Review by Ian Keogh
Marguerite Bennett’s writing for the opening Enlisted was consistently imaginative and engaging, and a greater familiarity of the backgrounds in Allies doesn’t change that.
So much about DC Comics Bombshells is so good. Bennett’s scripts can be enjoyed at face value, but for people aware of obscure comics history there’s a warm glow from an opening sequence where she takes the 1940s fad of the kid gang, and applies it to the Batgirls, acting on Gotham’s social problems with cheerleader uniforms and baseball bats. Bennett plays further games with other familiar names and scenarios. A butler named Nygma, for instance, or the twisted values applied to the early 1940s Wonder Woman by her creator. That level of thought filters down to tiny details because Bennett has done her research. Two children rescued in wartime London are reunited with their parents in an incidental scene, and Bennett’s care extends to their having era-appropriate names.
As previously, the action is compressed into short chapters, dotting between the previously introduced women, the brevity a consequence of the work originally being produced in weekly instalments for DC’s website. It results in a slightly more episodic read than is conventional, with additional cliffhangers, but that’s just a different form of storytelling, and adjusting to the style is simple enough.
The main action takes place in Europe, where the Nazis have made an unholy deal with otherworldly entities, the Tenebrae, and every time a Nazi soldier dies they’re possessed by one these demons. Episodes of Wonder Woman dealing with that are sifted between chapters focusing on Soviet defectors Stargirl and Supergirl, and Mera, here Aquawoman, over the first half of the book, and the second sees those characters united with others in a very different version of the 1940 Battle of Britain.
In keeping with the female-positive message, almost all the art is by women, and the result is a fantastic looking graphic novel despite ever-changing artists. The sample pin-up is drawn by Mirka Andolfo, who supplies more pages in her fluid movement oriented style than anyone else, and it’s all excellent. Within the superhero action there’s space for some diversions, and Sandy Jarrell picks up on the Russian storybook style used by Stephen Mooney in Enlisted, to produce some decorative pages.
Not every character introduced in Enlisted is seen here – hard luck Harley Quinn fans – and Zatanna is confined to a single, but important role. Furthermore, not everything works as well. A sequence of Stargirl meeting her birth father is odd and out of place, yet her involvement in other scenes is first rate. There’s also too great an attempt to ensure all forms of attraction are covered, and the overtly flirty dialogue is forced in some cases when we’ve barely seen the character involved before. While Allies is a very good superhero graphic novel, it lacks the thrill of revealing the alternate versions of the characters so integral to the first collection, and is therefore ever so slightly the poor relation. The series continues with Uprising.