Okay, so Bombshells.
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. I mean it’s a comic based on a collection of figurines. It’s a comic based on an aesthetic, specifically the pin-up aesthetic and it doesn’t really get any shallower than that.
While I’m always fairly conflicted by the pin-up girl aesthetic, there’s no denying it’s one of the greatest, most iconic styles of American history. Plus I realized the writer and the artist on the book were both women, so I figured it was a sort reclamation of a problematic piece of our culture. The female empowerment cancels out sexism right?
So I got it. And the verdict? Solid 8/10.
PRO: It’s beautiful. Basically, if God asked me if I wanted someone to illustrate my entire life, my first pick would be Babs Tarr, followed closely by Marguerite Sauvage. The cover of Wonder Woman as Rosie the Riveter is easily in my top five favorite comic images. It’s very feminine, without being risque. In fact, Diana’s got on more clothes in this cover than I’ve ever actually seen her wear….Aside from the iffy boob coverage, Wondy could kick some serious butt in that outfit. (Speaking of butts, in those high wasted shorts, she won’t have to pick out her leotard wedgie in the middle of a battle.) It honestly is amazing the sort of functional outfits you get when women are in charge of the art…
PRO: The story is good. Okay, so it reminds me a little of Superman: Red Son.“Let’s drop our favorite characters into a hugely important historical moment and add a few twists to see what happens.” Because a great deal of the pin-up moment coincided with the second world war, that’s where the narrative takes place. Amanda Waller is putting together an elite team, called The Bombshells, to go on international spy-type missions. The dream team so far consists of the usual suspects, Diana of Themyscira and Kate Kane, Batwoman, but, to my surprise, Mera, gets added to the line up. Possibly because she was part of the original series of collectible Bombshells, or possibly because she’s a favorite of Bennett, Mera actually gets quite a favorable depiction here. She’s a close personal friend of Diana and they set off in search of adventure together, appearing somewhat like sisters, and reminding me deeply of the pairing of Stargirl and Supergirl, who appear as fugitives from the Soviet Union. (Are you picking my Red Son vibes yet?) Plus, we get Zatanna, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy with cameos from Selina Kyle and my favorite, Lex Luthor? It’s almost too good to be true.
PRO: POSITIVE FEMALE FRIENDSHIPS/FEMALE SISTERHOOD/FEMALE RELATIONSHIPS/FEMALE SOLIDARITY ARE EVERYWHERE IN THIS GRAPHIC NOVEL. This is so important I don’t even know how to convey its importance without putting everything into caps lock. Yeah, Diana has Steve Trevor, but he’s still in shock from his plane crash for most of the book to be much of a love interest. And yes, Mera and Diana do talk about him as a romantic prospect for Di…for about four panels. Not to mention, John Constantine, one of the only other prominent male heroes/villains featured, gets turned into a rabbit within a few pages of his initial introduction. (Okay, I definitely just got an Odyssey vibe…) Diana and Mera’s friendship seems rock solid, as does Kara and Kortni’s sisterhood, Kate and Mags’ relationship and whatever partnership will evolve from Harley and Ivy. I know Wonder Woman and her army of Amazons are supposed to be the ideal of feminine empowerment and everything–but the groupings in this novel have created one of the best all-female ensemble pieces I’ve ever read.
PRO: LGBTQ representation!I don’t think we forget that Kate Kane is a lesbian exactly, but sometimes I think it’s just glossed over. Kate is openly gay here and is portrayed in a really loving supportive relationship with her girlfriend, Mags. We get that aching war narrative of being separated from your loved ones with only letters as communication. Not only are the moments when Kate is writing to Mags really moving, but it’s a detail that helps you really sink deeply into the narrative.
CON: Where are the Black superheroines? O-KAY? Please do not yell at me about Amanda Waller; she’s a boss, I know. But Black superheroines do exist (namely I’m thinking Mari would’ve been dope for this,) so let’s not forget about them. It’s one of those things that is always just going to rub me the wrong way. For all the female empowerment we see in this graphic novel, that power is diminished because it’s only white feminism, that occasionally dips into queer feminism to encompass Kate. I sort of feel like I’m screaming, “HEY BUT WHAT ABOUT ME?!” I really want a comic book that also uplifts Black female heroines. Or, you know…I could just write it myself.
CON: Mera’s kinda ditsy. I mean, it takes all types to make a story…And theoretically, she’s younger and less refined than she is when she’s Orin’s Queen…but of course this is just a personal pet peeve. Honestly, Mera feels like an adult version of Ariel from The Little Mermaid, in comparison with her Bombshell sisters.
CON: Okay, but Steve Trevor…what is your function? I felt like the story always lagged whenever he got to hog the panel. It could have been a result of him recovering from the crash, it could be that I don’t like his interrupting the sisterhood magic that is happening in this graphic novel…but it feels like Diana could be doing more if she weren’t getting distracted and looking after him every five seconds. Love is great and all, but once you put a bunch of kick-ass women accomplishing goals and taking the world by storm in front of me, I really don’t want that roll to be slowed for anything or anybody.
OVERALL? The pros definitely outweigh the cons, and I honestly was super into it–100% would read again. I’d love to take a closer, maybe more academic look, at the different facets of femininity that Sauvage and Bennett provide us with. Maybe I will some day when I’m a professor and being a superhero in my own right.
By Ravynn Stringfield