Book Review – Bombshells vol. 1: Enlisted

  • Title: Bombshells vol. 1: Enlisted
  • Author: Marguerite Bennett
  • Artists: Marguerite Sauvage (Art and Colors), Laura Braga, Stephen Mooney, Ted Naifeh, Garry Brown, Bilquis Evely, Mirka Andolfo, Ming Doyle, Sandy Jarrell, ML Sanapo, Marc Derring, Wendy Broome (colors), Doug Garbark (colors), Kelly Fitzpatrick (colors), Wes Abbott (letters)
  • Characters: Batwoman, Wonder Woman, Mera (Aqua Woman), Zatanna, John Constantine, Amanda Waller, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Catwoman, Stargirl, Supergirl (Kara Starikov)
  • Publication Date: 2016
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 05/08/2018

“I would do the right thing. I cannot sit idle, awaiting the next blow… I would not be indifferent to the suffering of strangers.” – Wonder Woman

DC Comics’ Bombshells is awesome. This is the first volume of the series, and I certainly hope there is more because I absolutely loved it! The simplest way to describe Bombshells is that it’s like an alternate reality Birds of Prey set in World War II, but with Amanda Waller in charge (as in Suicide Squad; rather than Oracle/Barbara Gordon being in charge as in Birds of Prey). This particular volume is all about set-up, showing our women as heroes in their own right before being recruited by Amanda, or finding their way to Amanda’s “Bombshells” group. Kate Kane is the Batwoman, interpreted a bit too literally as she is on the Gotham Knights Women’s Baseball team, and in her off time she beats-up criminals in Gotham with her baseball bat. Interestingly enough, she also saved the Waynes, preventing Mr. Wayne from being killed by a street thug. Kane is, also, as in the current DC continuity, a lesbian. Kate also inspires a very young Barbara Gordon to become a heroine, since she witnesses her actions.

Wonder Woman’s origin is the traditional one, Steve Trevor, an American spy, crashes on Paradise Island, and despite the warnings of her mother, Diana decides she must join him and fight great evil in the war against Hitler’s intolerance, hatred, bigotry, and racism. It’s Diana who recruits Mera, the “Aqua Woman”. Steve informs Amanda, and she asks the two to join her Bombshells group.

Meanwhile, Amanda has already sent Kate into the lion’s den in Europe to find out more about La Contessa Selina Digatti – The Catwoman. It’s Alexander Luthor who picks up Kate and takes her to the Contessa’s party, all the time trying to convince Kate how war is good for business but that America shouldn’t challenge Hitler. Luthor basically is just as xenophobic and racist as ever.

In Russia, two very special women are joining the “Night Witches” – female Russian pilots who specialize in night raids. These two women, Star Girl (Kortni Duginovna) and Super Girl (Kara Starikov), have special powers – Star Girl with her staff of power and Supergirl basically like the Supergirl we know: super strength, immune to bullets, the ability to fly. The two, however, discover that the “enemy camp” they were sent to destroy is actually a Russian Prison Camp for political prisoners staged to look like a Nazi forward camp. They realize this and stop the attack, then discover their own parents in the camp. The women’s father had been a scientist and cosmonaut and now was speaking out against a particular general who was too zealous in his persecution of anyone who disagreed with what the Russian government was doing. Unfortunately, they are attacked during their escape attempt and the women’s father is recaptured. Supergirl, Stargirl, and their mother escape and find the English ship where Mera is meeting with Steve Trevor and Amanda Waller. Diana, Wonder Woman, is also nearby, but in custody, because she insisted on a group of captured Nazi soldiers stand trial rather than be executed by Steve’s men immediately. Amanda has her doubts about recruiting two Russians, and the Russians do not want to wear a uniform of American iconography, but one gets the feeling all that will be worked out and the two recruited as Bombshells.

Zatanna is trapped in Germany, working at a Cabaret, run by the Joker’s daughter. John Constantine is in the audience, though he is turned into a rabbit (who talks, smokes, and whose yellow fur resembles his trench coat). The Germans have raised a demon, who asks for the dead in return. The demon can make zombies. John both warns Zatanna of the dangerous supernatural “stuff” going on, and encourages her to escape Germany. Zatanna has no love for the Germans – but she’s trapped, in no small part because with a Jewish mother and Romani father – she’s dead without the Joker’s daughter’s protection.

Speaking of the Joker, Harley Quinn is working as a psychiatrist, when she learns “Mr J” may be alive. She meets up with Poison Ivy and the two set off to find him.

I loved this book! The art is truly beautiful. The writing is strong and meaningful. The story is very much an introduction to all the characters and their own environments and theaters in what will no doubt be a very far-reaching story. I just simply loved it and I want more. I hope future bound volumes are forthcoming.

Comics these days are very much a cross-medium media, with ideas from films and animated media crossing over into on-going books, and ideas from books becoming animated and live-action movie, and Bombshells is no different, as the origin of this series was actually a series of collectible statues of well-known DC female heroes done in the style of World War II pin-up girls. And while some of the art has that style – this is not an exploitative series at all! It’s brilliant – these are all strong women in extraordinary circumstances who will no doubt be fighting the war just as men would. I think it helps considerably that not only is the first volume written by Marguerite Bennett, one of comics’ most talented female writers, but the art and colors are also, for the most part, by women. This no doubt put a check on any possible exploitative aspects of the story, given the inspiration, and gave power to these extraordinary female characters.

Highly Recommended, and I simply cannot wait to get more!

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Book Review – Birds of Prey vol. 5: Soul Crisis (New 52)

  • Title: Birds of Prey vol. 5: Soul Crisis
  • Author: Christy Marx
  • Artists: Romano Molenaar, Daniel Sampere, Travis Moore, Robson Rocha, Jonathan Glapion, Vicente Cifuentes, Jordi Tarragona, Oclair Albert, Mark Deering, Julio Ferreira, Scott McDaniel, Chris Sotomayor, Taylor Esposito, Dezi Sienty, Travis Lanham, Carlos M. Mangual
  • Line: New 52
  • Characters: Batgirl (Barbara Gordon), Black Canary (Dinah Lance), Suicide Squad, Amanda Waller
  • Collection Date: 2015
  • Collected issues: Birds of Prey #25, 27-34; Birds of Prey: Future’s End 1 (2013-2014)
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/15/2016

**Spoiler Alert** The fifth volume of the collected New 52 version of Birds of Prey really feels like the end of this series. The book opens with a flashback, telling us how Black Canary became Black Canary. It’s a wonderful story. The book ends with a flash forward to five years in the future – having survived a dip in the Lazarus Pit, Black Canary now leads the Red League – rescuing women from abuse, sex trafficking, slavery, and other crimes. Some of the women she rescues willingly join her. Black Canary runs into a future bizarre Batgirl called Bête Noire (the Black Beast). I liked this taste of a future Black Canary – the only issue I had was the internal monologue boxes were red print on a black background which is very, very hard to read. Actually, I find red print difficult to read on any background.

Beyond those two very separate books – this volume wraps up the loose ends from the previous volume. Then the newly regenerated Mother Eve sends the Birds of Prey on a rescue mission to the Congo in Africa to retrieve one of her operatives. There they run into the Suicide Squad (Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Capt. Boomarang, and King Shark) and Amanda Waller. Waller tells Black Canary “the truth” of why Kurt, her husband, has no memory of her – their marriage was a sham and part of Kurt’s cover. Waller then takes Kurt out of the rehab facility he’s been in since his recovery. Black Canary is devastated by this “truth” – but this is Amanda Waller we’re taking about – a master manipulator who wouldn’t know the truth if it walked up to her and introduced itself.

The story ends, however, with the Birds breaking up – Batgirl leaves in disgust and returns to Gotham. Condor tries to stay with Black Canary, since he’s fallen in love with her (for awhile now) but we know the relationship will go nowhere. Canary strikes out on her own – and the flash-forward last story I already mentioned tells us how that will go.

Birds of Prey is a great graphic novel series because it features all women superheroes. Women who are bad-asses who can take care of themselves. The New 52 version compromises that premise (which has been around since the Chuck Dixon series of the 1990s) by introducing Condor who, although cool, doesn’t really belong in this series. These “birds” do not need a man to rescue them. The series also compromises Black Canary, a long-time DC heroine by making her entire existence about her guilt over accidentally “killing” her husband and then her determination to rescue and restore him. Canary even considers betraying the team and allowing R’as al Ghul to kill Mother Eve – simply to get her husband back and whole. Come on! This is the woman who was the defacto leader of the Justice League! (Batman was the leader on paper, but as he tended to be busy he appointed Canary as his lieutenant.) Canary was the trainer for Young Justice in that animated series. She’s had her own series. And for awhile, she was married to Oliver Queen – the Green Arrow. So why wimp her out? Oh, that right, this is New 52.

Fortunately, Rebirth brings her bad-ass self back. Birds of Prey becomes a story of betrayal and of character after character leaving – another trope of “women can’t work together”. There are some great moments (Starling – I miss her!) and some truly beautiful art. But I prefer the original series. And Rebirth is looking to be good too. I rate things based on it’s own merits – and by that score, this novel was pretty good, but other versions of the Birds are better.

Superman Batman Public Enemies

  • Title: Superman Batman Public Enemies
  • Director: Sam Liu
  • Voice Director: Andrea Romano
  • Date: 2009
  • Studio: Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre: Animation, Action, Drama
  • Cast: Tim Daly, Kevin Conroy, Clancy Brown, CCH Pounder, LeVar Burton
  • Format: Color Animation, Widescreen
  • DVD Format: R1, NTSC

“Luther did the one thing nobody was expecting. He made things boring again. And boring’s good, isn’t it? The economy’s back to normal, crime’s down, there are no wars or anything.”— Power Girl

“You mean those so-called super heroes?”— Lex Luthor

“They do work for you now, most of them anyway.” — Amanda Waller
“That’s to keep them from working against me. I’m not going to put the fate of this planet in the hands of… of freaks and monsters.” — Lex Luthor

“It doesn’t matter what any of us think, Luthor’s the president and what he says goes.” — Capt. Atom


“You’re not going to tell me you killed him for your country, are you?”— Batman

“Some of us still believe in putting our country first.”— Maj. Force
“Sorry, but I don’t see any patriotism here. All I see is a psycho who latched onto an excuse to kill people and who’s so stupid he doesn’t realize he’s being used by Luthor.”— Batman

This is the second time I’ve watched this film, and it does stand up to re-watching, something that’s difficult for animated films to do. The two Superman Batman animated films are based on a series of Superman Batman Graphic Novels. This film in particular is based on the graphic novel of the same name, which I loved, and I think it’s one of the best in an excellent series of books.

The film opens with a voice-over and video montage of economic collapse. Companies are laying off workers, people are demanding jobs in protests, people are getting evicted and living in tent cities, there are audio clips of politicians telling people to “tighten their belts”, there’s a corresponding rise in crime, and martial law is imposed. Into this walks Lex Luthor, campaigning for the presidency on a “third party” ticket. He wins.

And in his first speech, he attacks super heroes, while introducing the country to his own hand-picked super hero force: Power Girl, Captain Atom, Major Force, Black Lightning, and some other female hero (who’s neither recognizable nor important to the plot). They’re stooges, essentially, even Power Girl, who should know better than to trust Luthor.

Luthor then, privately, discusses the private threat he hasn’t yet revealed to the public – a meteor of pure Kryptonite is heading straight for Earth, and will hit the planet in seven days. Luthor’s plan?  Destroy it with nuclear missiles, of course. Amanda Waller, and later even Luthor’s own general ask Luthor to consider a back-up plan, but he ignores their advice, swearing he’s made the calculations himself and he knows he will succeed.

Batman and Superman are together in the Batcave below Wayne Manor when Luthor announces he wants a meeting with Superman to “bury the hatchet”. Both Bruce and Clark know it’s probably a trap, but they go anyway.  At the meeting, Luthor threatens Superman, then unleases Metallo – a Krypton-powered metal man whose very presence hurts the Man of Steel. Metallo and Superman fight. Batman arrives to rescue Superman, and is nearly strangled. Superman rescues Batman but gets shot with a Kryptonite bullet. Batman blows Metallo to smithereens, but Superman warns he’ll re-form. Batman and Superman are covered in the dirt, ash, and rock from the explosion. But before Batman can remove the Kryptonite bullet from Superman, he realizes that Metallo is after them again. Batman sets off another explosion, and he and Superman escape through the sewers.  The explosions catches them, though. Clark sees Bruce lying face down in the water, “Bruce! It’s not ending here… I won’t let it!” he gasps, and moves to his friend’s side, and pulls him out of the water. Bruce coughs up the water, somewhat recovered, and the two limp their way through the sewers to the Batcave. Bruce has Clark pull down the electric fence covering the opening. They are met by a startled but unflappable, Alfred.

Though Clark and Bruce are both weak and injured, they soon recover. Alfred is shown sealing away the Kryptonite bullet in a lead box. Alfred also returns Superman’s washed uniform shirt and cape.

As the two heroes recover in Bruce’s inner sanctum of the Batcave, Luthor gives a presidential address. He blames Superman for the death of John Corbin (Metallo), and shows an edited videotape of Superman attacking himself and Corbin “for no reason”, before showing Corbin’s burnt body. Then Luthor supplies an answer for anyone doubting that Superman could do something so evil — the approaching meteor is Kryptonite (true) and driving Superman mad (not true). Luthor closes his presidential speech by announcing a one billion dollar bounty on Superman’s head.

Batman and Superman attempt to investigate, but they are attacked – first by Banshee, then by a group of ice villians (Mr. Freeze, Captain Cold, Killer Frost, etc), then by Soloman Grundy and Mongo, then Sheba, then Night-Shade and Grog. Before long Superman and Batman are seemingly surrounded by every DC villain that could fit on the screen.

Captain Atom arrives with his team and a Federal Warrant for Superman’s arrest. But Superman and Batman fight Luther’s heroes and defeat them, then Superman escapes with Power Girl, his cousin, Kara. Captain Atom and his group follow Superman and Batman, after receiving orders from Luthor to “do your job” and eliminate Superman. During that fight, Batman shows his skills not only at fighting, but at psychological manipulation, not only goading Major Force by calling him a psychotic murderer, but doing so in front of Captain Atom who hears every word, and takes it to heart.

Kara, however, has realized that her cousin is right and Lex Luthor is wrong, and attacks Major Force to defend Batman. Despite everyone yelling at her, she breaks Force’s containment field causing a radiation leak. Black Lightening and Captain Atom co-operate to contain Major Force. In the resulting explosion, Force is dead, and Atom appears dead. Kara, that is, Power Girl, decides to stay with her cousin.

Meanwhile, Luthor’s launched his nuclear missiles at the meteor. It doesn’t work. The meteor is still on course for the planet. Luther appears weak and sick. Power Girl takes Superman and Batman to Luthor’s hideout, but they are met by Hawkman and Captain Marvel who attempt to take the two out. When Superman knocks out Captain Marvel, and Billy Batson is left in a crater, a concerned Batman goes to check out the young teen to see if he’s OK. Batman asks the injured child to say something. Billy answers, “Shazam!” and becomes Marvel again. But, the two, with Power Girl’s help manage to convince Hawkman and Marvel to not listen to Luthor.

Meanwhile, Luthor claims the first attempt to destroy the meteor was a “fact finding” mission, but he can now put his plan into action. Not even the public is convinced by this, as rioting and looting breaks out.

Amanda Waller, shocked by Luthor’s inaction, discovers he’s taking steroids and liquid Kryptonite injections. Luthor tells Amanda he will let the meteor hit, so he can be in charge of the world that rises from the ashes. Dressed as Hawkman and Captain Marvel, Batman and Superman arrive. Luthor destroys all the information on the meteor, but Amanda gives them a back-up on a thumb drive. She also asks a general to arrest Luthor. Luthor, however, escapes, and takes more Liquid Kryptonite, before climbing into a robotic super suit.

Superman and Batman travel to Japan, to meet Hiro — the Toyman. Power Girl has arrived before them and acts as lookout to avoid the teen billionaire genius.

Toyman shows the two heroes a giant Superman/Batman Robot, he mentions it has manual controls, but he can control it from a nearby computer console. The Lex-bot arrives, takes out Power Girl, using Kryptonite blasts. He fights Superman, also using his Kryptonite gun. Then he destroys the control council. Batman heads for the rocket, saying “Goodbye” to Clark/Superman as he gets inside the robot and takes off.

Superman fights and defeats Luthor. Batman takes off in the rocket. “That was my best friend! And you just killed him!” Superman yells at Lex, before knocking him into next week. However, Luthor takes off again in pursuit of the rocket and Batman.

Batman manages to destroy the meteor using the rocket. Superman and Lex fight, and even though they’ve landed back in the US he finally knocks him out. Captain Atom has recovered and arrives with Power Girl and a message for Superman. Superman rescues Bruce who’s in a survival capsule shaped like a combination of the Batman and Superman symbols. He sets Bruce on a rooftop, and helps him out of the ship. Luthor is taken away. Lois arrives. Batman disappears as Superman watches the sun rise.

Again, this was an excellent animated film. It is a bit political in tone – rich businessman Lex Luthor, one of the most evil villains in the DC Universe, yet someone that Superman can never really stop because he can’t prove he’s broken the law – becomes president. And in the DC universe, Lex Luthor was president for awhile during the Bush years (besides harrassing Superman, he bombs Gotham City at one point to annoy Batman, making part of the city a wasteland). Although the film doesn’t state outright that Luthor caused the economic turmoil that he then exploits to get himself elected, it’s certainly implied. And the economic turmoil described in the film’s excellent opening sequence is half the Great Depression, and half every economic down turn since.

But what is even more striking about Lex Luthor is what an obvious xenophobic racist he is. He wants to get rid of Superheroes, especially Superman, not only because he doesn’t trust them, but because he considers them “freaks and monsters” – and not human. Luthor is one step away from openly declaring a war between humans and meta-humans.

But one of the best things about this film isn’t merely it’s politics – it’s seeing the glimpses of the close friendship between Bruce Wayne (voiced by the incomparable Kevin Conroy of Batman: The Animated Series) and Clark Kent (Tim Daly of Superman: The Animated Series). Though they don’t see eye to eye on how to solve crimes, or battle super villains, in this film they are nonetheless close friends – and it’s threats to Bruce that cause Clark to really go after Lex Luthor. Plus there’s some wonderful dialogue between the two.

If I had one quibble with the film, I could have done with less of the mega fight scenes, especially every super villain they could find being thrown into a fight with Superman and Batman, and more of the male bonding between Clark and Bruce. And more Alfred. I always like to see the more Alfred the better – he only gets one scene here. It’s a great bit, but once Batman sails off into what appears to be a one-man one-way mission to save the planet, you’d think someone would break the news to him. But I digress.

The Superman Batman Graphic Novels were known for their thought bubbles, yellow for Superman’s pov, and blue for Batman’s pov. I think the film could have used some voice-over between the two, because that was a big part of what made the graphic fun – seeing Clark’s view of  Bruce and Bruce’s view of Clark, or their situation or whatever. It was always great fun to see how iconic characters viewed each other. However, the film does do a great job, when we see Superman and Batman working together, of showing their different personalities and methodology. And that was terribly fun.

Recommendation: See it!
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars