The Brave and the Bold #29
“Lost Stories of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artist/Cover artist: Jesus Saiz
Colors: Trish Mulvihill
Letters: Rob Leigh
Editor: Joey Cavalieri
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US
While I’ve had mixed reactions to writer J. Michael Straczynski’s comics work when he first come to prominence in the industry, some of his more recent efforts have really won me over. He kindled an interest in me in Marvel’s incarnation of Thor, a character I’ve rarely found interesting in the past, and his unfinished limited series The Twelve struck me as a compelling read, blending a more thoughtful, modern approach to super-hero storytelling with a respect and love for the championess of the Golden Age. So when Straczynski jumped ship and signed up with DC, I was expecting a continuation of the kind of creative strength he’s exhibited in recent years. Instead, we got the Red Circle books (a major disappointment) and a couple of middling issues of The Brave and the Bold. To my relief, a more inspired Straczynski joins us for this latest issue, in which he explores the never-ending nature of genre storytelling.
The Batman discovers that the urban myth about an urban golem in the 1960s that arose to help and protect the people is true when he discovers the Geek in the rubble of a demolished building in Gotham City. The creature clearly means no harm, and despite the fact it has nowhere to go, Gotham’s protector allows it to go. As Brother Power discovers how deeply the world has changed in the four decades that have passed since he last walked the earth, the Batman investigates a series of arsons, and his pursuit of the man responsible will lead his path to cross with that of Brother Power once again.
The photorealistic approach that artist Jesus Saiz brings to this title finally suits the subject matter. The moodiness he instills in his artwork and the softer quality he brings to the characters’ faces serve to reinforce the emotional, resonant tone for which the writer strives with his script. I enjoyed how he manages to capture the Silver Age look of Brother Power but tempers it with a more convincing, modern look for the revived hero. Not surprisingly, Trish Mulvihill’s colors add a lot to the storytelling as well. She immerses the visuals in dark tones, conveying the less hopeful atmosphere of the 2009 scenes, and conversely, she turns to brighter, primary colors to capture the ’60s. I also loved the glowing black-and-white tones she employs to bring the Frankenstein movie airing on TV to life.
When Brother Power is initially resurrected, his dialogue consists mainly of a string of slogans and colloquialisms from the ’60s, and there was something intriguing about the empty repetition of those words. I suspect Straczynski might be commenting about how words that once represented a movement of peace and togetherness have come to be robbed of that meaning. Now they’re used to hawk cars and gum today.
The opening two-page sequence — in which we see a young Bruce Wayne watching an old monster movie while his adult self narrates, sharing information about the making of such films — grabbed my attention right away, mainly due to the metatextual approach. Straczynski speaks of how screenwriters behind the old Frankenstein movies would try to make it impossible for the next colleague to bring the monster back from the dead as the series continued. This fits with the Geek’s artificial nature and his apparent rise from the dead, but it seems clear that the writer is speaking more directly about the impermanent nature of death in super-hero comics. He points out that it’s part and parcel of the genre, just as it’s been for other forms of genre fiction, even in other media, for so long. The fact that Brother Power is resurrected in the remnants of a toy store could be interpreted as Straczynski’s suggestion that these characters are toys to be played with, both by the creators and by the audience.
As appealing and enjoyable as Straczynski’s plot and script are, they’re not subtle. His point is summed up in one page in the latter part of the book, as he compares typical scenes from the ’60s and today and how divergent they are. Ultimately, it’s the final panel on that page — featuring a campus full of students who’ve isolated themselves those around them with technology — that really drives home the writer’s suggestion that in the 21st century, we’re in danger of losing touch with our own humanity by losing touch with our neighbors. Brother Power’s role in the story is to deliver the moral, to tell us that it’s not to late to give peace a chance, to come on people now, smile on your brother. 8/10
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