The franchise, which began as a way to sell toys and dolls to a changing audience of young girls that wanted a more dynamic toyline, has evolved into something massive. It spans dolls, playsets, video games, picture books, a middle-grade book series, a series of short cartoons, several TV movies, and an upcoming original animated series reboot by Lauren Faust.
The series has played a huge role in determining mainstream perceptions of certain characters – Bumblebee and Katana definitely have a much higher profile, and good luck turning Harley and Ivy back into villains after their adorable appearances here.
The “spine” of the franchise, though, has been the DC Super Hero Girls graphic novel series written by Shea Fontana and drawn by Yancey Labat.
The series has released six volumes so far – Finals Crisis; Hits and Myths; Summer Olympus; Past Times at Super Hero High; Date With Disaster; and Out of the Bottle. These 120-page stories neatly combine tropes of high-school drama with a deep knowledge of superhero comics, featuring obscure characters like Rampage and Crazy Quilt. Although they’re not officially under the brand, in many ways this series feels like it inspired the upcoming DC Zoom line – one half of DC’s push into the bookstore market along with DC Ink.
Every volume of Fontana and Labat’s series expands the world a little more, adding new characters and concepts. It also jumps forward the narrative a bit, with events happening off-panel in the animated series, so that can be a bit jarring – you need to be in the franchise and watch the multimedia content to get the whole picture. That’s definitely the case for the seventh volume of the OGN series, arriving in comic book stores and bookstores September 26th.
DC Super Hero Girls: Search for Atlantis – Shea Fontana, Writer; Yancy Labat, Artist; Monica Kubina, Colorist; Janice Chang, Letterer
Ray – 9/10
DC Super Hero Girls: Search for Atlantis is geared towards an audience of younger readers, focusing its narrative on universal lessons of friendship, acceptance, and working together to harness your unique strengths.
Each volume of the graphic novel series focuses on different characters, and this installment turns the focus on some of the newer and less-used students at the school – Bumblebee, who narrates the book; Miss Martian; and new students Mera and Raven.
Mera has just joined the school as an exchange student from Atlantis and is still getting used to life on the surface – something that fellow immigrants Wonder Woman and Supergirl have gone through themselves. This connection has led to Wonder Woman and Mera getting very close – something that gets under the skin of WW’s best friend, Bumblebee.
The main plot kicks off with a class trip to Mera’s home in Atlantis, with Lucius Fox chaperoning, but it soon turns dramatic when Atlantis is missing. And we all know that when a city goes missing, there’s probably only one suspect – Brainiac.
The story heads into a deep-space adventure as the teen heroes chase the missing cities and wind up caught up in an intergalactic smuggling operation led by Kanjar Ro. A few notable things happen in this installment, including a team being formed out of Starfire, Raven, Beast Boy, and Cyborg. That seems like a familiar roster!
I enjoy what Fontana does with Starfire and Cyborg, although her Beast Boy maybe seems a bit too over the top – his animal shifting is annoying, but he comes off as a pest more than anything.
This title’s Raven is only recently out of the demonic realm ruled by Trigon, and Fontana doesn’t shy away from the fact that her social skills are not great. She’s prickly and new to social interaction, but her intentions are good and by the end of the OGN we start to see her warming up to her new classmates a bit. She seems to have a bit of a rougher edge to her than the Teen Titans or comic versions do, but it’s good to see it working itself out.
The character who has the most breakout moments in Search for Atlantis is Miss Martian. A very shy girl with a tendency towards turning invisible when surprised, she’s usually in the background of this series. Here, though, she takes the lead on the space mission and proves herself just as capable and brave as the rest of her team. The biggest surprise? Her interactions with a young version of Lobo who is definitely NOT Stupid Sexy Lobo from DC Comics.
Mera and Bumblebee are the starring characters in this installment, as their initial conflict over Wonder Woman’s friendship has to be put on the back burner when they become the only people who can free the captured Atlantis.
The action set pieces aboard Brainiac’s ship are probably the best in the entire series – DC Super Hero Girls tends to be a lot of fun with character interaction, but a little weaker with action. That’s not the case here, as the frantic shrinking-and-growing action in the final battle equates any main-line DC Comic I’ve read in a while for classic comic book thrills. But this is ultimately a book geared towards school-age kids, and I love the way it manages to instill a very important lesson without being preachy – friendship isn’t a limited resource, and adding a new person to a friend group only makes it stronger.
DC Super Hero Girls: Search for Atlantis is a fun, light-hearted book that I highly recommend for all ages, and the casual diversity of cultures and personalities that we see interacting in this book is something that all DC teen books should be emulating.
The entire franchise is being rebooted soon with a new take by Lauren Faust with a pared-down cast. I’m a little apprehensive about it because this current incarnation spearheaded by Fontana and Labat is pretty close to perfect.