Based on a statuette series of the same name, “DC Bombshells” #1 just has no business being this good. Marguerite Bennett and Marguerite Sauvage have taken the statues’ popular pinup-inspired versions of Batwoman, Wonder Woman and Supergirl and placed them in an alternate-universe World War II, where female superheroes take the lead at home and at war. Issue #1 of the print comic actually collects three separate digital installments, one for each of the heroes, and it definitely reads more like a collection than a linear story as a result. However, Bennett’s winking world-building and Sauvage’s easy, eye-catching artwork are irresistible even when they’re so episodic. This is a one fun read.
Sauvage’s breezy, beautiful figures capture the joie de vivre and easy confidence of the best pin-ups; the women in this book look assured and comfortable in their bodies. There are plenty of hip juts and upskirts, but the characters are always simultaneously busy or excited with what they’re doing. No one poses with a come-hither or surprised look. In addition, the soft coloring — textured almost like construction paper at points — lacks the greasy shine of more exploitative fare. The resulting aesthetic is at once more vintage and more progressive.
In rewriting her heroes’ origins, Bennett can certainly get a bit too cute, but there’s a punny wonderfulness to bits like “The Batwoman” being an actual baseball player or flying Kara being recruited as a Soviet “Night Witch” pilot. These new backstories are easy to follow and fun to read, and Bennett knows how to invite the reader right in. Amanda Waller and Kate’s cousin, Bette Kane, also make their appearances, and it’s got me excited to see who else will join the team. One subplot didn’t quite make sense: Detective Sawyer acts as if she’s been struggling to locate and question Batwoman but, given that baseball games are scheduled (and tickets sold) in advance, that doesn’t seem likely — even as a front that she feeds her colleagues. Aside from that small quibble, though, Bennett establishes Kate and Kara’s lives with speed and believability.
Wonder Woman is the only character whose origin doesn’t deviate much from her original, as Steve Trevor crashes onto the Amazons’ island during a firefight with the Nazis. When she asks him to “tell me of the tyrant and the wickedness he has done,” it’s clear where all this is going. As a result, it’s the least page-turning chapter, and Steve’s narration keeps referencing “Ride of the Valkyries” and Valhalla — a fine frame in most cases, but a strange one for a U.S. pilot in WWII, given the Fuhrer’s love of Wagner. Still, it’s wonderful to see Sauvage draw the Amazon army, and her visualization of Steve’s delirium and shock makes excellent use of color.
That said, the issue as a whole does feel more like a collection. Waller’s arrival gives the reader some general sense of where the series is going, but the three storylines still feel quite separate. It didn’t necessarily detract from my experience but, for readers debating between reading this in shorter digital installments or collected in print, it’s worth noting how segmented the stories are (at least for now).
“DC Bombshells” is a brilliant feminist reclaiming of a fun artistic tradition. The creative team is clearly having a blast, and you don’t want to miss out on the party.