DC Comics: Bombshells #12. Marguerite Bennett- Writer, Laura Braga and Mirka Andolfo- Artists, Wendy Broome- Colorist.
DC Comics: Bombshells is one of the very few books that works on concept alone. Originally conceived as 1940’s pin-up style figurines, they are re-imagined in a world in which those character designs would’ve existed. Possibly. Maybe. The notion of the bombshell is rooted in the appellation of highly attractive and sexualized women. The idea of the bomb and sexualized women though also immediately brings to mind the images painted on the front fuselage of bombers during World War II known as Nose Art. This is where this comic series starts to come together. Sexualized images of women in a 1940’s context in combination with the World War II bomber, two conflicting ideologies coming together to give us the production design and setting for DC Comics: Bombshells.
It would be very easy to dismiss or criticize this approach as classic teenage boy fantasy. However, I think it has to be considered that the writer is a woman and once the reader opens the book, the world therein, is not simply the 1940’s as history remembers it, but rather a world that challenges all the sexual stereotypes and taboos that existed then. It is truly a book rooted in the attitudes of today with the aesthetic of the ’40’s- written by a woman. However, if you like Nazis as villains and strong powerful female characters this book transcends stereotypes and political correctness and functions as a true tribute to and honoring of women.
The Tenebrae are attacking London, and the Bombshells are the only ones who stand in their way. In this Battle of Britain it’s not the All-Star Squadron that stand against the Nazis, but Amanda Waller’s Bombshells. As this issue unfolds, we are treated to a couple heroic feats. Mera, in protection of her sailors sacrifices herself to defeat Nereus. What is interesting here is the mythology of mermaids and sirens that Mera seems to inhabit. She cares for those sailors on the sea. Much as one would imagine that the image on the fuselage reminded the airman of the girl back home, Mera owns that affection for the men of the sea.
As Edel Nacht approaches the city, it becomes apparent that even a larger sacrifice will be needed to stop the Titan. It comes down to Kara and Kortini, Supergirl and Stargirl-sisters, both attempt to make the difficult choice. It is Kortini that succeeds in eliminating the Titan. She is remembered as her name says- Stargirl.
It would be very easy to chastise the visual look of this book as overly sexualized or sexist. But, I think it is often too easy to say that, because from time immemorial, the female form has been worshipped in many ways. It is true that some men see it in a way that is unwholesome and depraved, but there is a small slice of reality that can honestly appreciate the innate beauty and power in the female form whether it be through childbirth or kicking ass. This issue features both! The camaraderie that these women share is a direct analog to what the men in our historical World War II shared. It should be noted that the relationships depicted in reference to this are universal.
One needs a completely open mind to understand the subtlety in this series. There can be no pre-conceived notions going in. Suffice it to say, you get out what you put in to it. A closed mind about what this series is about will doom you. It’s not about good-girl art, of which there is a resemblance. But, rather it is an exploration of the power in the female form and the power in relationships. If you’re a Nazi you won’t like this book either.
This book operates on different levels. On the surface it functions as hot women in World War II fighting Nazis. That might work for some. But on a deeper level it examines the multitude of the human experience. Many examples are anachronistic for the era, but viewed through a modern lens, they say something about our current human experience. It’s complex.