Note: Like many entries on issue47 this one is about 70% complete. I’d rather publish it now than let it sit in my drafts folder for months.
1 vs 1 is where two comic books battle it out in a winner takes all contest to see which one I’ll continue to purchase and which one gets dropped.
I have been waiting all summer for DC Comics Bombshells (written by Marguerite Bennett). I could have purchased it earlier in three digital installments, but this was an issue I wanted to own in print.
I loved the concept of re-imagining DC heroines in the WWII era, and giving them origins independent from their male counterparts.
Americatown (written by Bradford Winters and Larry Cohen) was another interesting concept which portrays Americans as immigrants in a South American country in the not too distant future. I imagined this would be more social commentary and drama than virtuous heroism.
DC Comics Bombshells. All summer I waited!
DC Comics Bombshells has lots of promise and I’m sure will be a well crafted story with characters that fans will love for decades….. but to be honest I had problems with the first issue. Lots of problems.
I don’t set out to write negative reviews, and my opinion on this issue is certainly in the minority. I also still hold all the people I know who enjoyed the issue in high regard (including you to dear reader).
So what were my problems?
- 1 page is devoted to Batwoman saving Martha & Thomas Wayne (this was awesome) the next 5 are devoted to Batwoman & Co thwarting a gang from robbing an entire baseball stadium. This sounds way cooler than it actually was. The 1 Wayne page was way more relevant and entertaining then the other 5.
- I struggled with some of the dialogue. Maybe I was too tired from a long day at work, but there were some word balloons I didn’t understand even after reading them multiple times.
- An announcer explained that all baseball players must wear masks to protect their identity because not everyone is happy that women are playing professional baseball. I liked the baseball themed Batwoman. The idea stands on its own. It didn’t need this extra corny layer to justify why she wears a mask.
- Story was mostly about Steve Rogers. Admittedly there wasn’t much could do since Wonder Woman is a WWII era heroine that was created independent from a male counterpart.
- Couldn’t tell Super Girl and Star Girl apart. Both characters look identical (down to the hair style) and wear matching uniforms.
- There are techniques with word balloons that could have been used to help identify which character was speaking from panel to panel. These were not used, or if they were I failed to notice them on my first read.
- I don’t know the premise of the story.
The art is amazing, the concept is amazing. It will probably be amazing in several issues. But to me it was a weak first issue.
Moving over to Americatown. The premise is straight forward and full of drama. Immigrating (or human smuggling) and evading government detection offer so many opportunities for dramatic tension and suspense.
The writer and artists deliver a solid opening chapter. The story is easy to follow and the consequences that each character faces for the risks they take are more extreme than they expect. The story as a whole (from what I gather) is focused on one family, but the first issue had a large and diverse ensemble of immigrants.
I enjoyed the artwork, especially how well some panels would set up the next. Very well planned. It gives me a reason to read again and look for things I may have missed on the first read.
What Others Think
I’m pretty much on my own for Bombshells. Americatown has some fans and some detractors. I found one negative review fascinating and it is worth a read. The author writes:
…when all of this shit isreal, I can’t sit and enjoy some futuristic Think Piece about immigration that uses such an imposing, soul-crushing problem as a foundation to make people with brown skin the bad guys. That’s fucked.
It’s a legitimate point and I’m glad the author drew attention to it. But I didn’t connect with the sentiment. After my day I don’t have the energy or patience to learn how awful the world is from the news media (which for the past several years seems to have been increasingly infiltrated by the political establishment). So if a writer can bring this issue to me in a fictional story that I will consume and consider, I don’t count that as a bad thing.
Also, I like a good “Think Piece”. I enjoy stories that make me think. I just don’t have time to read dense novels. And I definitely don’t have time to read the ones that I need to attend a class to understand. Comic books are literature in this phase of my life.
What others are not saying
Americatown also has a scene involving what appears to be a traumatic sexual assault (at least, at first glance that is how it appeared to me). There are a growing number of readers & reviewers who are vocal detractors for these types of scenes. I have not read any criticism regarding this… yet. Generally speaking my understanding of the criticism is that these scenes are almost always done to show how terrible the bad guy is and the victim is always a woman.
A counterpoint here might be that the scene was used to illustrate the types of circumstances immigrants and refugees place themselves in everyday. Or the terrible conditions that human smuggling can lead to. And by raising awareness this may make the depiction in this book an exception.
Another counterpoint could be that the scene really isn’t a sexual assault at all and and instead is a bone marrow extraction. Frankly, I’m not buying that argument. Yes that may be what the dialogue says, and in some ways the art supports. But overwhelmingly, the art says otherwise.
In the final analysis…
Americatown wins because it’s plot is more accessible, dramatic and engaging, but I wish all the best to the team at DC that produces Bombshells.