DC’s line of collectible statuettes featuring female heroes and villains in ’40s pin-up style, new digital comic DC Comics Bombshells shouldn’t work. But thanks to the Marguerites — Bennett and Sauvage, who respectively write and draw this revisionist tale of World War II where all the superheroes are women, it’s already shaping up to be one of the more intriguing titles on the market.
Just how different this universe is from the established DCU becomes clear in the opening scene, when Batwoman Kate Kane erases one of the most fundamental plot points in comics history by stopping the murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne. The scene unfolds like an old-time newsreel (except in bold ’40s colors instead of black and white) and easily establishes the book’s cheeky, very meta tone. The rest of the issue is a clever parody of the present-day Batwoman comic lesbian relationship and all with the added bonus that this version of Kate plays in an all-female, all-superhero baseball league where petty criminals occasionally interrupt the games. While it’s an fun read for fans of the character, the comic itself would perhaps have been better served by staring with a more well-known character to draw in a broader audience.
Luckily, the next two issues will feature slightly more well-known characters with Wonder Woman and Supergirl with Zatanna (probably best known to Batman or Black Canary fans) to follow. Those unwilling to spend $0.99 for each 20-page issue on a weekly basis can also purchase the comic in hard copy once a month (three digital issues in each), but judging by this first issue, the plot will unfold like the serialized adventure stories that would play before movies of the period especially the cliffhanger structure. Not to spoil anything, but it features the appearance of a character that those familiar with the DCU will know well and whose inclusion in the series feels both surprising and inevitable.
While Bennett’s storytelling is perhaps the book’s biggest asset, Sauvage’s art holds its own. Stylized and colorful, it feels perfectly suited to the alternate universe the characters inhabit. While the characters’ looks are inspired by pinups, they don’t feel gratuitous sexualized. They just happen to be sexy while they kick ass. A lot of that is thanks to the flattering clothing and hairstyles. All wavy, voluminous hair, red lipstick and well-structured blouses, it subtly brings the reader into the mood and time period.
However, strong as it is, the book isn’t perfect. Early in the issue, there’s a great double-page spread establishing Batwoman’s baseball career and her local celebrity. Those layouts can be a little hard to read on a device, so, the comic splits up the four quadrants of the image into separate pages. However, it makes the mistake of putting these disjointed pages before the full spread. While readers will quickly realize what’s happening whole after seeing the full image, the chopped up pages make the layouts seem disjointed, even lacking in logic. It’s a disservice to the art and a potential turn off to readers that would easily have been avoided by putting the spread first. Those reading the hard copies will likely avoid this, but that leads me to the book’s other problem: it’s so good that even a week feels too long to wait for the next issue. But that’s probably a good problem to have.
By day, Marisa Carpico stresses over every detail of America’s election system. By night, she becomes a pop culture and celebrity obsessive. Whether it’s movies, TV or music, she watches and listens to it all so you don’t have to. You can find her risking her life by reading comic books while walking down the crowded streets of New York City, having inappropriate emotional reactions at her iPad screen while riding the subway or occasionally letting her love of a band convince her to stand for hours on end in one of the city’s many purgatorial concert spaces. You can follow her on Twitter to read her insightful social commentary or more likely complain about how cold it is at @MarisaCarpico.