does, there is something of a sadder or more complex history.

How much of Mera's flirty, fun persona is a mask, hiding something less bright.


Just as Pemberton is trying to define Courtney's life, so is Nereus trying to control Mera.

In a great moment, Mera decides that her cause and her life fighting the Tenebrau and Axis is more important than her family. She uses her trident to kill the mystical squid construct.

"I belong to myself alone."

That could be the motto of this book. And I love it.


Meanwhile, back at the Pemberton estate, Courtney attempts to escape the comforts of that home to live her life again. She knows she needs to reunite with Kara, her sister. It was Courtney, or Kortni, who pushed Kara into this life of adventure, this life of a soldier.

These two have had a lot of book devoted to their back story which works so well, playing their personalities off each other. Supergirl has been pretty physical in this book, willing to push boundaries and speak her mind. So seeing that at one point, Kara wanted to stay in her simpler world is interesting.


There is a Wonder Woman chapter of this book and it is brilliant as well. Baroness Paula Von Gunther leads an army of undead soldiers. She herself has greater than human abilities, an equal to Diana here.

The Baroness has made a deal with the Tenebrau. She will aid their conquest of Earth. In return, the Tenebrau will allow her to control a portion of the planet where humans may yet live. Only those who devote themselves to serving the Baroness can remain alive.

This was my favorite panel in the book. The Baroness says that this should make sense to Diana. The survivors will have submitted to von Gunther. And a life of submission is an Amazonian ideal.

But the Amazonian idea is of loving submission. This is the opposite, a submission out of fear, out of hate. It is the Amazon idea turned on its head. It shows immediately how misguided the Baroness is.


We then get a bit of history of the Tenebrau. They are souls or specters of the undead, serving the Underworld. These ghosts inhabit and possess humans, becoming one of the Tenebrus' army.

Von Gunther discusses what the future will look like, with the Tenebrau ruling both above and below. I love this splash, a nicely mirrored image, a Sauron-like eye anchoring the top and bottom, Lovecraftian tentacles woven throughout. Great page by Braga.

The remainder of the book focuses on the Supergirl/Mera/Stargirl storylines.

After 'killing' the squid, now described as 'Nereus' vessel', Mera discovers she has lost part of her powers. She can't speak to the friendly seal that has been her pal. Hopefully, Mera isn't completely depowered.

Much like the revelation of her leaving Atlantis, this latest turn adds some sorrow into the otherwise bright and sunny arc Mera has been following. War is hell. Even a bright light like Mera ends up dimmed a bit.

I wondered why Bennett made Pemberton's aide Edward Nygma. How would she wrangle the Riddler into him?

Well, it turns out that he likes to solve how things work, figuring out the riddle of their mechanics. He has helped Pemberton stay on the cutting edge of weaponry by pillaging others' technology, taking other army's weapons and retro-engineering them.

Here, he wants to kill Supergirl, performing vivisection or an autopsy to figure out her powers and bestow that knowledge to the Axis. Hearing this, you immediately feel how compelled Nygma is to figure things out, to the point of killing and working for the Axis.

This Riddler doesn't leave riddles, he finds answers. That is a nice wrinkle.

Finally, Kortni is able to wrest the staff from Nygma and leave the cell of her birth home. I love how she calls it a 'little pink prison'. Much like Mera, Stargirl really shows her independence here. She tells her father that she is a 17 year old battle-tested soldier. She isn't a little girl to be coddled and pampered and defined by a man's idea of what a woman should be.

She flies off and reunites with Supergirl and Mera.

Whew!

That was a packed issue, really pushing the characters and plotlines along. These two threads are my favorite so I was very happy to have Diana, Mera, Kara, and Kortni put in the spotlight. The art is great. There are panels I would have loved to post, one in particular where Kortni jumps from one roof to another where it seems like she is reaching for a lightning bolt like a rope.

I couldn't be happier with this book and I wonder if there is a planned end or if it is selling so well that it will continue.

Overall grade: A

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