Posted by: David Uzumeri on October 26, 2009
I read a lot of comics.
As a general rule, I at least keep up with most of the Big Two shared-universe titles, and I’m not utterly averse to J. Michael Straczynski as a writer. The first half of his Amazing Spider-Man run, Supreme Power, Thor – he’s written comics I enjoyed thoroughly and am glad I paid money for.
He also wrote this.
I’m used to, and have a certain respect for, well-intentioned, interesting or ambitious failures. It’s why I’m still spending money for Dark Wolverine, after all. To really earn my ire, a comic has to be completely fucked up not just in the execution, but all the way back to the project’s creative germ. This is one of those comics.
Told with all the excitement and wit of a PSA capping off a Saturday morning cartoon from 1995, The Brave and the Bold #28 is a stupendous exercise in the time-honored field of insulting your audience. It’s astonishing that just twelve issues ago this entire book’s premise was based on fun team-ups; this is just about the least fun Barry Allen time travel story you’ll ever read, as Straczynski somehow manages to turn a story about a time-travelling forensics cop shooting up Nazis into a completely banal morality play about — I don’t know what. Support Our Troops? America Is Complicated? Killing In War Sure Is Ugly But It Is Necessary? Anyone past the age of five doesn’t need a fucking superhero comic to beat that into their brains, especially when said superhero comic doesn’t even bother using metaphors and instead just places the main character smack in the middle of World War II.
While there, he meets up with the Inglourious BasterdsBlackhawks, who are not flying planes for bullshit handwaved reasons and don’t take very well to Barry Allen’s “not grinning like an idiot while perforating holes in scores of Nazis” mentality. So what does Barry Allen do, stuck in this time period with a broken leg but still able to use the entirety of the rest of his power set? He lets the Blackhawks call him a pussy, and then — I am not making this up — steals a uniform from a dead American soldier and rolls with the Blackhawks for a period of weeks. This period, by the way, is depicted in a single splash page, as the rest of the comic is needed for all the insipid moralizing.
So then, after pretending to be an American soldier for a matter of weeks and not using his powers to save lives in the war, his leg heals and he goes back through the time rift to the present – but not before providing a speech to Blackhawk about how this isn’t the war to end all wars, but America survives, and its principles are intact, and they can’t never take down Old Glory dagnabbit not while the goshdarn American spirit survives, by golly!
In conclusion – I guess that if you’re the type of person who was moved and entertained by Amazing Spider-Man #36, the 9/11 tribute issue, then you might find something of worth in this. On the other hand, if you have read a history book before in your life, are capable of making moral decisions on your own, or just don’t like being preached to in the least subtle manner possible – then you will probably feel, as I did, that this comic is the most astonishingly, pretentiously intelligence-insulting exaggeration of all of the preachiest, most insufferable aspects of JMS’s writing.
This comic is like being lectured to by your grandfather. This comic is like a video they put on in history class during a substitute session. This comic is buying a story for $2.99 and instead getting a poorly-written polemic combined with an emotionally manipulative guilt factory. This comic is CRAP, saved only by Jesus Saiz’s appealing but not especially noteworthy art. So if you didn’t know what kind of comic this was — now you know.
And knowing is half the battle.