Bettie Page: Unbound #1
David Avallone (writer), Scott Chantler (covers), Sheelagh D (color flats), Taylor Esposito (letters), Mohan and John Royle (covers), Julius Ohta (art/covers), Kelsey Shannon and David Williams (covers), Ellie Wright (colors)
June 5th, 2019
I said in my Dynamite Pubwatch that there’s something irresistible about the notion of Bettie Page: Time Traveler. And is there a universe where people don’t like the idea of the wholesome, stylish, and slightly naughty Ms. Page getting to let her hair down and slashing and hacking her way through a fantasy world? Dynamite asks that question in Bettie Page: Unbound #1, part of their new “Crisis on Infinite Betties” series.
“Crisis on Infinite Betties” spins off of the main Dynamite Bettie Page continuity, in which she is a spy working for the American government in the early 1950s. Bettie has been called in on many a special case, and her latest encounter—with Cthulhu demon Yog-Sothoth—has resulted in her becoming a target for evil. She has since received more of the prophecy from the Loch Ness Monster (who possessed a Scottish girl to speak to the pin-up queen) and been handed an amulet called the Tunguska Star for protection by a grateful alien.
Bettie’s been warned by all three of them that an ultimate conflict is coming, and she and her colleagues piece together the info and realize there are four artifacts that threaten the world’s existence—which means three more out there. She has no way to prepare herself when the sky cracks, a space demon emerges from a time portal in search of the Tunguska Star, and she impulsively jumps into the portal after them both. Bettie emerges on the other end dressed in a skimpy metal bikini, but this is no photo shoot—when she picks up the sword strapped to her back it feels right, and she feels powerful. But this is not her time, and the life she’s inhabiting is not her own—nor is the body. It’s Red Sonja’s! Unlike Sam Beckett, there’s no quantum leap she can make away from the destiny leading her to collect the other Tunguska Stars to save the universe.
Some books are just plain fun, and Bettie Page: Unbound totally fits that bill. It’s pretty much everything that the premise “Bettie Page leaps into Red Sonja’s body and kicks the butts of a bunch of sexist barbarians in a chain mail bikini” suggests it will be.
Avallone’s writing—usually on display in Dynamite’s Elvira series when not giving Bettie’s world a new shine—has been hit-and-miss with me, but here his combination of puns and snark and good adventure writing really shine here. Best line: there is a great little in-joke where Bettie rescues two women from slavery named “Gail” and “Symone” who eventually promise to sing songs of Bettie—a great reference to long-time Red Sonja scribe Gail Simone.
Ohta’s art, meanwhile, is the right combo of cheesecake-y good girl poses and bloody satisfying action pieces. The line work is great, Bettie looks like Bettie, and the action flows well. His original and mythological creatures are also fun and inventive.
In fact, the whole issue is a delightful piece of work that truly surprised me. Bettie Page: Unbound #1 is a big, fun, bouncing ball of joy and gooey sci-fi intrigue that provides a surprisingly smooth ride.