Book Review – Bombshells vol. 3: Uprising

  • Title: Bombshells vol. 2: Uprising
  • Author: Marguerite Bennett
  • Artists: Mirka Andolfo, Laura Braga, Sandy Jarrell, Pasqualle Qualano, J. Nanjan (colors), Wendy Broome (colors), Kelly Fitzpatrick (colors), Wes Abbott (letters)
  • Characters: Batwoman (Kate Kane), Mera (Aqua Woman), Zatanna, John Constantine, Raven, Renee Montoya (The Question)
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 09/15/2018

Bombshells is a graphic novel series that was originally based on a series of World War II pin-up style statues of female DC Comics heroes. However, the series has been developed by author Marguerite Bennett into a strong female-led superhero team in a World War II slightly different than the one we know.

This volume begins with the Batgirls, teen heroines inspired by Batwoman Kate Kane to defend their city of Gotham and help the innocent, especially immigrants, Jews, and others who are persecuted by Conservatives and the Right. The book opens with Harper, Cullen, and Felicity breaking up Kate Kane’s poker game with the news that they have found the man who agreed to buy art, jewels, and other priceless artifacts stolen from the Jews that the Wilmot brothers turned over to the Nazis. The Batgirls respond and find Penguin is behind the art thefts, taken from numerous black marketeers and thieves as well as the Wilmot Brothers. They find Penguin at his Iceberg Lounge, but he escapes and the Batgirls find the young want-to-be reporter, Lois Lane, who because of her age, gender, and ethnic background as a Puerto Rican, has been unable to get a reporting job. Undaunted, she has determined to find and write a big story that will be her ticket into her preferred career. Penguin, however, convinces Mayor Harvey Dent that the Batgirls are a threat and uses the media – magazines, books, radio, etc., to paint the heroines as villains. Still, the Batgirls investigate and Lois starts her own newspaper, to put their story out there for all to read and understand. The Batgirls discover that Penguin is working with Hugo Strange who is hypnotizing and drugging Dent into doing what Penguin wants so the crime lord can make as much money as possible off others suffering. The Batgirls and the police rescue Dent from Penguin and Strange, but both villains escape. Maggie Sawyer offers the Batgirls use of one of the abandoned apartments in Kate’s building as their new Batcave.

In Ireland, in the ocean near Arthur Curry’s lighthouse, Arthur rescues Mera – who has lost all her special abilities including the ability to break under water. He cares for her, cures her ills, and takes her to the village on the island. But all isn’t simple romance. Priest and Red Cardinal Hagen of Atlantis return and accuse Mera of abandoning her people. Considering that her sister’s husband convinced Atlantis to abandon its centuries-long tradition of having the most qualified crowned as new ruler when the old one dies or abdicates her throne, and then said husband and now King-Consort threatened to kill Mera’s sister if Mera didn’t leave Atlantis never to return, and then to top it off the husband was the one behind Atlantis’s alliance with the Tenebrae and Nazis – this really is not Mera’s fault. Hagen leads Mera to Atlantis. They discover Hila, Mera’s sister has killed her husband and taken the Atlantean throne under the name, Siren Queen. Siren proves to be very jealous of her sister still. However, Mera expresses her love and concern for her sister. She and Hila become allies and promise to help Mera’s friends, the Bombshells.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Bombshells and main characters are drawn to the Jewish Ghetto in Berlin. Ivy and Harley Quinn are looking for the Joker (aka “Mistah J”) but only find Joker’s daughter. Harley fills in Ivy on her backstory with Mistah J – how the two became bank robbers who gave to “whoever” and caused chaos – only to have Joker’s increasing reliance on illegal alcohol and ethanol to cause him to become cruel. When Joker goes into the swamp – Harley realizes she must leave. Joker’s daughter seems to have some of Elizabeth Moone’s Enchantress powers – carrying a crescent moon staff and having glowing green powers. She even conjures the ghost of Mistah J to confront Harley.

Batwoman, Kate Kane, drops by parachute into Berlin and meets Selina and Renee Montoya. Selina’s knocked out a room full of high-powered Nazis to turn over to the Zambezi for cash for the rebellion. Kate and Renee have a past – having been lovers in Spain before the Spanish Civil War crashed their plans and they ended up fighting the Fascists. Ivy and Harley wait at The Cat’s Cradle basement. Zatanna and John Constantine head there, and run into Raven – another magic user and former prisoner of the Joker’s Daughter – well, they think she’s a former prisoner. Raven’s background as the daughter of a human woman and the demon, Das Trigon, is beautifully and quickly rendered. Raven is initially suspicious of Harley and Ivy but they work it out – and they are joined by Selina, Kate, and Renee. The Huntress meets them at the Cat’s Cradle, bringing her Swing Kids. She tells Batwoman her background as a German youth and a woman – who knows her country is wrong for what it is doing and is trying to help Jews escape. Helena’s story, her determination to fight, and her willingness to face being tried as a traitor by the Germans, her countrymen, is well-told. We also see Kate is upset not merely by who Helena is but by the recent loss of Stargirl, and the loss, in Spain, of young red-capped Jason who died in the war. The final panel of that backstory mirrors that of the famous panel of Batman holding the beaten and battered body of Jason Todd from A Death in the Family. Kate tells Helena to survive, above all. It is Helena who takes all the Bombshells to the Resistance and they finalize their plans to free the ghetto.

All of the characters: Poison Ivy who alters the ph. of sacramental wine so it will burn, Harley Quinn, who makes Molotov Cocktails, a priest who brought the wine, the Swing Kids, Kate Kane, Huntress, Renee Montoya (also known by the nom de guerre The Question), Zatanna, Constantine, and Raven – work together on their plan. During the battle, it’s revealed that Raven is under complete control of the Joker’s daughter. She’s revealed the rebels’ plan to the Nazis who far from being surprised – are ready for them. Meanwhile, several Jewish children are hidden in a basement. The oldest girl, Miri, (also a friend of Kate’s), reads to the children the stories of heroic Jewish women, such as Esther and Shiphrah, Huldah, Zipporah, Abigail, Asenath, and Miriam. As she repeats the names: Shiphrah, Huldah, Abigail, Zipporah, Asenath, and Miriam – Miri is transformed into Shazam. As the new Captain Marvel (aka Shazam, because: copyright) she and Zatanna confront Raven who is under the control of Joker’s daughter – and has grown to gigantic size. But Miri and Zatanna manage to break the Joker’s Daughter’s conditioning of Raven. She comes to her senses and helps the rebels. Kate and Constantine lead the rebellion anyway – as ordinary citizens come from all over Berlin to help after hearing the signal on the radio. Breaking Joker’s Daughter’s control of Raven also frees Zatanna who gets her magic back. Miri, as Shazam has considerable power – she rescues everyone taking them to a haven. They appear in France – but it is Nazi-occupied France. Joker’s Daughter thinks she’s won. Then Atlantis appears. Mera and Hila are now partners and co-Queens. They offer Atlantis as a haven and home for all refugees from the war. Zatanna attacks the Nazis with her magic – clearing a path to the sea-bound refuge. Harley and Ivy join the fight. Zatanna is able to use her magic to end Joker’s tracking spell on her. Everyone will take refuge in Atlantis, though the Bombshells will no doubt soon go out to fight again, especially as Queen Mari of Zambesi, aka Vixen, wants their help in the next arena.

Bombshells is an excellent alternate-reality historical “Golden Age” graphic novel series. The female leads are strong, and their backstories are well-told (sometimes very different than the ones we know and sometimes very slightly changed if at all). The art in this book is amazing. I liked the colored tile borders for the backstory of Renee, Kate, and Jason in Spain – the red thorny vines for Ivy’s tales, and the other details for other characters. The sepia tones for scenes showing the characters past histories were also well done. The Story of Arthur and Mera, though a well-known romance, had new twists and turns to it – making it work within the larger story. I especially liked that rather than making her sister a villain – Mera and Hila ended-up co-operating together. And Hila cutting off her traitorous husband’s head was an awesome way of showing her independence (this was picked up in one of the tales of Jewish Biblical Heroines that Miri (Miriam) tells Kate or the children when she talks of her pride in being who she is.

I highly recommend DC Comics Bombshells – not only to comics fans but to anyone who likes stories about strong, capable women.

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Book Review – Bombshells vol. 2: Allies

  • Title: Bombshells vol. 2: Allies
  • Author: Marguerite Bennett
  • Artists: Mirka Andolfo, Laura Braga, Sandy Jarrell, ML Sanapo, Juan Albarran, Marguerite Sauvage, J. Nanjan (colors), Wendy Broome (colors), Jeremy Lawson (colors), Wes Abbott (letters)
  • Characters: Batwoman, Wonder Woman, Mera (Aqua Woman), Zatanna, John Constantine, Amanda Waller, Stargirl, Supergirl (Kara Starikov)
  • Publication Date: 2016
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/23/2018

**Spoiler Alert** Bombshells, a series based on World War II-era Bombshell-style statues (don’t judge), is an incredibly good series. Volume 2 opens with the Smoak family being evicted from their tenement apartment by a racist landlord who doesn’t want Jews and their “illegal immigrant” family in his building. The Batgirls, a group of young women, arrive to help young Felicity and her family escape, taking them to a safe house to start over. I believe this is the first time we’ve seen the CW’s Arrow’s Felicity Smoak in the DC Universe – even if it is in a historical timeline.

The Batgirls are leaving when one spots a corrupt cop, who’s rounding up young children and handing them over to an orphanage for payments. One of the Batgirls recognizes the name of the orphanage as being the one she and her brother were sent to – a prison for kids. She got out and intended to apply for guardianship of her brother as soon as she was old enough. They run into two more young women, both of whom have connections with the orphanage and organize a break-in.

Upon entering the orphanage, they find horrible conditions – children forced to work in a basement sweatshop – creating instruments of war, a headmistress who is a racist xenophobe who supports the Axis and is sending her weapons to them – and a horrific giant war robot to boot. But the Batgirls succeed in releasing all the children. The next day, one of the new Batgirls, Bette Kane, takes her majority at her family’s company – she clears out people like her aunt who ran the evil orphanage, and promises her company will help Gotham – from building real affordable housing to re-settle refugees from the horrors in Europe to helping unfortunates in the city, and beyond.

Meanwhile, in Greece – Steve Trevor and Wonder Woman confront Baroness Paula von Gunther and her Tenebrae troops.

Stargirl learns from her mother who her father really was – a British Lord who did a tour of Russia in 1923. Kortni’s mother met him in St. Peterburg and the two fell in love. But their relationship wasn’t approved of – the young Lord returned to England, and Kortni’s mother was sent to Siberia where she met and fell in love with Kortni’s adoptive father. The flashback panels are beautifully drawn and colored. This comes up because Kortni’s mother has heard from her father and wants her to meet him. Kara feels a bit left out in all this – but wants to be happy for her sister. Kortni, who now knows her name is Courtney Elizabeth Whitmore, meets her father, Samuel Whitmore. But Samuel Whitmore has grown rich by selling arms. Furthermore, he must have had an inkling of his daughter’s existence – because he has a pink princess room for her, filled with toys. Kortni is having none of it, though, because she was an experienced fighter, even before joining the Bombshells. When Whitmore threatens to keep Kortni locked-up to “keep her safe” she rebels and leaves to find her sister.

Meanwhile, Mera is called to investigate a disturbance under the sea – it’s a Kraken-like creature, with god-like powers, and it’s in league with the Tenebrae. Mera fights and nearly loses but is rescued by Supergirl. They proceed to London, along with the other Bombshells to stop the Tenebrae attack on the city (the Tenebrae allies include the Kraken, Edward Nygma, the Baroness, and the like). Even Zatanna helps, although still stuck in the Joker’s Cabaret in Berlin – with encouragement from rabbit-form John Constantine, using her magic to win the battle for the Allies. The Bombshells succeed – but not without cost. Mera is missing, presumed dead, and also lost her powers by attacking the Titan Kraken, Kortni sacrifices herself to save her sister, and although Zatanna’s spell works – she and John are caught by the Joker’s daughter. At first, it appears she strangles rabbit-John. But John is rescued – and both he and Zatanna lose their powers.

Bombshells is a wonderful book – great story, great takes on the characters, a wonderful ode to female empowerment. But the book also has beautiful art throughout, especially on the full-page splash pages, and incredible, incredible color. I’m enjoying this series very much.

Highly recommended.

Read my review of Bombshells vol. 1: Enlisted.

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!