We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming to bring you a review and analysis of the first two issues of the new DC series Bombshells. No, this is not part of the continuity shelf I’ve tasked myself with reading. It is, however, an awesome new series that Mistah J picked up and suggested I read. As always, his recommendation was spot on.
The series begins in 1940, various countries embroiled in World War II. Just by looking at the cover art on the first issue, I knew this was something I wanted to read. Look at those women. They are retro and vintage and totally badass. I’m partial to 40’s history and culture, so I knew this comic would be right up my alley. After reading just two issues, issues containing only 2 parts of a 3-part exposition to the main story, I’m fully willing to commit and say:
I freaking love this comic series.
Before I even get to the story, let’s talk about the artwork and character depiction, shall we? Mistah J warned me when I began reading comics that I would come across numerous instances of misogyny and overtly sexualized female characters. Being only two trades in and having not gotten farther than the original Superman and Batman stories, I haven’t witnessed much of this yet. I know it’s coming though. We’ve all seen the overdrawn images of various female characters in comics, breasts popping out of their barely-there outfits that are clearly not designed for any action outside of a bedroom.
That being said, I don’t necessarily support the opposing viewpoint that would call for all of these women to be wearing loose, non-revealing clothing either. If I was out fighting bad guys and saving the world on a regular basis I would want an outfit that was practical for flipping through the air and kicking criminals in the face, but that also looked totally badass and gorgeous. Where’s the rule that says you can’t be a feminist and sexy?
Bombshells walks that fine line and manages to create character designs that look amazing but aren’t completely impractical for kicking ass (ahem: stiletto boots). I’m not sure if this is because these comics are being written today in a more female-aware world, or if it’s because both the writer and lead artist are women who recognize the fact that female superheroes can be awesome and independent and still look fierce as hell. Maybe it’s a bit of both. Either way, I tip my cap to them and their awesome styling of these characters.
As though their appearances aren’t enough to draw you in, the character development here is spot on. I was especially taken with Kate Kane, aka Batwoman. As a newbie I don’t know much about her backstory, but Mistah J has given me some of the basics. Based on what I read here, I definitely want to seek out her solo comics and read more. She’s strong and witty and smart, but she also feels like she’s not doing enough to help in the world. Here she is, a woman in 1940’s Gotham, out kicking ass and defeating criminals on a daily basis, but she doesn’t think this is enough. This brief prologue gives the reader just enough information to learn what might motivate Kate to look for greater adventure and heroism, and looks to be leading into the larger story seamlessly.
I could give a description of each featured character’s backstory, but that’s not really necessary to fully appreciate the story. The characters come from varying backgrounds and have their own motives for wanting to join the fight raging in Europe. It’s too early in the comic to see the broader picture. We’re still in the beginning phases of each character’s story. What we can see already is the distinct style in which this story is written and drawn, a style that works exceedingly well.
When I first heard about this new series, I had mixed feelings. On the one hand it sounded absolutely awesome. A female-centric union of characters centered on WWII sounded too perfect for words. Here was the potential for a story that could appeal to both men and women alike, something it seems the comics world sorely needs more of. On the other hand, I worried that the story might swing too far the other way to draw in a larger female fanbase and make these women caricatures of themselves, shallow and vapid and completely untrue to their base characters (because apparently this is what some people think all women want to read about). These comics already surpass my expectations in that regard. They are filled with honest, real women, and plenty of action to keep me on the edge of my seat (news flash: girls like action too).
I especially loved the scene in which Diana adopts her infamous accoutrements.
As this panel notes, she is transitioning from princess to warrior; from Diana to Wonder Woman. Here was an extremely poignant and empowering moment for the character, a transition that feels important for this series. Diana is no longer just an Amazon princess; she adopts a new role, leaving her home to go out and fight in the name of justice. Sure, this isn’t exactly a new direction for Wonder Woman. Still, it’s important to her story, and I’m glad they chose to acknowledge it here.
I always believed I was at least moderately well-aquainted with most of the major female DC characters. Issue #2 quickly corrected me on this matter. The end of the issue introduces Zatanna, a character that I admit to never having heard of before this comic. I can’t complain about this being my introduction to the character, though.
If that doesn’t speak volumes for the writing and illustration team on this series, I don’t know what does.