Posted by: Graeme McMillan on January 21, 2009
1. The title – SHOWCASE PRESENTS: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD BATMAN TEAM-UPS VOLUME 3 – feels as if DC was trying to win some kind of award for longwindedness; would it have killed them to just call it SHOWCASE PRESENTS: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD VOLUME 3 instead? I know, they’re probably trying to plan ahead for when they do Showcases of the non-Haney/Aparo issues, but still.
2. If, like me, you’ve been following the series eagerly up until this point, Bob Haney’s weird and poetic way with words has not only become normal by now, but also comforting in a way. “The Brave and Bold Beat continues! Miss it never!” Miss it never? It’s like Bizarro Stan Lee, but it works.
3. Also wonderful: The operatic, emotional Batman that Haney writes. Never mind the dour, grim Dark Knight people are familiar with, this is a Batman so filled with life that he’ll literally shake a fist in the air and swear an oath if needs be… but also one so secure in his manliness that he’s got no problem calling Aquaman beautiful at the end of one story.
4. To be fair to Bats, Aquaman is pretty beautiful in that particular story, thanks to Jim Aparo’s lovely, lovely art. Aparo’s work in this collection is variable; you can see when he’s rushed and hacking it out, at times, but there are also some pages that just make you wonder why he’s never really gotten his due as an artist. As someone who first came across his work in Batman and the Outsiders, but soon came to consider his Batman as “the” Batman of my childhood, it’s somewhat gratifying to see that the preteen me wasn’t entirely lacking in taste.
5. Something that’s very apparent in black and white: What a magpie Aparo could be, stylistically. There are some very Neal Adams-ish panels in this book, and during the Sgt. Rock issues, some great Joe Kubert-style touches in the inking.
6. The Batman scene in last week’s Final Crisis that everyone’s not been talking about? Add in some ridiculous narration and that could’ve easily been the opening to one of the stories in here; the follow-up, of course, would be precisely the same follow-up that Morrison is inevitably going to end up doing himself – Batman lost in either time (the Forever People solution) or the Life Trap (Morrison’s Mister Miracle solution), and fighting his way out by being the Ultimate Man. Morrison’s Batman was pretty much always Haney’s, but a little bit older and grumpier, anyway.
(6.5. I pretty much think that FINAL CRISIS #6 was Good, all of the problems with it, aside; I liked the choppy sense of immediacy that Morrison brings to the writing, the genuine sense of emergency and everything happening at once making it feel like a Crisis, if not necessarily the “Final” one… Whether that’s intentional or the result of rewrites, I’m not entirely sure, but it still worked for me; I also like that a lot of it happens off-panel, but not in such a way that you feel completely cheated, or at least, not yet. It’s a shame that deadline issues and stupid production mistakes – Since when was Mister Miracle white? How is Hourman in two places at once at the end of this issue? – have killed a lot of this series’ momentum, because it’s really kind of awesome, in its own way. That said, I still think that it’s definitely not the kind of thing that linewide event books are made of, and that it suffers from its more overt attempts to fit into that hole.)
7. Haney’s choices for guest-stars is enjoyably B-list, for the most part (Wildcat, Mister Miracle and the Metal Men all appear in more than one story in this collection), and when big-name heroes appear, it’s not as fun (Well, with the exception of the Green Lantern story).
8. That Green Lantern story, though… Man. It made me realize how much of this book – and the previous two collections -don’t fit into what we now think of as the superhero formula. For one thing, they’re mostly devoid of supervillains; lowlife hoods or criminal masterminds, sure, but guys in costumes with superpowers? Not so much. And, as over the top as the emotion may be, there’s no angst or soap opera; it’s literally “Here we are introducing the concept, here we are dealing with it, now we’re done.”
9. That economy – and, to be honest, also the way in which you get the idea that Haney might be ripping off whatever the movie or TV show he saw last night may have been (Seriously, how else do you get a story where Batman gets mentally tortured with the latest brainwashing techniques and almost breaks after following Green Lantern once he defects?) – really reminded me of early 2000AD, especially John Wagner and Alan Grant’s stuff before they started taking themselves more seriously. On the one hand, they were hacking the stuff out, trying to write as many pages as possible as quickly as possible while still being entertaining, but “hack” is too much of pejorative to use, because the stories are still readable – enjoyable – and successful in what they set out to do decades later. Someone needs to tell me what this kind of thing is called when you’re trying not to insult it (Pulpy? No, that’s not it, either).
10. If these collections were weekly, they wouldn’t come out quick enough for me. Fun, stupid, thrilling and never-really-giving-a-fuck, this book was Excellent.