02 January 2008

The Brave and the Bold vol. 1: The Lords of Luck (DC, 2007)

I was so looking forward to getting this book in my hands and cracking it open that when I finally received it I went through the book like a hot knife through butter. It did not disappoint. A fun, fun book to read.

There. That's my review. The Brave and the Bold: The Lords of Luck by Mark Waid and George Perez is a very good read. Go buy yourself a copy.

What do you mean you want me to elaborate? Oh, all right.

"The Brave and the Bold" was a DC title that came out before my time and usually featured Batman and a superhero guest star teaming up to fight a common foe. In this latest incarnation, however, Mark Waid decided not to write one off stories but rather an interesting six issue tale involving murder, theft, gambling and a book that can foretell the future. It is also not an exclusively Batman book (though he is featured prominently. Hey, he's Batman). It also has Lobo trying to look up Supergirl's skirt. If that isn't enough to ring up the sales of this book, I don't know what will.

The book opens with both Green Lantern and Batman finding the same dead body in their respective workplaces at the same time. Hal stumbles upon the corpse in space just above Earth and Batman discovers it in the Batcave. The pointy eared one soon finds out that there are sixty two other identical corpses discovered all over the world and they were all found close to superhero hangouts: Atlantis, the Flash Museum, the Daily Planet. Conclusion: this self replicating guy was trying to reach as many heroes as possible and was murdered before he could fulfill his plan.

This murder mystery takes an interstellar turn when it is revealed that the dead body was an alien and his mission on Earth was actually to steal a book that chronicles the past, present and future, called The Book of Destiny. His murderers turned out to be a couple of alien gamblers from Ventura, a casino planet. So by the end of the first issue, the alien gamblers have a book that can tell the future and Batman and Green Lantern have to hunt them down before the aliens break the banks of every single casino in the universe.

Or will they? This isn't about trying to win at the blackjack table, is it?

While reading this collection, I was more interested in the interaction between the heroes (and one anti-hero) as they travel through space and time to retrieve The Book of Destiny than the actual chase for the book itself. The Batman-Green Lantern one-upmanship was amusing and Green Lantern's constant reminder to himself that Supergirl is jailbait is downright creepy (doesn't Jordan get enough booty as it is? What is he? DC's version of Captain Kirk?). It's also good to see Jaime Reyes a.k.a the new Blue Beetle hold his own with Batman against the Fatal Five, though I think the only reason Beetle is in this book is to generate some interest in his own excellent but flagging title. But that's one reason for commissioning these team-up books, right? A platform to showcase characters that aren't yet fan favourites but have the potential to be one.

And Batman versus the Legion of Superheroes? Best issue in the entire arc. He was transported forwards to the 31st century and meets up with the Legion and he still managed to run circles around them. And yes, that's versus as in "against". The Legion don't get to team up with Batman. They get their faces kicked in by him.

In the end though, with the help of The Challengers of the Unknown, alls well that ends well. If there is any complaint that I have while reading this book, it was with the Challengers of the Unknown. It was not their seemingly deus ex machina appearance towards the end of the adventure, for their identities were hinted at earlier in the story by Destiny himself. Rather, it was the manner they were brought in to help the heroes that made me go, "huh?" Here's the scene:- Batman uses the Rannian Zeta Beam to pull in the fearless quartet. Adam Strange is surprised that Batman can master the technology so quickly and admitted it took him years to figure it out himself. Batman's reply? "We don't have years."

So, uh...what? Batman is not only a great detective but a super genius who can understand and operate an alien technology within seconds? Mark Waid couldn't have Adam Strange operate the Zeta beam all by himself? That would be easier to accept. I know, I know. I'm arguing about a minor detail in a sci-fi comic book adventure and believe me when I say that I am not and I do not want to be that guy who takes umbrage on every perceived mistake in comic book minutiae. But still......"We don't have years."? Ugh.

That minor quibble aside, The Brave and the Bold: The Lords of Luck is a rollicking fun adventure featuring two of DC's favourite superheroes with some guest stars pitching in. I have never read the Supergirl series but I do know the hair-pulling and gnashing of teeth by the comics fandom in the internet on the way she was being written in her own book. But I don't see anything anything wrong with the way she is potrayed in this team-up book however. Heck, I even enjoyed her banter with Lobo and understand her wide-eyed admiration of Hal Jordan. I guess credit must be given to Mark Waid for being able to pull that off while the writers of her own series could not.

George Perez is, well, George Perez. He has not lost his touch. Correct me if I'm wrong but this series is his first pencil work in a comic book since the 1990s. I thought he had either retired or died and it was a feeling of serendipity when I heard his name was associated with a new DC project which turned out to be The Brave and the Bold.

I would say that this book is 'new reader' safe. You don't need to know a lot, or even any, of the characters' back story be it hero or villain in order to enjoy the book. In any case, there are annotations at the back pages written by Mark Waid where he gives some added information, mostly which issue of which comic the characters first appeared in. He also included a bit of trivia like the fact George Perez has no idea how blackjack is played. Seriously, George? Okay. I believe you.

Lords of Luck is a great fun adventure spanning time and space and though I feel the ending was a bit rushed, I highly recommend it.

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