Just like the pulp adventures from the Golden Age in which this book is set Bombshells delivers high peril, breathless derring-do, and heroism with well placed confidence, heart, and a dash of smart humour. The art and dialogue are both top-notch, offering a wonderful sense of time and place, with deft world building quickly working to establish a rich and complex backdrop for these characters to inhabit. This is a book that takes a great concept and runs with it all the way, evolving it into more than just a simple idea on a page – it’s an adventure!
DC comics are a curious outfit at the moment; Convergence for all it’s promise of boundless creativity was ultimately a flat and lifeless event, more concerned with uninspired match-ups than the potential to revisit much loved incarnations of our favourite heroes. And then, as soon as that event ends, a book like Bombshells finally sees print, full of brilliantly re-imagined characters, vibrant world building, and compelling narratives. Even the development of this project is a curious one, the book began life as a set of inventive variant covers and then a series of collectible statues before it was ever a coherent setting or story. Such a beginning could have led to this being a soulless cash in project, or worse, an insultingly simplistic appropriation of an important period in feminist history. Fortunately the creators behind this project deliver on every front, giving this concept-cum-comic a genuine and indeed stirring beginning.
Just as with the recent Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps. this book vividly re-imagines the Second World War home front as a place where superheroes do their work (some would justifiably argue it already was). Writer Marguerite Bennett has crafted a world inspired as much by Rosie the Riveter given four colour life as it is by the history of DC comics, with remolded versions of Kate Kane and Maggie Sawyer crafted almost in Rosie’s image. Kate and Maggie are still Gothamites, Kate being the star bat-woman on the Gotham Knights baseball team and Maggie working for the GCPD, and they both endeavour tirelessly to protect the city from unsavoury types. But that doesn’t stop them feeling out-of-place, given to a notion that they are somehow not all they could be.
Over in Soviet Russia meanwhile we meet two young women eager to become pilots so that they can take the fight to the Nazi’s. These sisters are revealed to be Kara and Kortni, or as we might know them Kara (Supergirl) and Courtney (Stargirl). The decision to transplant these characters to Russia is a great one, not only does it broaden the scope of this world, allowing exploration of the wider war effort, but it is also unexpected and refreshing (a character who basically wears a star-spangled banner is now a Soviet fighter pilot!) The other key character introduced in this issue is Wonder Woman, and whilst she arrives in genuinely spectacular fashion she is so far the least interesting of these re-imagined characters. That is because she so far doesn’t seem that different to her classic DCU counterpart; sure she is kick ass but she is still queen of the Amazons and she still seems to be on course for a romance with that nice young pilot Steve Trevor. This is far from a problem given that so much excellent ground work has already been laid and there is plenty of scope for the progression of this story, but it is surprising that perhaps the most iconic and recognisable heroes featured in this book’s line up is also the one that is left the most untouched (although the cover art offers a glimpse of the amazing reinvention we may yet have to look forward to).
Structurally this is a first issue that does everything right. There are a lot of characters to introduce, a whole world to establish (albeit one grounded in two worlds we know quite well, WW2 and the DCU), and a core narrative to set up. The pacing and action beats are perfectly aligned here, ensuring that each character received a sufficiently high-octane introduction without the need to forgo the important character building. In fact it is the character moments that stand out as especially effective, offering as they do hints into the nature and desires of our heroes without laboring the point or relying on clunky exposition. The arrival of Amanda Waller and her incredible helicopter plane plays like the end of an issue, but then this internal cliffhanger, the presumed imminent formation of a super team, goes on to cast an intriguing shadow over the introductions of Wonder Woman, Supergirl and Stargirl, after all we can only assume they end up on the team too, but right now it is anyone’s guess how!
Marguerite Sauvage brings this world to life with a skilled hand that succeeds in capturing the physicality and easy grace of Golden Age comic art at the same time as constructing perfectly paced layouts and action scenes. The dog fight above Themyscira, suddenly complicated by the entrance of a glorious flight of Amazonian warriors, is a particular action highlight where the art and colouring delivers on high spectacle amidst an epic and foreboding storm. Elsewhere subtle character work and narrative points are seeded into the layouts and art; Kate and Maggie have a wall of photo’s from wistfully (and presumably mistakenly) consider their ‘action’ heydays and this is mirrored in the panel arrangement around them as they sleep – the artifacts of their current lives arrayed around them like pictures on a wall. Similarly the long walk that Kara and Kortni must make from the depths of the bread lines and military police patrolled streets to the airfield offers an insight into the world in which these characters have grown up.
This is an issue that at once tells a myriad of small stories, all of which form the basis of a much great tale, and every single one is delivered with delightful ease. Quickly establishing a strong narrative anchored by reinvigorated interpretations of classic characters this is a book that looks set to be something special. The art, the writing, the plotting, everything here is on point and I can’t wait to see how these bombshells will come together and how they will be fighting this war.
DC Comics Bombshells #1 // Writer – Marguerite Bennett / Artist – Marguerite Sauvage // DC
– The opening of the book sees Batwoman step in to prevent the Wayne’s murder and the subsequent origin of Batman is presumably averted! No need for a Batman here anyway, Kate Kane’s got you covered son!
– I’m pretty sure Rosie the Riveter makes a cameo on a billboard eating a burger, aces.
– I wasn’t able to find a genuine song that matches the lyrics Steve Trevor hears as he passes out, let me know if you recognise it!
– Kara and Kortni wander past some Soviet propaganda for a General Arkayn; it doesn’t seem like this is an actual Soviet general and there isn’t a DC character with the same name either, but if we take the Kortni Russian-ising approach it could be that this is a hint to the Swamp Thing villain Arcane. Too much of a stretch?