If you’re after a slice of historical fiction with a superhero slant, Bombshells has always been the title for you. This annual offers an origin story (or maybe more than one) so why not give it a chance? Is it good?
DC Comics Bombshells Annual #1 (DC Comics)
So what’s it about? After checking out our preview, the DC summary reads:
The long-buried tale of a heroine of the Great War! An ace pilot turned ancient predator, you may now know her as the Halloween horror, “The Bloody Batgirl”! But here, we will present the secret story of how she became the first Bombshell known as…the Batgirl!
Why does this book matter?
If you’re a lover of the “Hero’s Journey”, then you’re a sucker for a good origin tale. This issue offers that, but in a alternate timeline where female heroes fight the Nazis who look and act very similar to many of the DCU gals.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Marguerite Bennett writes a very well organized issue that introduces story pieces at the right moment, sparks your interest from the start, and most importantly allows the characters to rule. The issue opens in 1941 Louisiana, then quickly zooms to West Point and back again. In that transition we meet Francine Charles, a friend of Barbara Gordon in the DCU who’s very good at finding things. There are no computers in 1941, but Bennett does a good job applying Charles’ skills to the era and making her a convincing sort of tracker. From there Barbara and Charles are reunited and we get this segment via song!
Again, if you love storytelling, you know story via song is an age old thing and I think Bennett nails it. Now, it’s hard to hear the music when all you get is the lyrics, but the lyrics rhyme well as they uncover who Barbara Gordon was and how she became super. The song runs 9 pages, and while it is a little long considering the comic’s length, it doesn’t feel like it’s padding out the tale. Instead we get a story about war torn lovers and the daring feats they were involved in to save the world. This story also serves a purpose later where we meet Batgirl/Barbara and see what she’s up to now.
Meet this issue’s protaganist.
Avoiding spoilers, but Charles uses her deductive skills quite well with Barbara (and her friends too). The location they’re in is quite clever and though it’s not exactly as it is in the DCU now, it makes a lot of sense and actually serves to make a point about the characters. This all leads to a satisfying conclusion and an even better cliffhanger.
The art by Elsa Charretier gives everything a cartoony feel but the song portion owes a lot to the art pulling off the sequence and making every panel count. It feels alive, like a good song number should, land it tells the tale well. All the scenes in Louisiana have a Haunted Mansion vibe, which suits the story well. Fans of witches, magic and cauldrons should get a kick out of a lot of this imagery. The credits page is one that is incredibly frameworthy too (you can see it below). It offers up a lot of questions we want answered just before the story kicks into exposition mode. It’s the perfect jaw dropper of a full page spread if I ever saw one.
It can’t be perfect can it?
There isn’t any explanation for the vampire stuff (not a spoiler it’s right on the cover) and it seems like a big point not to talk about it. How did she get these powers? Did I simply miss something? Expecting an answer made the comic slightly disappointing only because you’ll be dying to know. The problem is, it certainly had the time and page count to reveal this. Maybe it’s one of those tales we’ll learn more about later, but the issue feels slightly decomposed once we get passed the song. The plot has some all too convenient turns to get Charles in the right place at the right time too.
Oh that’s gorgeous!
Is It Good?
Bombshells Annual is a good issue offering an inspired take on Barbara Gordon as well as a clever tie-in to another DC property that’s a complete surprise. That adds up to a story worth reading.