Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Brave and the Bold #1

The Brave and the Bold #1, April 2007, DC Comics
writer: Mark Waid
inker: George Perez
inker: Bob Wiacek
colorist: Tom Smith
letterer: Rob Leigh
editor: Joey Cavalieri

In the aftermath of DC Comics' latest Crisis, we readers are once again faced with the bittersweet inevitability of our favorite heroes' mortality, with the fact that these seemingly timeless characters are still vulnerable to any given generations' worth of writers' whims or editorial assessment. Some of these characters are icons that have endured for over half of a century, but for some reason, relatively recent trend in the grand scheme of this beloved medium dictate that death suddenly begets good storytelling. Yet, the bravery that would entail keeping these heroes in the ground recedes in light of the attention (and profit) inspired by said heroes' resurrections. Consider DC's "big seven;" to my knowledge, all but Batman have met the reaper (and not the Reaper from Year Two, either, you geeks, you) in some significant way -- significant implying a resultant "world without" arc -- unless a spine-shattering injury counts. Alas, these heroes return, sometimes sans judgement in the costume or haircut department, but eventually, things go back to normal. I, for one, usually bypass all that melodrama in the middle; if I abandon a series when the character perishes but return to it when they do, it's like the character never left. Yes, I deny myself the splendor of their return.

But, every now and then, crossovers like Infinite Crisis open a window not for a hero's resurrection, but for a title's, one of those Silver Age gems assumed lost to the high-priced collectors' market. Titles like The Brave and the Bold . . .

Honestly, despite my fanboy bitterness, I admit that the time is right for this old team-up book to return. Beloved characters like Hal Jordan, Ollie Queen, and Carter Hall (or however else he's spelling it these days) have returned, and while Brad Meltzer subjects them to head-shot soap operas about their feelings (What is he, a writer or something? Come on, except for the "big reveal" at the end, what happened in his last issue of Justice League of America?), they desperately need a forum to let their powers loose -- to stretch their super-legs now that they aren't six feet deep, or otherwise lost in some ethereal plane. Enter Mark Waid and George Perez, no strangers to DC's iconic stable. I don't know how this new incarnation of The Brave and the Bold came about, but I can imagine someone somewhere in the creative process proclaimed, "Why don't we team-up our favorite superheroes with the baggage of other titles' subplots or continuities? Why don't we make a title in which a couple of capes can get together and save the world and it's no big deal again?" With so many other titles not doing that, the time is right, I say.

In fact, Hal Jordan and John Stewart think so, too, as in the opening act of this issue they return from space swapping "best team-up" stories. (Spoiler warning: This paragraph summarizes the breadth of this issue, so skip it if you want to be surprised by the details.) Of course, Hal wins and saves himself from deep-sector patrol but on his way back to Earth discovers a fresh dead body floating in orbit. When Green Lantern contacts Batman (Who else would you call?), they each discover that they and dozens of other heroes have encountered the same phenomenon -- nay, the same man dead practically on their doorstep. Following a fight in the Batcave with a yellow monster, to which Hal's ring is no longer helpless, the heroes take their investigation to Las Vegas, where underworld hopeful Roulette reveals her possession of the Book of Destiny. She doesn't like having it, evident by her vain efforts to burn it. This adventure hits the fan when Bats and GL are attacked by aliens that are aware of their skills, even if their knowledge is a tad outdated (i.e. the yellow monster), who reveal that the murder victim was another alien whose ability to duplicate himself made him a good thief. They hired him to swipe the book for them, but the truth of the book convicted him to deny their offer -- hence, his death. So, the aliens swipe the book and Batman and Green Lantern must pursue them to the planet Ventura. To be continued.

Nothing but action and cosmic peril throughout this issue, as one should expect from a series called The Brave and the Bold. After all, if the odds weren't challenging, what's to be so brave about?

Truly, Mark Waid and George Perez are masters at the superhero adventure, but specifically, at these characters' cores. Hal Jordan is a fearless as ever, Bruce Wayne is as complex as ever, but their quirks aren't so assaulting as to dissuade readers that aren't familiar with the intricacies of DC's stable. In fact, what better way to get to know these guys, even outside of their own books, than by having them simply talk to each other, even while they're working -- if throwing big pennies at a ten-story monster is work. Waid's dialogue is rife with little truths about each character, things that only they would respectively say, responses to circumstances that are true to their canon. Interestingly, I wonder if Waid means to explore the longevity of these heroes; for instance, when Green Lantern offers Batman a will-powered lock pick, Bruce answers, "You could if this were 1967, but we deal in biometric security these days." Nice. Hal may know a thing or two about interstellar combat, but Batman has his feet firmly planted on the ground. Further, Perez's visuals are so perfect they seem almost stenciled from his resume of influential works. If I could criticise anything, I'd suggest a varied inking style, something that adds a different dynamic to Perez's classic standards. Maybe a guest inking spot by Bill Sienkiewicz, just to mix things up. But I may be too bold in saying so.

Bottom line, if you like superheroes and their endless melodramatics, you'll dig The Brave and the Bold. Just the title alone boasts that bravado we geeks love; it's not "The Brave and Bold," but The Brave and the Bold, valiance worthy of its own article, darn it! Further, you don't have to know what else is going on in the DC Universe to enjoy it. For creators to offer such an alternative . . . I don't know what's more brave, in this crossover epic market, I'll tell you what.

1 comment:

Aaron said...

I, for one, as so very happy to see this iconic title return. I know that it simmered just under the DC editorial radar for many a year... I think the original plan was to have Kevin Smith run with the title... However, a contract with Marvel and Kevin's "quirk" about not finishing a book he starts put The Brave and the Bold on hiatus...

I know that Mark Waid has also been itching to get this book back as well. His work hasn't been as good as it was a few years ago, but he still knows the capes better then most. (I consider Geoff Johns the king of superhero books)...

However, the saddest (and unfortunately likely) reason I heard this book came back was to give George Perez 1 last ride unto the breach as it were. I have heard he isn't doing as well as he used to... Well, if your last book is the Brave and the Bold... Then at least go out with the icons!

(Although topping JLA/Avengers would be hard to beat)...