Book Review – Bombshells vol. 6: War Stories

  • Title: Bombshells vol. 6: War Stories
  • Author: Marguerite Bennett
  • Artists: Mirka Andolfo, Aneke, Laura Braga, Carmen Carnero, Sandy Jarrell, Richard Ortiz, Wendy Broome (Colors), Kelly Fitzpatrick (Colors) J. Nanjan (Colors), Sandra Molina (colors), Wes Abbott (letters)
  • Characters: (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, Faora Hu-Ul, Ed Nygma, Swamp Thing, Trigon
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 08/02/2019

**Spoiler Alert** The final volume in the Bombshells series, volume 6 War Stories brings the series to a satisfactory conclusion, although there will be a sequel series called, Bombshells United. This volume largely takes place during the Seige of Leningrad, though there are different areas of the battle. There are also a few flashbacks that largely work.

However, the first story in Volume 6 is largely unconnected. The Suicide Squad (Barbara Gourdan), Ravager, Enchantress, Killer Croc, and Lt. Frankie Charles) sneak aboard a German U-boat commanded by Edward Nygma. They’ve come to rescue Luc Fuchs, an engineer and close friend of Barbara’s. They discover the sub is a ship of tribute to the King Beneath the Black. The Suicide Squad rescues the engineer, foils Nygma’s plot, and escapes.

A flashback introduces Faora Hu-Ul, a Kryptonian, who is the real power behind Joker’s Daughter, the Baroness, Killer Frost, and Hugo Strange. She was hidden in an Egyptian tomb explored by Lt. Charles. Charles hears the warning about Faora, and it is instrumental in her joining the Suicide Squad under Amanda Waller.

But the introduction of Faora Hu-Ul, and the adventure with Nygma are mere prologue – the rest of the book is the final conflict between good and evil during the Seige of Leningrad. This includes magical conflicts. Zatanna and John Constantine are looking for Raven. Raven is looking for her father, Trigon. Supergirl hopes to see her adoptive parents again. The theme of parents, children, and family is strong.

When Raven finds Trigon and confronts him, she is angry that he never took responsibility for the harm he did. Raven is also upset he joined the Nazis. But when Trigon is killed – Raven loses control of her magic. With help from Zatanna and John, she learns to control it. Constantine meets Abigel Kholland who is leading Russia’s magical creatures that escaped the Nazis, including Swamp Thing.

Reaper finds Hugo Strange and kills him because he murdered her family but she is then killed in turn by Killer Frost. Killer Frost is then captured by Lois Lane.

Faora tells Kara (Supergirl) about Krypton and tries to recruit her in her plan to create a Kryptonian Empire on Earth. Supergirl refuses because she’s shocked that Faora destroyed Krypton. Kara feels it is better to work within the system to improve and fix it, rather than to destroy everything. As Raven rejected Trigon, Kara rejects Foara. She even uses Kryptonite to capture Faora, who had become Doomsday, inside Swamp Thing. Kara is also reunited with her foster parents and her sister, Stargirl’s biological father. The reunion doesn’t last, because they sacrifice themselves in the spell to bind Faora.

I really enjoyed the Bombshells series. Volume 6 War Stories rushes to a conclusion but it is still a good read. I felt including a Kryptonian who turns into Doomsday using magic and Raven’s blood was unnecessary. But, on the other hand, Joker’s Daughter and the Baroness had already been defeated. Killer Frost is defeated in this volume, but not before doing a lot of damage. There are also some great panels in this volume (I loved seeing John transform himself into a hare again.) And the art is stunning. And I loved seeing both Supergirl and Raven confront their evil parental figures, rather than just agreeing with them out of hand. However, this volume could have used more character development (there’s some – but it’s mostly a series of battles, including magical ones.) I recommend the series and this volume in particular.

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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.

Book Review – Bombshells vol. 3: Uprising

  • Title: Bombshells vol. 3: 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.

Favorite Female DC Heroes

The Mary Sue website recently published a list of The Ten Most Powerful Female Villains of the DC universe, then challenged readers to list their favorite female DC heroes. So here we go.

1 – Birds of Prey

The Birds of Prey are not a single hero, but a group. Specifically, they are a team of female superheroes. First created by Chuck Dixon in the 1990s. The original group included Oracle (Barbara Gordon who also gets a place on this list herself), Black Canary (yes, she also gets her own listing), Huntress, and others. The team was rebooted in the New 52 and again in Rebirth. The membership of the team tends to rotate, but Barbara Gordon, Dinah Lance, and Helena are usually members. The series has been written and drawn by women as well.

2 – Zatanna

Originally a “joke” character who appeared in Justice League International and cast spells by speaking backward, Zatanna has emerged as one of the most powerful magic users in the entire DC Universe. At one point in New 52 – John Constantine describes her as the most powerful magician on Earth because she can bend reality itself. This after John discovers she cast a spell on him to make him a better person. Zatanna has been a member of the Justice League and Justice League Dark. She’s also one of the main characters in the animated series Young Justice and a supporting character in Justice League Unlimited. Zatanna is also one of the main characters in the recent mini-series Mystic U.

3 – Barbara Gordon (Oracle, Batgirl)

My favorite version of Barbara is Oracle. After she was shot by the Joker in Alan Moore’s famous The Killing Joke, Barbara doesn’t curl up and die. She doesn’t become bitter and decide to be a villain. Barbara goes through intense physical therapy, learns to use a wheelchair, returns to grad school and gets her MLS – Master’s of Library Science, and gets a job at the Gotham City Library. All of that would make her an admirable character, and representative of a very under-represented group: those with physical disabilities. It is not easy to get a master’s degree. It is not easy to get a good job when one has physical disabilities – discrimination is alive and well. But for Barbara, this isn’t enough, she uses her computer skills and becomes Oracle – running the Birds of Prey single-handedly (for much of Birds of Prey the other Birds don’t even know who the “voice in their ear” is), she also became knowledge gatherer for Batman and his allies, especially Nightwing. Barbara is strong and admirable for all that. New 52 retconned her back to Batgirl, and personally, I felt that was a step back for the character. There are plenty of tough female superheroes, how many superheroes in a wheelchair can you name? Rebirth has Barbara as Batgirl, but back in charge of the Birds of Prey, and keeps her computer skills, so that’s something.

4 – Black Canary

Black Canary is more than the girlfriend/wife/ex-wife of Green Arrow. She has been a member of the Justice Society of America (back in the 1940s), then Justice League International, Justice League, and the Birds of Prey. Her main power is her Sonic Cry, which is strong enough to kill someone. She also is a gifted martial artist, and at times has lived in the dojo where she teaches self-defense to at-risk women. Dinah is strong in more ways than one, and she remains one of my favorite characters.

5 – Jessica Cruz, Green Lantern

Jessica Cruz is one of the newest female DC heroes on this list, as she was introduced in the Rebirth book, Green Lanterns, with her partner, Simon Baz (a Muslim man). Jessica is Latina and suffered such severe acrophobia that she didn’t leave her apartment for two years. This is the woman who gets a power ring for overcoming great fear. Although Jessica is at first unsure of herself, she grows and becomes the hero her ring knows she can be. She and her partner, Simon, have a great relationship that is entirely platonic, a refreshing change for a story essentially about two cops. Jessica also is, by default, a member of the Green Lantern Corps and the Justice League, meaning she also goes on missions in space, and world-saving missions, as well as her “normal” work as Earth’s Green Lantern.

6 – Batwoman

Kate Kane is Bruce Wayne’s cousin, a lesbian, and a kick-ass superhero. Raised in a military family, when she was young and the family abroad, she, her sister and their mother, were kidnapped. Her mother and sister were killed, and Kate was raised by her father. As a young adult, she enrolls in West Point – and is kicked out when it’s discovered she’s a lesbian. She goes wild for a year but then returns to Gotham as Batwoman. For much of Rebirth, Kate has been the leader of the Batfamily in Detective Comics, but after a few serious arguments with Bruce (lets just say Kate is more pragmatic than Bruce, and she doesn’t feel as strongly about his “no kill” rule as he does), she’s currently on her own. Kate is a strong fighter, has the intelligence common in Batfamily members, has military contacts through her father, and has her mother’s money. She’s basically Batman but a woman, which makes her awesome.

7 – Huntress

There are two versions of Huntress, and I really like them both. The Earth 2 version is the daughter of Batman and Catwoman. (Bruce and Selina both grow older, retire from their respective “night ” jobs, and then marry.) The newer version is the daughter of a mob boss, who gets disgusted by her family’s violence, especially after her boyfriend is killed. She seeks revenge by killing mobsters. Bruce decides to bring her into the fold and gets her to agree to non-lethal ways of curbing the mob in Gotham. Both versions of Huntress have the first name, Helena, with the Earth 2 version being Helena Wayne and the modern version Helena Bertinelli. Helena is usually in a purple costume (sometimes black), and has strong fighting abilities, intelligence, and loyalty. As mentioned above, she’s frequently a member of the Birds of Prey.

8 – Fire and 9 – Ice

Fire was a Brazilian woman who had green fire powers. Ice was a Nordic Ice goddess. Both were characters in Justice League International. Both really need to be brought back!

10 – Wonder Woman

What new can one say about Wonder Woman? Diana is an Amazon princess, originally she brought American airman Steve Trevor back to America during World War II (which was contemporary with the times of her comic which was first published in 1940), where she stayed to fight Nazis, evil, and supervillains. She has the strength of Superman and the intelligence of Batman. Diana is part of DC’s Trinity of superheroes (the other’s being Superman and Batman) and is a member of the Justice League.

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!

Book Review – Constantine vol. 2: Blight

  • Title: Constantine vol. 2: Blight
  • Author: Ray Fawkes, Jeff Lemire
  • Artist: Renato Guedes, Marcelo Maiolo
  • Line: New 52
  • Characters: John Constantine, Justice League Dark, Zatanna
  • Publication Date: 2014
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/21/2016

John Constantine is a fascinating anti-hero and a guy who just can’t win. Blight as a graphic novel is a little hard to follow because it ties in with other titles – some of which I’ve read, such as Justice League Dark and some I haven’t. The book opens with Constantine apparently having a nightmare – but then we learn that everything in his magical vault has been taken from him. The three evil magicians from Volume 1 are back: Sargon, Mr. E, and Tannarak. They are travelling the world offering independent magic users a choice: join the Cult of the Cold Flame or die and have their magic and very life absorbed by whichever magician confronts them. Constantine offers to join the Cult, but keeps his mind free by a little slight of hand with the Cult’s drugged wine. He then uses the one artifact of his (the Moon Sword) that the Cult hasn’t destroyed to absorb it’s magic to kill Mr. E – but instead of absorbing his magic himself, luckily Sargon and Tannarak take it instead. With Mr. E trapped in the Sword, Constantine asks to be filled in on everything. However, just then, Shazam (Billy Batson) touches Pandora’s Box (in events not depicted in this story).

The next volume opens with the Crime Syndicate (evil Justice League from a parallel Earth) having taken over, our Justice League Heroes having disappeared, and a magic-dampening field having made it impossible for Constantine to track down his Justice League Dark or any magic users – good, evil, or indifferent. He and his new League, including Swamp Thing, Pandora, Nightmare Nurse, and Phantom Stranger are all John has now to fight Blight.

The next volume has John and his new allies brought to the border of Heaven where they encounter a ticked off Spectre and John has a weird conversation with God, who looks like Toto from The Wizard of Oz. Yes, it’s as weird as it sounds. After their conversation, the Angel Zauriel follows Constantine to Earth and John binds him in a circle in the House of Mystery. How Zauriel helps to defeat Blight is a story found in Justice League Dark and possibly other collections.

The next volume in this book has John and his new Justice League Dark in Nanda Parbat. There John discovers all the magic users are trapped in a magical torture machine, the Thaumaton Machine – behind this is Felix Faust and John’s one-time mentor and friend (now bitter enemy) Nick Necro. There’s a flashback explaining the background of Nick, John, and Zatanna, including the spell that ties the three together. Constantine and Necro fight both physically and using magic – it seems Constantine will win – when Swamp Thing explodes in the house and John is suddenly about to be sent to a very bad place. – along with every one else. And that’s the end of the book.

Constantine vol. 2 Blight is a good graphic novel, the art is incredible and the characterization is really good. However, the one negative is it’s a bit hard to follow – it’s intertwined to another story and it’s just becomes a bit frustrating to have stories disappear into the ether. Some are picked up in the Justice League Dark graphics, but some were covered in other books, I suppose. Still it’s well worth reading to pick-up some more detail in the battle against Blight and to defeat the Crime Syndicate and return the Justice League to Earth.