Book Review – Bombshells vol. 5: The Death of Illusion

  • Title: Bombshells vol. 5: The Death of Illusion
  • Author: Marguerite Bennett
  • Artists: Mirka Andolfo, Laura Braga, Elsa Charrettier, Carmen Carnero, Richard Ortiz, Rachael Stott, Aneke, Wendy Broome (colors), J. Nanjan (colors), Sandra Molina (colors), Hi-Fi (colors), Wes Abbott (letters)
  • Characters: Miriam (Captain Marvel/Shazam), (Poison) Ivy, Harley Quinn, Supergirl, Power Girl, Raven, Zatanna, John Constantine, Lois Lane, Reaper (Andrea Gruenwald), Lt. Francine Charles, Batgirl (Vampire Barbara Gourdan), Enchantress, Ravager, Hugo Strange, Steve Trevor, Alexander Luthor
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/23/2019

**Spoiler Alert** Bombshells is DC Comics’ alternate history series set in World War II and starring a female superhero team. Volume 5 is much more coherent than the previous volume and starts with a song being sung by Captain Marvel, Miriam, aka Shazam. She catches the reader up on everything that has been happening with all the major players from the last volume and a few we haven’t seen for a while, and she does it in song – or at least rhyme. This review really helps orient the reader.

The novel opens formally on Atlantis, with Ivy and Harley Quinn, and Raven, Zatanna, and Constantine. Ivy has been using her talents with plants to provide food for Miriam’s refugees. She sees a headline about starvation in Leningrad, Russia, due in part to the Nazi’s siege of the city and in part to the Russian Winter. Ivy decides she cannot let people starve when she can provide them food. She talks to Mera, explaining the seeds she leaves behind will provide food for the entire city of Atlantis. Ivy and Harley and a stowaway take Mera’s gift of a flying manta ray named Fawkes and head for Russia. Meanwhile, John Constantine and Zatanna are trying to help Raven learn to control and use her magic. Raven, though, keeps having nightmares. She decides she must find her father, Trigon the Demon, last seen in Russia. Raven doesn’t ask John or Zatanna for help or permission – she stows away on Fawkes. In Russia, Fawkes is attacked in the air, and Raven panics and cannot focus enough to use her magic. Ivy saves them from being destroyed. They meet a circus that is being attacked by magical forces and Nazis. Ivy, Harley, and Raven join with the now freed circus people and animals to save Leningrad.

Meanwhile, Kara (Supergirl) and Steve Trevor are on a train, traveling from Turkey to Russia. Kara is also hoping to find the little family she has left – her father, who, last she heard was in a Russian Gulag. On the train, they are attacked by Alexander Luthor, a Russian spy, and a German SS agent. But Supergirl somehow reverses time. Again, she is attacked but this time at least the train isn’t destroyed killing all aboard. Supergirl is taken to the secret genetics lab run near Leningrad by Hugo Strange.

Meanwhile, Lois Lane, Reaper (Andrea Gruenwald), and Killer Frost are heading to Russia by plane in hot pursuit of Hugo Strange. Killer Frost reveals she isn’t as tame as she let everyone think, she’s also considerably stronger than she let on, and she’s determined to find and kill Strange. Frost crashes the plane, escaping on an ice trail. But Lois and Andrea are rescued by Ivy, Harley, and their circus. All of them, plus Dr. October, whom Ivy has run into, go off to both help the starving people of Leningrad, and to find out about Hugo Strange’s new superweapon. Ivy is shocked by the conditions in Leningrad – she uses her affinity with plants to bring the people food. This costs her a lot of energy, but she will recover.

Supergirl wakes up in a cage, being held by Hugo Strange. She resists, and he introduces her to his superweapon – Power Girl, a clone of Supergirl. Initially, Power Girl is Strange’s stooge, a weapon more than a person. But Supergirl is able to win over her clone, and they both fight Strange after Power Girl rescues Steve Trevor. As they are about to just leave, Lois Lane arrives to rescue Kara. Kara, however, no longer needs rescuing. Lois mentions a third heat signature, and Power Girl leads them to Superman, another of Hugo Strange’s genetic clones. They are attacked by Strange’s genetic monsters but escape.

The last story is a bit separate. Amanda Waller recruits Lt. Francine Charles out of West Point and sends her to Louisana to find Barbara Gourdon. Barbara was born in France in 1896, she fought in World War I as a flying ace but fell in love with the Flying Fox. She disappeared after his “death”. Francine finds Killer Croc, Vampire Barbara, Enchantress, and Ravager. The other three women form a coven, but won’t leave their swamp due to a prophecy. Francine reveals that the Flying Fox is still alive and also they are missing the last two important lines of the prophecy. The four join her and she takes them to Amanda Waller, who introduces them to the other Bombshells as her new “Suicide Squad” unit.

I really enjoy Bombshells it’s a great take on alternate views of a large number of great female characters in the DC Universe. Some of these characters, like Zatanna, are very much the same as the characters we know and love – others like Barbara Gordan (Gourdan) are very different, and some, like Miriam (Shazam) are gender-flipped (though there was at one point a Mary Marvel in the Marvel family). Volume 5 was much more coherent than volume 4, and using rhyming songs to open and close the story added something unique. There are also some flashbacks in the story, such as filling in Lois’s background and the loss of her mother to Hugo Strange, but the flashbacks support the story and do not distract from it. This volume is highly recommended.

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Batman and Harley Quinn

  • Title: Batman and Harley Quinn
  • Director: Sam Liu
  • Date:  2017
  • Studio:  Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre:  Animation, Action, Comedy, Fantasy
  • Cast: Kevin Conroy, Loren Lester, Melissa Rauch, Paget Brewster, Kevin Michael Richardson, John DiMaggio, Robin Atkin Downes, Rob Paulsen
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  Blu-Ray

“Nuh-uh, I’m done with capes and tights and masks.” – Harley Quinn

“I’m not saying I don’t want to, ’cause that could be nice. All sorts of wrong, but nice.” – Nightwing

“Like you’ve never made out with a super-villain.” – Nightwing, under his breath to Batman

I really enjoyed this animated movie, in part because it is very humorous. It’s funny and makes for a nice break from the more serious animated and live action Batman films. This also seems to be set in the Batman: The Animated Series universe bringing back Kevin Conroy as Batman, Loren Lester as Nightwing, and with Melissa Rauch doing a good version of Arleen Sorkin’s Harley (additionally she’s in her B: TAS costume).

The story opens with a break-in at Star Labs, Poison Ivy and the Floronic Man are attempting to steal some information. Ivy downloads a file about Dr. Alec Holland. Batman investigates later and discovers the theft of information. He sends Nightwing to find Harley Quinn, hoping she will lead them to Poison Ivy. Batman notes that Harley went off the grid after being released on parole and that it’s rumored she “went straight”. Meanwhile, Batman heads to ARGUS where he finds out that a scientist who’s an expert in bio-weapons has disappeared.

Nightwing finds Harley at “Super Babes” a Hooters-style restaurant with the waitresses in skimpy superheroine and female supervillain inspired uniforms. They serve superhero or villain inspired food as well. When a customer grabs Harley’s butt, she smacks him down, hard. When he complains that “the broad broke my frickin’ arm”, the manager points to a sign that says: “Look all you want but don’t touch”. Nightwing then follows Harley home. He tries to convince her to help, but Harley fights him and fights well. She finally knocks him out with “low-grade Joker venom”.

Nightwing wakes tied to Harley’s bed. When Nightwing wonders why she’s working at Superbabes, Harley points out she can’t get a job as a therapist or anything else because of her nefarious history. Harley puts the moves on Nightwing. Later the two are caught by Batman.

Batman explains in the Batmobile to Harley and Nightwing that Ivy and the Floronic Man are working together to turn all people to hybrid plant/animal people. He tells them about the kidnapped scientist. After a chase scene where Harley goes after Bobby Liebowitz who made her mother cry, where Batman stops Harley from beating him too badly, Harley returns to the Batmobile to help out. She has them take the expressway towards Blüdhaven. They arrive at the henchmen’s club. Harley talks to Shruby then tells Batman she has to do something. She then goes to the stage and belts out Blondie’s “Hanging on the Telephone” to thunderous applause. During her number a Cat Man does the Batusi behind Batman’s back, Batman knocks him out with one distracted punch. Nightwing dances with one of the many women in the club. Harley drops the mic after her number. The room erupts in applause. Harley gets the information from Shruby and tells Batman and Nightwing. It looks like the henchmen won’t let them leave but in a shot from outside we see words briefly describing the fight, then Batman, Nightwing, and Harley in the Batmobile again.

The Batphone rings in the car, it’s Booster Gold who explains the heavy hitters are busy and most of the rest of the heroes are “at that Christening at Aquaman’s place” but Booster could send some truly C-list heroes. Batman and Nightwing tell him they’ll handle it and then fake the call dropping, which Booster notices.

Batman, Nightwing, and Harley make it to the place where Poison Ivy and the Floronic Man are holding the scientist hostage. Ivy is using her pheromones to control the scientist. There’s a fight, and then a fire breaks out. Nightwing and Batman barely survive the fire and find Harley with the scientist. He’s dying, and Harley is comforting him. He tells them that Ivy and the Floronic Man were heading to Louisiana because they need the exact water that created Swamp Thing for their plans.

The Floronic Man has Ivy eat a tuber that came from Swamp Thing – this connects them to The Green and they are able to travel to Louisiana via the Green. Meanwhile, Batman wants to leave Harley and only take Nightwing with him to Louisiana. Harley flips out but convinces them they need her. The three take the Batwing to Louisiana. There, they are joined by troops of some kind.

Harley does “betray” Batman, knocking him off a short tree bridge into the water. But she goes to Poison Ivy and tries to talk her out of her plan. Harley then releases Nightwing and Batman who have been tied up. Batman and Nightwing fight the Floronic Man while Harley fights Poison Ivy. This doesn’t go well. Finally, Harley goes to Ivy and tells her she’s going to use the “nuclear option”, she takes off her mask and makeup – and cries. Ivy is convinced. But the Floronic Man grabs the formula that Ivy has perfected. The Floronic Man and Poison Ivy fight each other. Floronic Man knocks out Ivy, but just as he’s about to release the formula – Swamp Thing arrives with quite a flourish. He simply threatens the Floronic Man telling him he’s endangering the balance of The Green, then he disappears. As Harley says, “That was a whole lot of nothing”.

Batman, Nightwing, Ivy, and several troops are still wondering what to do – when Harley asks for a match. The end credits include a scene of the Floronic Man with his bottom on fire.

I really enjoyed this movie. It’s lots of fun. There is a lot of visual humor – such as the scene at Super Babes and all the henchmen hanging out at the nightclub where Harley takes Batman and Nightwing. I also really liked how Harley is treated in this story. She is attempting to “go straight”. Because of her record, she can’t get a real job despite her psychiatrist training. Yet throughout the film, Harley is actually helping. We even see her treating the scientist with compassion when he’s dying. And when she does “betray” Batman it’s more because she wants to give her friend Ivy a chance to change her mind about her horrible plan, which could destroy all life on Earth if it went wrong. Harley’s performance at the club is also great. Yes, it’s “sexy” but she’s in complete control of her sexiness and clearly enjoying it. The movie also shows and has her talk about to Nightwing, how much she doesn’t enjoy being ogled, pinched, slapped, and goosed at Super Babes. Overall, it’s a fun film and I enjoyed it. Recommended.

Recommendation: See it, especially if you are a fan of lighter Batman.
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

The Batman Season 4

  • Series Title:  The Batman
  • Season:  4
  • Episodes:  13
  • Discs:  2
  • Cast:  Rino Romano, Alastair Duncan, Danielle Judovits, Evan Sabara
  • Original Network:  Cartoon Network
  • Production Network:  Warner Brothers (Animation)

I very much enjoyed Season 4 of The Batman. Season 4 brings Robin (Dick Grayson) on to the show. It also continues to use the new theme tune brought in during season 3. I don’t like the theme tune at all, and I found myself fast-forwarding through it for most of the episodes I watched. However, that is the only negative, really, about Season 4. The first episode of the season introduces Dick Grayson who quickly becomes Robin. The bare bones of the story are there but it changed slightly, so that Dick is even more involved in the death of his parents. He is actually on the platform for their acrobatics act, but is unable to catch his mother when the rigging fails.

Some new villains are introduced in one-off episodes in Season 4, but they are interesting and different, which kept the show interesting. In the episode, “Artifacts”, a future archaeological team is investigating the Batcave, hoping to find a solution to defeat Mr. Freeze, who is destroying Gotham with a new city-wide freezing weapon. The team discovers the cray computer memory is destroyed and cannot be recovered. However, Batman – anticipating such a possibility had embossed or etched all the information he had in his computer memory banks on the walls of the cave, including how to defeat Freeze if he ever woke up from his cryogenic sleep. The code was also in binary – meaning a future computer could translate the data. Once the team does that, they get a video message from Batman and other information to defeat Freeze – it was an excellent story.

“Two of a Kind” introduces Harley Quinn. But rather than having her as a hangers-on to Joker, it’s almost the other way around. “Doctor” Harleen Quinzel is the host of an advice to the love lorn phone in telephone show. Her so-called “doctorate” is from an on-line degree program, and it probably had no practical experience, and was not accredited. Additionally, she offers flip advice, and insults her guests (such as Bruce Wayne) and customers who call in for advice. She’s also bubbly and gives the false impression she’s a total airhead. Joker, meanwhile, has become “addicted” to her call-in show, and even schedules his crimes in such a way as to be “home” in time to watch it. Joker calls in to the show, using the name “Mr. J.”. When Harley is fired after she insults the head of the television network that airs her show – Joker decides that it is unfair. Before long, Joker and Harley Quinn are on a crime spree together, Bonnie and Clyde style. What I liked about this version of Harley was that even though she was a really terrible therapist, a reason was given for that (she had a paper degree and no real training), and she has agency – it was her decision to join Joker, her decision to accept Joker’s offer to become Harley Quinn, and her decision to engage in criminal activities. None of these things are good or lawful, mind you, but at least it was her decision. Other versions of Harley, such as in the otherwise wonderful Batman: The Animated Series (and even there the dis-functional relationship is the point) I’ve seen she reminds me of a abused woman – she’s fallen hard for Joker, and even though he treats her terribly she keeps coming back. Even worse, Joker, as a true psychopath, is incapable of ever loving Harley, so he abuses her, but she continues to love Joker anyway. In “Two of a Kind” it’s Joker who is attracted to Harley and wants a partner in crime, who can take care of herself, though he is still incapable of love.

Finally, the two part season finale, “The Joining”, is awesome. Just awesome. Bruce introduces Dick to Lucius Fox at Wayne Enterprises, pointing out that Fox knows Bruce is the Batman – and that Fox helped to build the Batcave, and builds Batman’s special arsenal and toys. Batman meets Detective John Jones, who he quickly discovers is Martian Manhunter. John bit by bit shows all his powers – mind-reading, shape-shifting, flight, telekinesis, invisibility – and his weakness, an aversion to fire. But Martian Manhunter is also there to get Batman’s help – an alien race called The Joining is about to invade and destroy the planet. They are a robotic but networked race that uses materials from the planet they plan to conquer to do it – in this instance, metals from Wayne Industries. They operate by absorbing all information from a world then destroying it suspiciously like Brainiac from Superman. “The Joining” was written by Jane Espenson, known for her work on Once Upon a Time (and it’s universe), the new Battlestar Galactica (and it’s universe), and Joss Wheldon properties such as Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and Dollhouse.

Batman, Martian Manhunter, Batgirl, Robin, Lucuis Fox, and Alfred work together and eventually destroy the alien invaders, saving Earth. At the end, Martian Manhunter takes Batman to the Hall of Justice in Space (or maybe the Watchtower) and invites him to join the Justice League! I loved that and actually clapped.

Season 4 of the Batman was much better written, and more consistent than previous seasons. The tone of the episodes was more serious and darker, but having Robin there throughout the season also lightened things so the show didn’t get too dark. Batgirl was present some, and I enjoyed seeing Lucius who has always been a favorite of mine. And since Martian Manhunter was one of my favorite characters in late Silver Age/early Modern Age DC Comics – it was awesome to see him.

Recommended!