Well I was going to review a trade for my second JokerFish, but it’s turning into such an Odyssey that I thought I might break up my work on that with a random single issue of a series I’ve never picked up before…
BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #9
I’m not sure why I haven’t been a regular viewer of the Batman: The Brave And The Bold animated series. It’s probably because I know its main target market is kids, and I’m far too busy reading my serious Grant Morrison Batman, thank you very much! Really though, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the “all-ages” fare DC puts out. I liken it to watching a Pixar movie – it may be made for kids, but if you can enjoy it as an adult, then hey – awesome. As long as you don’t apply this theory to, say, Blue’s Clues, then you’re all set.
My girlfriend is much more of an animation geek than a comic geek. While I managed to perk her interest in the different Lantern Corps and Blackest Night (success!), our interests have connected more closely over things like the animated Justice League Unlimited series. She showed me a few episodes of Brave And The Bold, but for some reason I never followed up on it – even though I saw an episode that featured both Green Lantern and Dr. Fate.
Funny thing about Dr. Fate: I seem to see him everywhere. He turns up in a lot of JLU episodes, he appeared in Smallville, and here he appears in The Brave And The Bold universe. I, for one, am very enthusiastic for a Dr. Fate mainstream push. Forget the JLA movie – let’s get a Dr. Fate film! That surrealistic bent of Countdown To Mystery would be perfect for, say, Guillermo Del Toro or Vincent Ward… or Peter Jackson! More please.
Anyway. The cover to this issue features Batman, The Joker, Two-Face and Catman. How could anyone not want to read this issue? Those are all awesome characters, and I’m interested to see how they’ll end up in the same place at the same time (they won’t, but that’s not unusual for a cover).
The comic starts with Batman fighting a giant inter-dimensional space eyeball octopus. This whole book could have been dreadful, but that opening still makes for a badass sentence. Things only get badassier when DC’s magic cavalry arrives, including Dr. Fate, Zatanna, Doctor Occult, as well as…
…Mento and Sargon The Sorcerer! Like in the cartoon, this scene serves just as a pre-titles sequence and really has nothing to do with the rest of the issue. Still, three pages of badassery is always welcome!
On to the main story, in which Batman thwarts a bank robbery orchestrated by a very Frank Gorshin-esque Riddler. This isn’t an accident – the show and the comic both have some of that campy 60s weirdness to them… The Riddler leaves his clues in comically giant typewriters in the middle of highways, his goons wear numbered shirts (“Goon #1, Goon #2), and some of the onomatopoeia is a literal description of its source (KICK, BRUISE, TOSS, THROW).
Catman quickly arrives to help Batman out, and they tag team their way through Two-Face, The Penguin and The Joker (though all individually, unlike the cover). The scene with The Penguin involves quite possibly my favorite animal-based henchmen ever: two seals and a walrus wearing hypno-helmets.
The original Silver Age Catman was a typically silly gimmick-villain when he first appeared in 1963. Here, he’s portrayed as an equal fighter to Batman… but he isn’t perfect. Batman soon discovers that Catman really isn’t much of a detective at all, and that he’s only trying to distract him from the crimes Catman’s own gang are perpetrating. Catman doesn’t sound too enthusiastic about Batman’s offer of prison time before he tries his hand at real superhero work, so he escapes to his personal blimp overhead. Yes, a blimp. Batman was almost staring right at it earlier. Surely he must’ve noticed the large Catman logo on the side?
A short fight later… the blimp is about to crash into downtown Gotham. Catman announces he only wanted money – not to hurt anyone – and sacrifices himself to steer the blimp into Gotham Harbor. Hours later, Batman is still waiting for him to surface while he ponders on which terms they shall meet in the future.
There’s a lot to like about this series (or at least, this issue, which I’m assuming is pretty representative of the series). It’s interesting to see that kids are being offered characters who aren’t just black-and-white good or bad guys. Catman, while having criminal motives for most of this issue, still has the heart to not crash a blimp into a bunch of innocent people.
The colors and the art are solid, vibrant and interesting. The designs adhere to the cartoon’s continuity, and therefore lead me to hear Diedrich Bader as Batman’s voice, which could have just as easily come across as Adam West or Kevin Conroy. I guess that depends on whether you’ve seen the cartoon, and whether you’re a “voice-in-your-head” reader like me. Maybe Jim and I need to see a doctor.
Also: a splash page! Never seen a splash page in a kid’s comic before. Probably because I haven’t read a kid’s comic in a long time. I guess one thing I can take away from reading this issue is that the “all-ages” tags on these comics aren’t necessarily just a marketing ploy – they really can be enjoyed by adults too.
And finally, a letters page. How lovingly old-school… but kids, you know you can Twitter your favorite creators too, right? Want more Joker in your Batman? Just drop a message to @jimlee00 and @GeoffJohns0, see what they can do!
Worth Picking Up To See: Batman using a seal as a weapon against The Penguin, resulting in my favorite onomatopoeia ever: “SEAL”!