Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Bold and the Brave

I've been struggling lately.

I've been trying to figure the proper place to review my first DC comic. Anyone who's paid attention knows that every comic review I've done so far has been of a Marvel comic book (technically Marvel Zombies vs. the Army of Darkness was a collaborative between Marvel and Dynamite Entertainment, but I digress) and the reason for that is simple. I don't usually read DC comics.

This can be traced to when I first started reading classic comics. my favorite character as an uninitiated reader was Captain America. I knew next to nothing about his history, though, and my colleagues Steve and Elmo thereby embarked me on the classic Avengers runs, when characters such as Giant-Man and Hercules were regular characters, and Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver were just getting their legacies started. Avengers led eventually to Fantastic Four, Thor, Iron Man, X-Men, Cable/Deadpool. She-Hulk, Nova, Thunderbolts, and the like. Note the relationship. All Marvel titles. Steve has been especially adamant of making me take notice of what he firmly believes is the superior comic company. Slowly, I've been accepting reads of several titles, not the least of which were the vaunted super-groups, Justice League and the Justice Society of America. I've been pleasantly surprised by some of it, though I can't in good faith agree that DC is that much better than Marvel, especially since the latest Justice League run has been even by Steve's admission pretty bad, and when the 52 and Countdown series have been either partly or completely convoluted to the uninitiated.

But that brings me to one title that DC has put out that is not bad. In fact, it's been very, very good! The Brave and the Bold is the classic formula of a superhero match-up, in which DC heroes pair-up in stand-alone stories that follow a central story that eventually brings everybody together for a big showdown. So, in one issue you'll have Supergirl teamed up with Lobo, which turns to Batman and the Legion of Superheroes, which turns to Green Lantern and Batman, all without breaking the central continuity.

In The Brave and the Bold 7, a pair of very similar heroes team up in a true stand-alone story, as Wonder Woman and Power Girl team up in a tale involving a second-string villain, the Philosopher's Stone, and red kryptonite! It all begins in what we can only assume is Egypt, since we're never told exactly where. Wonder Woman and Power Girl are duking it out with what must be a battalion of resurrected mummies. Now, let's face it. Mummies are not going to be much of a threat to these two. Wonder Woman, with her super strength and indestructable bracelets, is the toughest woman in the business. And let's not forget Power Girl, seemingly a second-string superhero but for the fact that she's basically a female Superman without the weakness to this universe's kryptonite (since she's from another universe's Krypton). There should be conceivably no stronger all-female pairing in the entire comics industry, and the pair should have no problem with any obstacle placed in their path.

Well, that's only about half true. Power Girl seems to have an authority problem, as she doesn't exactly take well to any idea of Wonder Woman being the brains of the outfit. She prefers to punch her way through an army of the undead, wheras WW naturally carries the wisdom of Athena so she doesn't rely overly on brute strength. After Wonder Woman's idea for stopping the mummy threat pans out, the two are about to part ways, Wonder Woman back to her Justice League, Power Girl back to her Justice Society. Retreiving WW's Lasso of Truth from the rubble, PG is in the midst of handing it to her when Diana asks her:

"Where are you off to now?"

"To murder Superman in his Fortress."

Naturally this brings on the "uncomfortable silence" as neither woman can quite believe that those words came out of PG's mouth. When both regain their composure, WW believes that Kara has obviously been brainwashed, and has to physically restrain her with the Lasso to try and figure out who did this, and why. She finds a blank spot in PG's memory, and only a few stray words make it. One is of special interest to Wonder Woman: "Megistus."

This leads the duo to the Royal Library of Alexandria, where Diana explains the legend of Megistus. Apparently, he was a powerful sorcerer who had the usual power trip and stole the treasures of the Library with the intent of becoming the most powerful sorcerer ever. He hadn't been seen in ages, and for that matter, neither had the Library, supposedly lost in time. But, with a few magic talismans and oils, Diana solves THAT problem with what amounts to very little effort.

There's more, but I wouldn't want to ruin the surprise for any of you, would I? Really, I have almost no problems with this issue, or this run as a whole. The pairing of these two powerhouse females is truely inspired, with the wise and noble Wonder Woman almost bickering constantly with Power Girl, who is much less mature, more likely to lead with her fists. She's almost at a teenager level of immaturity, she has all this power but she doesn't have the training or will to use it wisely. Honestly, could you say you'd be different? You have the power to beat the living crap out of bad guys, and when you face off against someone who for all intents and purposes can't be beaten by brute strength alone, wouldn't you be bitter and angry, too? She also seems to have a natural dislike for Wonder Woman, as if she thinks WW believes she's so much better than PG. It's a perfect imperfect match. The Bob Wiacek (Omac Project) and Tom Smith (JLA/Avengers, JSA) artwork is very good, clean and uncluttered. and the writing by Mark Waid (Legion of Superheroes, 52) and George Perez (too many works to account) is great. A story of conflict and resolution at it's best, and despite a few shortcuts to keep things moving at a brisk pace, it's done very well.

I only had a few complaints about this book. One: a poor attempt to tie it in to the main storyline at the end was mostly unnecessary. The inclusion of the Challengers of the Unknown as a whole is pretty confusing to me, but that may be mainly because I don't know anything about them. But my biggest complaint about this title was the 8 page "advertisement" in the very middle of the book for a certain fish-shaped cracker. It's easily removed, and doesn't take any energy to skip, but 8 pages??? What, is DC that hard up for cash? At least when Marvel takes a couple pages to advertise items, it's usually their own merchandise or an upcoming series.

The Brave and the Bold is a solid series that has successfully integrated both great storytelling and compelling action, and they continue this trend in issue 7. If you're going to read DC, this had better be one of the titles you're picking up on a regular basis. If not, now's the time to get in gear.


steve said...

so we're in agreement, then: Marvel sucks. Good.

Kevin Caron said...

George Perez it the artist. Bob Wiacek and Todd Smith are the tracers - er, I mean, inkers.

Gianni said...

I thought that, too. Officially, all it credits George Perez for is "storytelling" along with Waid. Perez IS credited with the cover art, which is also fantastic. If I'm wrong, whoops. I can only work with what I'm given.

Gianni said...

Steve: No.

Kevin Caron said...

Okay - if you're gonna write a comics blog, you oughta be able to detect George Perez art, with or without the credits. He's credited with 'storytelling' because he's co-plotting as well as drawing (I assume).

Fer chissakes, will somebody give the poor boy a stack of vintage Wolfman/Perez Teen Titans comics to read? Steve? Hellmo?

steve said...

Oh, the early issues of those Perez Titans issues are SO gay ... the guys all have Knight Rider haircuts and wear speedoes at pool parties during which they hang all over EACH OTHER, totally ignoring all the pug-nosed flat-chested women all around them... but I can attest to the fact that Gianni has seen - although perhaps not studied (Kevin, being a comic artist himself, is naturally a bit testier on the subject than most) - Perez' GREAT run on the Avengers from a few years ago, the one that's now immortalized in those three massive green-spined tomes. Maybe I should have an intern run them over to him ...

Elmo said...

I'd lick Terra's pug-nose any night of the week!

Gianni said...

Ah, Avengers Assembled... Good times. sigh.