Monday, June 4, 2012

The Classics - Brave and the Bold #197

It's a rare treat to see a scene in a comic that genuinely surprises - but more than any other issue of The Brave and the Bold, this one had just such a moment.

Even more surprising, the moment had very little to do with the story.

The issue is another tale of the Batman of Earth-2, a flashback tale set before his (then) recent demise in a Justice Society story. This story tells about a fight with the Scarecrow when Batman was unable to work with his usual allies - Robin, Batwoman, Alfred - so he turned to an old enemy, Catwoman, for help.

It's a surprisingly touching tale, expertly crafted by writer Alan Brennert, as Bruce and Selina find themselves drawn together.

The scene that's so shocking comes about when Batman suffers an injury to his back. Catwoman administers First Aid, but is shocked when she sees his back - not because of the injury, but because his back is covered with scar tissue (it's not pictured, which is a clever way to let our imaginations fill in the horror). Batman replies, "Oh. That. Occupational hazard. Fifteen years of fighting will do that to a person."

I was surprised. No matter how many injuries they receive fighting the bad guys, we don't think of superheroes as showing the marks from those battles. It made Batman more real, more sympathetic and more heroic.

The art is by Joe Staton and George Freeman, and it's excellent work. The layouts are energetic, the art brings back the Golden Age without being a slavish imitation of the art styles, and Freeman's inks complement Staton's pencils, removing some of the more cartoonish aspects and giving it a good dramatic heft.

The end was near for this title, so perhaps the creative teams were inspired to create great comics before the clock ran out. This certainly qualifies as one of the best in the run of The Brave and the Bold.

We'll talk about the final issue - tomorrow.

Grade: A



Norrin J. Powell said...

I live in San Diego,...actually Tijuana, Mexico now. But, I'd lived in San Diego for the better part of 23 years. While living there I most recently shopped at Southern California Comics. I was in San Diego and dropped into So Cal Comics and stumbled upon this issue in their dollar bin.

As a HUGE Batman fan, I've lately been longing for the older stories and gorgeous art from years past. I agree with your commentary. The story was outstanding and the art beautiful. I like how you mentioned the scars on Bruce's back left to the reader's imagination. Sometimes less can absolutely be more. I'm hoping to find more stories of this quality with art that's as visually pleasing. Awesome issue!

Chuck said...

Norrin, I love those finds in the discount bins! And when looking for back issues, as a friend once said, "When in doubt, Bat out!"

Bobby Wright said...

This is still one of my favorite comics ever, along with Brave & Bold # 182 when Batman teamed up with the Golden-Age Robin (or Robin the Ex-Boy Wonder lol).