Brave and the Bold #32

Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Art by Jesus Saiz
32 pages, color
Published by DC Comics

The Brave and the Bold has been a title that seems to have struggled for an identity for quite a while. Originally serving as a title for Mark Waid and George Perez’s collaborations, the departures of first Perez and then Waid looked like they may have sunk the comic. When J. Michael Straczynski and Jesus Saiz finally were handed the reins after a series of guest creators, I think most readers felt the book was already on life support and wrote it off. Now that I’ve read their latest issue, I feel the need to give them credit where it’s due: if all issues from them are this good, The Brave and the Bold deserves to be a best-seller.

I’d never have suspected a team-up between Aquaman and the Demon would make sense, much less be interesting. Straczynski makes it work, though, as the pair of characters try to stop an invasion from Hell as it erupts from the depths of the ocean. The ocean floor is still a remote and mysterious place even today, so setting "Night Gods" there felt somewhat fitting. The issue is akin to a character having to entire another dimension that is both similar and different to the real world, only in this case it doesn’t even have to leave the planet.

It helps that Straczynski and Saiz integrate the script and art extremely tightly, here; it’s hard to talk about one without the other. So as we see a ruined underwater city serving as a portal to Hell, or a massive tentacle-faced creature rising out from the depths, the imagery is clearly flowing directly from one creator to the other. The ideas and the execution prop one another up, so that they work strongly as a whole. Saiz had shown talent for the strange and occult when drawing Midnight, Mass back in the day for Vertigo, but I think he’s gotten even stronger since then. These are enormously creepy images, from the blowing of the ancient trumpets to the creature clawing its way up from the bowels of the earth. And, for a style that uses so much detail to make every last bit appear unnatural and out of this world, Saiz continues to draw it with a smooth ink line, a clean and uncluttered final product.

Straczynski’s take on Aquaman is also notable in that it’s a character that is both iconic and has failed repeatedly at supporting a solo series. In The Brave and the Bold, we’re getting an extension of what Kurt Busiek attempted with Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis, which was transplanting the sword-and-sorcery style of Conan into an underwater setting. This is a refinement of that idea; Aquaman is more of a regal king than a rough warrior here, but the foes are now more raw and monstrous. It’s a take that I think could launch an ongoing series, although it would take a careful amount of marketing to draw and keep a readership. I’d love to see Straczynski or someone else give this particular view a try, though.

When I finished reading The Brave and the Bold #32, my first thought was, "This was a lot of fun." My second thought was, "I need to give the other Straczynski and Saiz issues a try." There’s already a collection scheduled for later this year (bringing together #27-32, their first six issues), but looking ahead there’s a "Girl’s Night" issue drawn by Cliff Chiang, and a two-parter involving the Legion of Super-Heroes, the Doom Patrol, the Legion of Substitute Heroes, and the Inferior Five. All of this is a roundabout way of saying, "I’m sold." The Brave and the Bold is quietly turning into the next cool comic, and you don’t want to miss it. I know I’m paying close attention from now on.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com | Powell’s Books

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