The Webcomic Overlook #83: The Black Cherry Bombshells

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Lately, I’ve been in the mood for some power. But not just any power.

GRRL power.

Or, uh, GRRL PWWR. You know what they say: girls rule, boys drule. Amirite, ladies?

“Grrl Power,” not to be confused with “Girl Power,” was probably conceived some time in the 90’s, with the Spice Girls as the chief spokespeople. The main tenets of the Grrl Power movement seemed to be tights, tattoos, mountain biking, and rollergirling. It was a win-win scenario for everyone. Girls found a convenient template for which to indulge their fantasies about rebelling against authority without, you know, any of the actual rebellion. And boys got to stare at gals in bare midriffs and fishnet stockings. Win-win!

And you just can’t get more Grrl Power than the estrogen-fueled world of Zuda Comics’
The Black Cherry Bombshells
. It’s set in the world where women are smarter, more courageous, and more athletic than men. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the men are all zombies.

And the literal kind, not the kind that watches the NFL all day and never takes out the garbage eventhough you’ve asked, like, a million times.

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The Black Cherry Bombshells were created by John Zito and Anthony Trovarello. They’re joined by Sasha Borisich (illustrator), John Dalliare (colorist), and several other folks with pseudonyms listed on the Zuda site whose roles I’m not too familiar with. I will be referring to these guys collectively as Team Bombshell. The comic, about an all-girl gang, won the Zuda competition in March 2008 and will be the third Zuda graphic novel in print.

Queen Latifah once joked that if the world didn’t have men, you’d be left with a bunch of fat, happy ladies. Not so in The Black Cherry Bombshells. Sure, there are some fatties, but none of them look particularly happy. Their world is one where women have all turned to lesbianism because, thanks to the zombie apocalpyse, men have gotten far grosser and far more undead than usual. This makes me wonder: are these ladies worried about the future of humanity, since there are no children or any obvious means to procreate? Are there squads of rifle-toting pediatricians who brave zombie warrens to extract genetic material? Will this lead to a future of zombie-human hybrids? Or did everyone just accept that humanity will pretty much be dying out in a generation, anyway?

But, hell, you’ll find answers to those questions in Brian K. Vaughn’s Y: The Last Man. The Black Cherry Bombshells doesn’t take itself quite so seriously.

The Black Cherry Bombshells is the name of a Vegas-based gang. Alcohol is the major commodity, and the gals traverse the apocalyptic landscape to collect every last drop of precious booze. There are several characters: a black one, a redhead one, and one who looks like a TV mom you’d find on 60’s sitcoms. Those characters are pretty superfluous, though. The story mainly focuses on two main characters: Regina, the leader, and Megan, one of her newest underlings.

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Regina sports a stylish scar across her mouth that looks like a zipper in some pictures, braces in others. That’s because a long time ago her mother, a great warrior, was killed by the local crime boss. Regina’s face was disfigured as an example. As a leader, she forges alliances with regional rivals — some of whom she had sworn to kill — to ensure the survival of the Bombshells team.

Megan, who looks somewhat Asian, is more of an enigma. We begin The Black Cherry Bombshells with Megan’s induction: she runs through a rival gang’s territory to prove her worth. We watch her risk her life, several times, on some of the most dangerous missions. She often works closely with Regina. But is Megan fully committed to the Bombshells? We come to realize that she had a position on a rival squad. She may a spy, working to destroy the Bombshells from within. She may be a double-agent, only working with her old team to ensure the survival of a comrade.

The comic is set in future Las Vegas. A fine, surreal setting, one that’s never done complete justice in movies and TV. The city of Las Vegas is like Pee-Wee’s playhouse gone mad: a weird mix of a theme park for adults and the most god-awful tackinessyou can imagine. Caesar’s Palace, for example, is packed to the hilt with frescoes, marble statues, an a fake cloud ceiling… but that’s only down the hall from cavernous rooms where the overpowering stench of cigarettes and carpet perfume makes everything smell like your grandma’s bridge night. It’s why I love shows and movies that feature Las Vegas prominently: CSI, Ocean’s 11 and 13, even Con Air. Las Vegas is a glittery, tawdry city smack-dab in the middle of vast expanses of nothingness that shouldn’t exist but somehow does.

In The Black Cherry Bombshells, the casinos become more than just places where people throw their money around. Each casino is now a whole new world. The former sports-gambler dreamhouse known as Ceasar’s Palace is now a frightening labyrinth teeming with zombie life. The majestic Luxor now serves as a palace for one of Las Vegas’ gang leaders who fashions herself as Egyptian royalty. Even the characters themselves take on a Vegas fashion sensibility. The major crime boss of Vegas — and the Black Cherry Bombshell’s chief enemy — calls herself The King and dresses up like a famous good ol’ boy from Memphis who invented rock n’ roll.

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Being a zombie, by the way, doesn’t let men off the hook. A few humorous scenes show that the boys are sometimes dressed up in snazzy suits and used as support troops for the ladies. Other times, they’re chained up and used as pets. Or they’re being dumped into gladiator arenas for entertainment. Yup, employment opportunities are pretty good for men after the zombie apocalypse.

While the Bombshells fight a constant war with The King’s gang — which include a tall lady who tastefully walks around in a luchadore mask — a new threat emerges from the West. A woman named Ma Rizzo arrives in Vegas from Reno. She shows up with an entourage of well dressed gals all clad in white, and she’s itching to expand her territory. And they’re packing heat. The Bombshells get caught in the crossfire, and it’s not long before they realize they have to choose sides.

The weakpoint of The Black Cherry Bombshells is the art. It’s an eyesore. At least four people are on Team Bombshell, and these doodles are all we get? I’m not suggesting going to the cheesecake artist that Comic With Reading‘s Johanna Draper Carlsson and Fleen‘s Gary Tyrrell don’t quite approve of. (Although, in my opinion, Sheldon Verra’s art is several exponential magnitudes better than the actual art by Sacha Borisich.) Nor am I bringing up that old debate over whether or not art done in a simpler, more childlike style is any good. Art is subjective. I just find The Black Cherry Bombshells to be subjectively awful.

The characters have tiny bodies with heads that are twice the size. They’re like bobbleheads, except that those cheap ballgame tchotchkes actually look like they have necks that can support their massive heads. Half the time, the characters in The Black Cherry Bombshells have heads that don’t even look like they’re connected to the body. (It does provide a handy meal for zombies, though. Buffet-sized brains with easily detachable necks!) The faces, despite being the size and bearing heft of watermelons, display such a limited range of emotion that 95% of the time you get the sense that the characters are stoned out of their minds.

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Moving along with my list of complaints, I have to say that for a zombie comic, the zombie infestation seems to sparse, at best. Regular Las Vegas is more zombie-infested than this comic. (Ba-dum-bum!) There are scenes that look like they were meant to be filled to the gill with zombies. The space, though, is drawn too large, the characters don’t scale properly, and the overall effect is too much empty space.

Still, Team Bombshell juggles several off-beat elements (zombies, grrl power, the Mad Max version of the end of the world, gangs) and somehow makes everything fit together naturally. It just that the art is a great leveler: the plot elements may be strange, but the art is stranger (and uglier) still, overpowering any sense of wonder or hunger to find out what’s next.

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)

About El Santo

Somehow ended up reading and reviewing almost 300 different webcomics. Life is funny, huh? Despite owning two masks, is not actually a luchador.

Posted on June 21, 2009, in 3 Stars, action webcomic, adventure webcomic, The Webcomic Overlook, WCO Big Review, webcomics, zombie webcomic and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Nice review of one of the more solid and consistent web-comics out there. Zito is living proof than surviving comic writers (especially web-comic-) must double as producers in every sense of the term.

    (One small point of clarification though- Grrl Power was spawned from the Riot Grrl livelihood, which was itself born of the ska-punk movement in the 80’s. Tank Girl was far more of a spokesmodel for the cause than those Brit chicks.
    I know this only because of a long line of Riot Grrl exes. bim skalla bim = Yummy!)

  2. If Delos had assigned this homework when comic fencing was up and running, I would have cried myself to sleep all week.

    I think if I made up a list of everything I cannot stand in comics, you’d have listed most of them here.

  3. Hi mates, good post and pleasant arguments commented here, I am really enjoying by these.

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