Already serializing as a digital first weekly series, “DC Comics Bombshells” makes its print debut this week. Spinning out from a series of themed covers and statue line, the big question is, will this be able to stand on its own as a series like “Fionna and Cake” or will it devolve into masturbatory pandering like all those Transformers or Pirates of the Caribbean movies?
Written by Marguerite Bennett
Illustrated Marguerite Sauvage
The ultra-popular statues from DC Collectibles come to life in their own ongoing comic book series! Learn the story behind this alternate reality where the Second World War is fought by superpowered women on the front lines and behind the scenes! It all begins with the stories of Batwoman, Wonder Woman and Supergirl.
Set in the 40s, when pretty much every single eligible male was deployed overseas, “DC Comics Bombshells” finds the women essentially running the country, and, true to life, everything seems to be going much more efficiently. Marguerite Bennett and Marguerite Sauvage kick the story off immediately with the masked madam, Batwoman, saving the lives of Thomas and Martha Wayne. (Remixing the Wayne murders is a go-to convention for DC to let you know we’re dealing with a new universe, but it’s still more interesting than seeing them murdered for the umpteenth time.) Like the book itself, the characters are confident, assured, and not about to tolerate with any of your shizz.
This first printed issue collects the initial three digital installments, and because of that, there’s a very episodic nature to the whole thing. Each segment devotes time to introducing us to this world’s versions of Batwoman, Wonder Woman, and Supergirl, and I’m sure the rest of the “Enlisted” arc will follow through with moving this cast around before the major stakes set in. Supergirl and Batwoman have some clever and novel new introductions — with Kate Kane as a baseball player and Kara as a Russian fighting squadron pilot. Wonder Woman’s origin stays pretty much the same, though I don’t think it’s a small coincidence that this book happens to coincide with the time that Wonder Woman herself was created.
The strongest of the three segments belongs to Wonder Woman, and it’s especially nice to see a capable and confident Diana, because she characterized in the worst possible reductive and disgraceful way by Meredith and David Finch in her own book. Again, this is the origin that had the least work to do, but Bennett and Sauvage still have a ton of fun with how they present it. The battle with the Amazons flying on giant eagles and dogfighting jet planes is so over-the-top and superhero comic book-y that it just works. That being said, the Supergirl and Batwoman segments both stand out on their own merits, and both feature some pretty fun sequences.
There’s actually a lot that reminds me of Darwyn Cooke’s “DC: The New Frontier” in this story, with the retro setting and themes of social evolution. There’s this idea that the old heroes need to figure out a way to adapt to the current climate because the new heroes are coming and they aren’t going to stand for the status quo. Bennett’s scripting has only gotten better the longer she’s been working on these big superhero comics. Her dialogue is snappy, her characters defined just enough you get a sense of who they are in this Bombshells world.
Sauvage doesn’t go full retro with her style, relying mostly on a watercolor painted look, which I think serves well to deliver the more nostalgic feel in the story. In the Supergirl segments, especially, she has a lot of fun building up the backgrounds and stocking them with information like this was a Wes Anderson movie or something. Because this book is digital-first, meant to be read on the screen and still stacked on a typical comic page, her layouts favor horizontal frames that cut through the page. She’s able to make this cool splitscreen technique that makes the action feel more exciting. I do think all the male characters look sort of weird and awkward, but I can’t tell if that’s a joke or not yet.Continued below
The whole book has this pulpy feel about it. All three segments are violent, but they’re more in line with old school serial violence than the gritty and grungy sort of violence we normally see throughout superhero comics. The characters are sexy, sure, but not sexualized or there for some weird creepy pleasure. Sauvage made sure to not make them waifish, and I think that gives this whole book an authenticity.
Still, the book is really early in its run and it’s difficult for it to have built up much in terms of tension or stakes. The episodic nature of combining three separate digital comics doesn’t really lend itself well to telling a full story, so the book only feels like a montage of unrelated events. We’re only really getting to know these characters right now, and that’s okay if not totally fulfilling. Bennett and Sauvage, though, are obviously having a blast with this thing, and I think that tongue-in-cheek attitude with a real desire to tell a good story help make this book not feel like some marketing ploy spinoff.
Final Verdict: 7.5 – fun and confident, Bennett and Sauvage care more about telling a great story than turning in a cheap marketing thing.