By Sholly Fisch, Rick Burchett, Dan Davis & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-3272-6 (TPB)
The Brave and the Bold premiered in 1955 as an anthology adventure comic featuring short complete tales about a variety of period heroes: a format reflecting the eraâ€™s filmic fascination with flamboyantly fanciful historical dramas. Devised and written by Bob Kanigher, issue #1 led with Roman epic Golden Gladiator, medieval mystery-man The Silent Knight and Joe Kubertâ€™s Viking Prince. Soon the Gladiator was alternated with Robin Hood, but the adventure theme carried the title until the end of the decade when the burgeoning costumed character revival saw B&B transform into a try-out vehicle like Showcase.
Used to premiere concepts and characters such as Task Force X: The Suicide Squad, Cave Carson, Hawkman and Strange Sports Stories as well as the epochal Justice League of America, the comic soldiered on until issue #50 when it found another innovative new direction which once again caught the publicâ€™s imagination.
That issue paired two superheroes – Green Arrow and Martian Manhunter – in a one-off team-up, and was followed by more of the same: Aquaman and Hawkman in #51, WWII â€œBattle Starsâ€ Sgt. Rock, Captain Cloud, Mme. Marie & the Haunted Tank in #52 and The Atom & Flash in #53.
The next instant union – Robin, Aqualad and Kid Flash – evolved into Teen Titans and after Metal Men/the Atom and Flash/Martian Manhunter appeared, a new hero debuted in #57-58: Metamorpho, the Element Man.
From then it was back to the increasingly popular superhero pairings with #59. Although no one realised it at the time, that particular conjunction – Batman with Green Lantern – would be particularly significantâ€¦.
A return engagement for the Teen Titans, issues spotlighting Earth-Two stalwarts Starman and Black Canary and Earth-Oneâ€™s Wonder Woman and Supergirl soon gave way to an indication of things to come when Batman returned to duel hero/villain Eclipso in #64: an early acknowledgement of the brewing TV-induced mania mere months away.
Within two issues (following Flash/Doom Patrol and Metamorpho/Metal Men), B&B #67 saw the Caped Crusader take de facto control of the title and a lionâ€™s share of team-ups. With the late exception of #72 and 73 (Spectre/Flash and Aquaman/Atom), the title was henceforth a place where the Gotham Gangbuster invited the rest of DCâ€™s heroic pantheon to come and playâ€¦
Decades later, Batman: The Animated Series – masterminded by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini in the 1990s – revolutionised the Dark Knight and subsequently led to some of the absolute best comic book adventures in his 80-year publishing history. It also led to a spin-off print titleâ€¦
With constant funnybook iterations and tie-ins to a succession of TV animation series, Batman has remained immensely popular and a sublime introducer of kids to the magical world of the printed page. One fun-filled incarnation was Batman: The Brave and the Bold, which gloriously celebrated the team up in both its all-ages small-screen and comicbook spin-off.
Shamelessly and superbly plundering decades of continuity arcana in a profusion of alliances between the Dark Knight and DCâ€™s lesser creations, the show was supplemented by a cool kidâ€™s periodical full of fun, verve and swashbuckling dash, cunningly crafted to appeal as much to the parents and grandparents as those fresh-faced neophyte kidsâ€¦
This stellar trade paperback and digital collection re-presents issues #1-6 of the second series – The All-New Batman: The Brave and the Bold – in an immensely entertaining all-ages ensemble suitable for newcomers, fans and aficionados of all ages. It was originally released between January and June 2011. Although absolutely unnecessary to the readerâ€™s enjoyment, a passing familiarity with the TV episodes will enhance the overall experience as will knowledge of the bizarre minutiae of 1960s and 1970s DC loreâ€¦
Crafted by Sholly Fisch, Rich Burchett & Dan Davis and following the format of the TV show, each tale opens with a brief vignette/prequel adventure before telling a longer tale. TA-NB:TB&TB (last time Iâ€™m typing that!) #1 sees the Caped Crimebuster battle Joker robotsÂ beside Black Canary before main feature â€˜Bottle of the Planetsâ€™ reunites him the â€œWorldâ€™s Finestâ€ partner in a devious mystery set in the last outpost of Krypton: the Bottled City of Kandorâ€¦
Having successfully solved the case of vanishing super-weapons, Batman teams with talking tiger Mr. Tawky-Tawny, magical (Captain) Marvel Shazam and his gods-powered family to save Christmas in â€˜That Holiday Feelingâ€™. That involves finding, fighting and foiling the emotion-bending Psycho-Pirate whilst #3 sees Flash (two, actually) and the Dark Knight hunting Mirror Master and the Mad Hatter through a mirror dimension inhabited by all the characters from Lewis Carrollâ€™s books. Curiouser and curiouser â€¦
Wonder Woman headlines in #4 as irate godling Eros seeks to teach her a lesson by using his arrows to instigate a wedding in â€˜The Bride and the Boldâ€™. The ceremony between Bat and Amazon sparks a lot of interest and – thanks to jealous Talia Al Ghul – a wave of super-villain attacks and the biggest wedding party brawl of all time before order and sense are restoredâ€¦
â€˜Man-Huntedâ€™ find Batman and Emerald jerk Guy Gardner fractiously allied to defeat a legion of the killer robots, but diverted to other realms to save a glorious enclave of nigh-forgotten 1960s alien beasts and sidekicks like Cryll and Zook(look them up, I double-dog dare ya…) from manic main man Loboâ€¦
Ending this excellent excursion through DCâ€™s daftest corridors is a beguiling contest between the Dark Knight Detective and Martian Manhunter Jâ€™onn Jâ€™onzz who tests his abilities against classic observation and deduction in â€˜Now You see Meâ€¦â€™; sadly the salutary learning experience goes slightly awry when the calamitous Clayface is accidentally exposedâ€¦
Despite being ostensibly aimed at TV-addicted kids, these mini-sagas are wonderful, traditional comics thrillers no self-respecting fun-fan should miss: accessible, splendidly rendered yarns for the broadest range of excitement-seeking readers. This is a fabulous rollercoaster ride confirming the now-seamless link between animated features and comic books. After all, itâ€™s just adventure entertainment in the end; really unmissable entertainmentâ€¦
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