Wednesday 1 June 2016

Review! (Graphic Novel Edition!) - Codename Baboushka, Vol 1: The Conclave of Death

Title: Codename Baboushka, Volume 1: The Conclave of Death

Author: Antony Johnston

Contributors: Shari Chankhamma, Simon Bowland

Genre: Graphic Novel, Spy, Gangster, Thriller, Crime

Series: Codename Baboushka

Amazon: UK - USA

A few starting notes:

I received a free digital review copy of this book via NetGalley. NetGalley provides review copies from publishers in exchange for fair and honest reviews.

I decided to give this a shot because of the cover: it has this kind of cool Russian-vibe going on, and it looked intriguing.

Sometimes, particularly with graphic novels, I really don't need any more than that.


Femme fatale Baboushka is retired from the Russian crime-boss game. Until US intelligence want her to do them a favour, that is.

They don't give her much of a choice.

So it's time for the kick-as* Russian countess to get back in the game - it's gonna be a bumpy ride.

Best bits:

A weird thing to start on, but I'm just gonna go with it: I really loved the chapter title pages.

They had that whole 007 title-sequence deal going on, with a colour-scheme of red, black, and white, and it just worked.

The style of the artwork in general had its own uniqueness - which is always good in a world where it's hard to be original in anything. I would've preferred a little more depth and shadow to the art, but that's a personal thing.

Baboushka herself is awesome - and I was impressed by how much she managed to move out of the shadow of that other leather-clad Russian comics heroine, The Black Widow.

The page layouts (and this sounds like such a geeky thing to talk about, but when something's done well, it's done well,) were really thought-out and affective.

The flow of the panels worked and there had clearly been some thought put into the backgrounds and the whole look and feel of the page. I appreciate it when some effort has been put in!

Also, the matryoshka (Russian nesting-doll) weapons rocked!

Not so great bits:

To the Russian elephant in the room: the similarities between Baboushka and The Black Widow.

They are there, no question about it - the leather outfit, the fact that they're Russian, the unbeatable skills, the mysterious back-story, the stand-out hair colour (Baboushka's is white where Widow's is red, but the affect is much the same,) etc. etc.

Criticisms of Baboushka as a Black Widow mirror-image are valid.

But somehow it doesn't feel like it when you're reading.

Yes, they are very similar - but Baboushka is not Widow, she has a different feel to her character, and a different story, and there's the potential for them to move further apart in the future.

Black Widow casts a big shadow - and while I think the extent to which Baboushka manages to move out from that is admirable, I can't help but think that Marvel's Natasha Romanoff will always be in the back of the reader's mind.

There's a some (very, very, mild) swearing ('bl**dy',) and a lot of gore and violence here - so if that's not your thing, then this is probably not for you.


I enjoyed this - it brought a spark of originality to a character who could just have been a cheap imitation.

Baboushka, though, may never shake of Natasha Romanoff's spectre.

I hope she does. Because she has the potential to be truly great.

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  1. I know there are a lot of similarities to Black Widow and this was a side of things that you didn't like... but it sounds to me as if it's the kind of thing I would really enjoy. Because of those similarities! And I'm happy to hear that the artwork is so good :D

    1. It's not that I didn't like the similarities so much as if I wanted Black Widow, I'd be reading Black Widow! Lol. But I was pleasantly surprised with this one. :)

  2. I saw this on NetGalley and thought about getting it myself!
    Seems like you really enjoyed it :) The matryoshka weapons sound pretty cool haha.

    Lipstick and Mocha

    1. I did and they were, lol :)

      Thanks for the comment :)


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