Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Flashback Five on Brave and the Bold 158

 Matt brings us a new Flashback Five to show us five cool things about Brave and the Bold 158

Today's FB5 is itself is not a particularly Earth-shattering chapter for either the characters or for the Brave and The Bold series but it is an old favorite from my childhood. Much to my surprise looking back Wonder Woman was a rather frequent guest-star in the original Brave and The Bold. This particular issue would mark her last appearance in the series before it was eventually canceled in 1983. This issue stood out to me when going through the Brave and the Bold series for two reasons. One it was actually one of the earliest appearances of Wonder Woman I ever saw with the other one being an earlier issue of her own series where she fought Angle Man and the tabloid sized Superman vs. Wonder Woman special. Up to that point I mostly knew her from the Lynda Carter TV series. This issue was also the first time I ever saw artwork by the legendary Jim Aparo. So here we go with 5 things I liked about The Brave and The Bold #158 starring Batman and Wonder Woman!

1 - The cover. This cover really struck me as a kid. The expressions are great, and the overall effect leaves you wondering what could so inspire fear in our heroes.

Now in comics it is so common to have the cover simply be a somber pose or a painted pin-up but I think the strength of this cover is a case-in-point about why your cover should be reflective of the story inside. What are they afraid of? The cover makes you want to pick it up to find out. That's a covers job! Ideally and with few exceptions, every cover should be telling the reader why they should give enough of a damn to spend their money on it!

2 - Hero interaction. Bruce and Diana really feel like old friends with a genuine affection for each other.

It's subtle enough your mind could take it the romantic route or you can just take as two veteran heroes who have been through a lot of battles together who are friends and respect each other greatly. Going back to it now, it is such a nice change of pace from the constant stream of clashing egos and pre-teen level snark between heroes in modern comics. Batman is as much of a creature of the night as he needs to be without being required to be a miserable grimdark jerk.

3 - Jim Aparo artwork If Neal Adams defined (or perhaps refined) the most iconic look for Batman, Jim Aparo set it in stone.

Aparo's art is easily the strongest thing about the issue. Batman and Wonder Woman look excellent as does his take on them as Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince. His panel composition moves the story along well and his action scenes are packed with dynamic energy. Plus I just like the look of his figures in this. Aparo's Bruce Wayne is handsome but he has a certain angular quality to his features that makes him look readily distinct from Clark Kent despite being a square-jawed fellow with black hair.

4 - Flashback or Deja-Vu (oddly he seems to be referred to by both names in the comic) is a lame villain BUT at least he had an interesting weapon.

I don't mind having one shot or d-list villains around because they help contrast your Lex Luthors and Jokers to show why they are the heroes greatest adversaries. Plus think about a police officer. Not every criminal they encounter is a master criminal, gun wielding psycho, or even a capable thief. If every super villain that shows up is an all powerful bruiser or shadowy master manipulator it has less impact. However, given his basic gimmick I really have to wonder why they didn't just have Scarecrow be the villain of the issue or perhaps even having Johnathan Crane being Deja-Vu's supplier.

5 - James Bond vibe. I enjoy it when there are adventures for Batman that takes him out of his usual Gotham City environment so long as it's not happening all the time.

A vehicle like the Brave the Bold series is actually quite perfect that as is Batman being in the Justice League or having to battle Ras Al Ghul. Also given the level of wealth and influence Bruce Wayne has it makes sense that he would be involved in the kind of scenario depicted in the comics involving a co-operation between U.S. and French business interests.

The issue has some other problems. For example Deja Vu being able to sneak up on Batman and Wonder Woman *in a helicopter*.

Also as much as I enjoy Aparo's art on the book there doesn't seem to be a lot of thought actually put in to the design of Deja Vu. I think at the very least they could have gotten a decent low tier villain out of him was just a touch more work. As is though I still the think it was a fun read with some outstanding artwork and proof that you really don't need a big bloated multi-part crossover event or an excuse to get two heroes to be at each other's throats in order to make it feel to the reader like these characters exist together in the same world.

Have a great day!

- Matt

1 comment:

JimShelley said...

Matt, great article! Like you, I love Brave and the Bold as it allowed us to see Batman put on different hats from time to time, like the James Bond vibe you mentioned.


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