Hail to the King!
A curious hodgepodge of comics like Y: The Last Man, Wasteland and The Walking Dead, as well as films such as Six-String Samurai and Children of Men, Johnny Zito and Tony Trov’s Zuda webcomic The Black Cherry Bombshells is a satirical farce peppered with references to Star Trek, The Tempest, Battlestar Galactica, the musical oeuvre of OutKast and even the character design and profession of DC Comics character Zatanna.
To say that The Black Cherry Bombshells depends entirely on cultural references and post-apocalyptic precedent, however, would be to sell it short. There is a sort of manic energy emanating from both the writing and the artwork that sets it apart from its predecessors, making it not unlike David Lapham’s late, lamented Young Liars in many ways. Like Young Liars, Black Cherry Bombshells immediately rockets you into the action with little-to-no explanation or history of the world the readers find themselves immersed in; that will, as in Lapham’s work, come later, and who’s to say if what is represented is the whole truth, a partial truth, or even an outright falsehood?
Arguably, the most admirable element of Bombshells is its multi-faceted take on women. In this world, all men have become zombies (watch out for, among others, an amusing cameo from Tom Jones), so, obviously, all the characters of consequence are women. Not since the aforementioned Y: The Last Man has there been a comic with such a non-stereotypical, well-rounded take on not just one female character, but an entire cast of them. Yes, you have your rough-and-tumble brawlers so common in the form, you have your requisite lesbians, etc., but Zito and Trov go beyond that with the invention of characters like “The King”, an Elvis-obsessed female ganglord who dresses and sometimes speaks like the late performer, unintentionally still hanging on to the long-deceased patriarchy she grew up in when she crowned herself “King”. A high-ranking military figure and a revered—some would say holy—child, both obviously female, only add to this fascinating fictional landscape.
From a sociological standpoint, it’s interesting to note that there isn’t even a semblance of a male POV character in Black Cherry Bombshells as there was in Y, so Zito and Trov’s look at a female-run world, complete with government coups, gangs, assassination attempts, religious cults and more post-apocalyptic staples might be a unique first in the history of sci-fi/fantasy. Surprisingly or not, aside from the zombies and the King’s apparent “mastery over death”, the world presented in Bombshells is shockingly similar to reality, and it only appears to lack living men. The over-the-top cartoonish art is used, quite intelligently, not just to highlight the cartoonish nature of the stories being told, but of the real-life lunacy that has inspired it. Plot elements involving the desired extradition of an alleged murderess/spy and the controversial issues of gay marriage and interracial relationships, as well as a plot point reminiscent of the Russian Revolution (and reflected just as brilliantly in George Orwell’s seminal Animal Farm) almost come off as fantastical thanks to the satirical nature of the story and the artwork, and that’s part of what makes Black Cherry Bombshells work so well: the disconnect between reality and fantasy is there, but the series makes the rather bold choice of highlighting the fiction and submerging the factual issues at its core, making Bombshells an intriguing, if at first tough to swallow, reading experience.
A fascinating experiment at the very least and, at best, a bold vision of the future of comics, The Black Cherry Bombshells is well worth following wherever it will lead its readers…which, hopefully, is to the ends of the Earth.