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

Book Review – Birds of Prey vol. 2: Your Kiss Might Kill (New 52)

  • Title: Birds of Prey vol. 2: Your Kiss Might Kill
  • Author:  Duane Swierczynski
  • Artists: Travel Foreman, Jesus Saiz, Javier Pina, Jeff Huet, Timothy Green II, Joseph Silver, Cliff Richards, Romano Molenaar, Vicente Cifuentes, June Chung, Gabe Eltaeb, Chris Sotomayor, Carlos M. Mangual, Dave Sharpe
  • Line: New 52
  • Characters: Batgirl (Barbara Gordon), Black Canary (Dinah Lance), Starling, Katana, Poison Ivy
  • Collection Date: 2013
  • Collected issues: Birds of Prey #8-12, #0 (2012)
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 7/13/2016

The second volume of DC Comics New 52 version of Birds of Prey builds on Black Canary’s background – explaining why everyone is after her. Dinah Lance, it seems, was not framed for murder after all – but did actually kill her ex-husband, though it was an accident. He was training her to learn to control her Canary Cry, and well, things didn’t go well.

This volume also explores Poison Ivy’s character – she does betray her fellow teammates as well as show her more violent tendencies. However, this gives her some depth – and in many ways she becomes sympathetic – despite everything in the comic that tries to point to her as an “terrorist” and extremist. There is also some background and information given about Starling, though she remains enigmatic. Batgirl – and yes it is Batgirl, not Oracle, also shows up. Katana remains one of my favorite characters – despite her extremely violent nature.

Birds of Prey is a fast-moving action-packed book, but there is some characterization that manages to sneak in. And it is awesome to see unique, powerful, strong women who are determined in their convictions. Poison Ivy may be called a “terrorist” and Black Canary condemns her for betraying the team, but you can also understand her point of view, even if her methods are a bit extreme. At least Ivy focuses her attacks squarely at criminals rather than the innocent.

It will be interesting to see how this version of Birds of Prey develops.

I will say that although I prefer the Chuck Dixon Birds of Prey series from the 1990s; this book is one of the better New 52 books.

Book Review – Birds of Prey vol. 1: Trouble in Mind (New 52)

  • Title: Birds of Prey vol. 1: Trouble in Mind
  • Author:  Duane Swierczynski
  • Artists: Jesus Saiz, Nei Ruffino, Allen Passalaqua, June Chung, Carlos M. Mangual
  • Line: New 52
  • Characters: Batgirl (Barbara Gordon), Black Canary (Dinah Lance), Starling, Katana, Poison Ivy
  • Collection Date: 2012
  • Collected issues: Birds of Prey #1-7 (2011-2012)
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 5/30/2016

I’m not normally a fan of DC’s “New 52” Era of Comics, which is why I’m very excited about Rebirth but I’ve heard good things about the new Birds of Prey so I thought I’d give it a try. And much to my surprise I did enjoy this book, enough that I plan on buying volume 2.

This story features Black Canary as the nominal leader of the Birds of Prey, Barbara Gordon having bowed out to become Batgirl again. Black Canary is joined by Starling, an expert with guns, Katana, an expert with a katana sword as well as a martial artist, and Poison Ivy. The group each has their own troubles, Black Canary for example is wanted for murder – which she probably did not commit, though we aren’t given any information about why she’s wanted for murder or even who she supposedly killed. The group investigates what turns out to be a mind-control operation. The men in stealth-suits they are fighting are ordinary people who are being controlled by a drug that is supposed to be used to treat stroke, and nursery rhyme control phrases. When an operative is compromised, the control phrase can be used to literally make the person’s head blow-up. The Birds of Prey fall into the mess and try to figure it out. However, by the end of the book it’s clear that one or more, and possibly all of the Birds have also been influenced by “Choke” as they are calling the person in charge of the nefarious plan.

This version of Birds of Prey includes both villains (Poison Ivy) and chaotic good (Katana, Starling) characters as well as heroes (Black Canary, a very brief appearance by Batgirl) but the classic 1990s Birds of Prey featured around thirty female characters, some of which had been considered villains (Catwoman, Poison Ivy) or chaotic good (Huntress), so I don’t have a problem with the inclusion of “bad guy” or villain characters – the Birds of Prey had always been more open about membership than, for example, the Justice League (who seemed to have a Code of Conduct for members).

The story in Birds of Prey volume 1 Trouble in Mind was interesting, enough so that I will buy the next volume because I want to see what happens. However, I did feel the characterization was a little flat. Not as flat as other New 52 books I’ve read, which were awful. But when I compare this version of Birds of Prey to the Classic version, which I’ve also read, it comes up wanting a little – because the book is a slug fest for the most part, and character takes a back seat to the action. Now, I will say, again, I did enjoy Birds of Prey (New 52) but I just don’t find it as good as the original group led by Oracle.