Tag Archives: marguerite bennett

Things in Print Thursday :: monthly big queer book review [DC Bombshells]

13 Jul

This is somewhat of a misnomer. I started reading DC Bombshells last year, after acquiring the first 12 issues in trades, but the third and fourth trades didn’t come out till this year. I am now through #24, and I know there’s mhttps://wordpress.com/post/partlydrawn.wordpress.com/15645ore to come but it’s not out in trade yet. And you guys, as I began saying last week…

I flipping love Bombshells.

The whole series is an alternate history version of WWII populated by… every woman in the DC universe, basically. The whole thing is based on this series of fancy statues and art that they made, and then someone, I guess, was like “can we actually play with this AU? Okay? Good let’s go.” It’s also an alternate history of the DC universe: Kate Kane, still a heiress and still the Batwoman, in fact saved the Waynes from the attempted robbery/murder. She’s a member of the women’s baseball league (see, bats – Bombshells Kate is also ridiculously quippy and occasionally makes comments like “I F&#(@* LOVE HOMONYMS”) who moonlights as a vigilante while the mens are away at the war, but then she’s recruited to the Bombshells – Amanda Waller’s all-female resistance fighter group working to help the Allies fight Nazis. And she’s with Maggie. Romantic styles.

This is enough to be awesome by itself. Check: one leading lesbian Jewish protagonist who will beat home the point that she’s fighting against people who discriminate against her own or anyone else. In a big ol’ lesbian relationship (and having previously been in one with Renee).

I’ll skim over the others, but the brilliance of Bombshells is largely twofold: it’s made international and it’s incredibly gay.

  • Maggie Sawyer herself is a police officer in Gotham, and she kicks ass. She also ends up kind of playing the housemother to the Batgirls (more on them in a bit). She misses her girlfriend (and there are plenty of panels of them being girlfriends – it’s beautiful) but she does what she does and she does it well.Amanda Waller masterminds the Bombshells. She’s pretty awesome.
  • Diana is still pretty much just Diana, doing her Themiscyran princess/Wonder Woman bit – just, this time it’s WWII instead of WWI. Steve Trevor is still there, and spends most of his time healing psychologically which is interesting… but Diana has previously had at least one explicit female paramour.
  • That’s Mera, aka Aquawoman, who is an exiled princess from Atlantis (this is eventually explained, and it’s very much the kind of royal family saga that you usually find about noble mystical princes) and learning important lessons and discovering herself and what it means to be a hero. But also she and Diana have kissed and been close and they flirt constantly.
  • Supergirl, who here is known in the human world as Kara Starikov, has all her usual powers and origin story but here she was adopted by a family in Russia. She’s grown up alongside her adoptive mother’s biological daughter…
  • That’s Kortni Duginovna, alias Stargirl. She wields a cosmic staff designed by her scientist father, wants nothing more than to save the world and be as super as her powered sister, and despite my never having even heard of her before reading Bombshells she touched my damn heart. Sister stuff, you guys!
  • Big Barda Free and Kimiyo Hoshi, alias Doctor Light, are other characters I’d never met before. They’re not in much of what’s been read, but they’re Bombshells and also they kiss.
  • Zatanna Zatara, half-Jewish and half-Roma, starts the story in Berlin as a captured plaything of Joker’s Daughter, who’s very much a mystical Nazi. This doesn’t sit well with her, and she fights back. John Constantine helps, when he’s not a bunny. She, of course, eventually finds the others and they all work together because this is a big pile of everyone working together and it’s beautiful.
  • Joker’s Daughter – whose actual connection to the actual Joker is as of #24 still somewhat unexplained, but whatever – is, as mentioned, a mystical Nazi. She is not a good person. She is probably the objectively worst female character, at least thus far, and she’s terrifying.
  • Harley Quinn, meanwhile, is a cheerful bisexual Jewish American psychiatrist working in London – until she sort of snaps and goes hunting for Mistah J, who she was previously entangled with. But on the way she encounters…
  • Pamela Ysley, a French smuggler of exotic goods and also a poisoner and genius botanist/etc. They flirt and fall in love, and at least as of #24 Harley has pretty well told the Joker(‘s spiritual essence, or something) to bugger off.
  • Selina Digatti is an Italian countess who starts out in Berlin. This aside, she’s pretty standard Catwoman, all potential double-crossing and flirting and kissing and sex eyes. She’s great.
  • Helena, aka Huntress, is a German swing kid. She and her buddies fight Nazis vigilante-style with weaponized instruments and snappy music. She also gets close, in a very familial way, with Kate.
  • The Batgirls are a bunch of plucky Gotham gals defending the city with vigilante justice in the style of Batwoman while Batwoman is away at war. Originally it was just Bette, her cousin, appointed with this task, but she wasn’t the only one with the idea (or the DIY skills, apparently) and by #24 their ranks also include: Alysia Yeoh, Harper and Cullen Row (there are boy Batgirls, yes), Kathy Duquesne, Felicity Smoak, Nell Little, and Tim Drake. Big diverse gay group of optimistic youths fighting crime. They also tangle with Harvey Dent, but that’s headed into spoilers.
  • Paula Von Gunther, Baroness, is also a Nazi. And evil. And in a probably-gay definitely-unhealthy relationship with the eventual Cheetah, but y’know.
  • Renee Montoya was raised in the Dominican Republic and then sent to Spain for university to avoid political turmoil in her homeland. There, she struck up a relationship with Kate, and they fought together in the Spanish Civil War – more painful backstory here, guys. She’s now a freedom fighter, alias the Question.
  • Rachel Roth aka Raven is pretty much a walking spoiler. But she’s here!
  • Killer Frost is German and also a Nazi. And for some reason boinking the Penguin? Shrug. Her outfit is very silly. She’s wearing an alpine sweater and an icicle hat.
  • Eloisa “Lois” Lane is from Metropolis but winds up in Gotham. She’s mixed, half-Cuban, and she’s the very definition of pluck. She’s headed off on adventures as of her last pre-#24 appearance, so I’m excited to see what’s up with that.
  • Miriam Batzel is a German-Jewish girl who, through the magic of how freaking awesome Jewish women are, becomes (DC’s) Ms. Marvel. She’s also basically adopted by Kate (even though she has her own family too).
  • Andrea Gruenwald does science and hates Nazis and Nazi sympathizers. Maybe she takes some dangerous courses of action to stop them, but oh well.
  • Mari McCabe is the queen of Zambesi. Alias Vixen, she can harness animal energy and powers. Also she beat Germans in the Olympics and stole Hitler’s dog and is very gay with…
  • Shiera, alias Hawkgirl (aided by Zambesi’s technology), a Mexican native who stumbled into the country and Mari’s lap pretty simultaneously. She hates using magic as an excuse, because SCIENCE!
  • Barbara Ann Minerva, who becomes Cheetah, is not a great person either. But she’s definitely present.
  • I’ve only met Barbara Gourdon, aka the Belle of the Bog, in a story of Harley’s so far. But what I’ve heard is coming is pretty wild. This is why she’s not in the Batgirl bunch.

There are a few boys here and there too, but really, the girls are why Bombshells is worth reading. I know more will appear in post-#24 issues, and I’m excited to meet all of them, but I’m also just so thrilled with all of the ones that are already populating the pages. The art is great – pin-up without being sleazy – and guys, there are so many queer women. Past or present there are textually nine different Sapphic relationships. Not all of them are healthy, but most of them are and they’re incredible.

There are so many meta jokes tossed in, ones you won’t expect; swings are taken at both general fascism and, shall we say, more current political awfulness. There are random discussions of important things thrown in the middle of stories (a favorite is when Alysia explains gender identity – hers, but also just in general – for a page between Batgirl fights) and diversity (I mean, it’s not perfect – but it’s clear that they were trying to improve on standard canon) and… you guys you just… need to discover this for yourselves. Marguerite Bennett is perfection.

–your fangirl heroine.

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