Chapter One of The Brave and the Bold: Batman and Wonder Woman was a highly entertaining and well-crafted comic. It set a high bar for the series as the artwork was phenomenal and Sharpe showed range in his writing. However, it raised several questions as well. One such question is when Wonder Woman and Batman will actually interact and team up, since they didn’t meet in chapter one and the focus was mainly on Wonder Woman. This second issue answers that particular question, and also gives us more insight into Liam Sharpe’s strengths and weaknesses as a writer.
This issue’s structure is different from #1. First we follow Diana, then an old homeless man (a character that Sharpe created for this series), and lastly Bruce, and the cycle is repeated. The pacing is fairly balanced, as Sharpe spends enough time with each character. He lets interaction between said character and the supporting cast play out, building toward a cliffhanger of sorts, and then moves on to the next character. The (as of yet) unknown narrator from the first chapter continues to speak throughout this episode as well, providing transitions between each character section. What’s interesting about the narrator is that he’s speaking from the future, directly to Diana. Or perhaps it’s the other way around: the events depicted take place in the past, and the narrator is talking to Diana in the present. While we don’t know much about this narrator yet, what comes through is that he truly regrets what he has done to Tír Na Nóg. This foreshadows terrible events which we might see unfold in later issues. Furthermore, the book relies mainly on conversations in favor of action, so don’t expect flashy explosions and martial arts. It seems like Sharpe’s going for more of a slow burn approach to telling this story.
In the first chapter Sharpe made heavy use of exposition, and he continues to do so here. Last issue I felt that the exposition served a purpose, because Sharpe had to do a lot of world-building and had to introduce many new characters. I argued that it was a good move to have that early on in the story, so we wouldn’t be forced to read a giant exposition dump later on, when the story ought to be moving toward a conclusion. In this second chapter there are moments where exposition works out as well. For instance, Diana explains to the inhabitants of Tír Na Nóg that her lasso is called the Golden Perfect, and talks about the lasso’s magical properties. This happens within the context of her having to question a murder suspect, and so it makes sense for her to tell the others exactly what her lasso is because otherwise they wouldn’t have a clue what she’s doing. The fantastical characters then tell her that such a lasso wouldn’t work here, if only because they refuse to just straight up believe that it makes people tell the truth, and thereby it sets up the reason Diana decides to contact Batman (which, rest assured, she does, albeit toward the end). So far so good.
However, there are also instances of exposition that don’t work out so well. For example, nearly every time the old homeless man begins to speak, we are plunged into a sea of word balloons, all filled with exposition. The first thing that strikes me is that he speaks out loud, although there isn’t really anyone to talk to. While I think this actually contributes to his characterization (as it can be interpreted as a sign of madness, or intense grief), I find the things he says in themselves not to flow naturally. He’s providing a ton of information about what happened before the events in the story, but it’s almost too much to take in. Names of characters that might not even appear are mentioned; details are described that seem very unnecessary (such as what clothes those characters wore); even the bookstore where the old homeless man used to work. Sometimes it’s nice to have these extra details in a story to give readers the idea there’s a history that precedes the narrative, but here I think Sharpe has overwritten the passage. This style of writing resurfaces in subsequent scenes, and even though I find most of the information fascinating, the truth is I don’t think this story needs this much exposition to make it work. Sharpe could’ve reigned it in, focusing on important aspects instead of embracing lyrical, somewhat unnatural narration where it’s not warranted.
Having said that, Sharpe’s writing is also very strong in places. Firstly, the main characters are written in entertaining and familiar ways. Diana is strong, confident, driven and intelligent. She tries to argue with the deities and actually delivers a powerful speech where she mirrors her own place of origin, Paradise Island, with Tír Na Nóg, in order to convince the deities to calm down and do as she suggests. But if you ask me, the real star of this chapter is Bruce Wayne, which I imagine is nice to know for those who were worried about him not getting as much panel time in the first issue.
When we find Batman, we pick up right where we left off with last month’s cliffhanger. Batman is trapped in a psychedelic hallucination. It’s like he is having a bad trip as he’s overwhelmed by crazy visuals, and yet he’s resilient and unwilling to give in. Alfred speaks to him through his ear piece and, almost like a guided meditation, begins to help him find his way out of the hallucinatory state. Once back in the cave, Bruce describes what’s happened to him as a lucid nightmare. Since lucid dreams really intrigue me, I was especially interested in Sharpe’s writing here. (For those who don’t know, a lucid dream or nightmare is where you’re aware that you’re dreaming. This doesn’t always have to go hand in hand with being able to control your dreams, because sometimes you know you’re dreaming but all you can do is observe.) Bruce and Alfred then proceed to have a philosophical discussion about magic, dreams and various supernatural experiences that Bruce has had. What I like particularly about how the conversation develops, is that with every spiritual (and sometimes supernatural) phenomenon, he and Alfred try to frame it in logic, or explain it through science. Bruce even explicitly says that “there is a kind of science involved—even if it eludes our current understanding.” I think it’s very typical for Bruce that, even though he has died and experienced many other mysterious events, he’s unwilling to dismiss science and full-on embrace the supernatural. And yet, as he attempts to explain these phenomena through science, he comes up short. In writing the dialogue, Sharpe finds a balance between making sure he doesn’t delve too deep into philosophy (such as Jung’s collective unconscious) or remaining too shallow. This is also an instance where I think the exposition works out okay in the sense that Bruce is simply providing examples of his supernatural experiences. I’ll say a little more about that in the spoiler tag.
Moving on to the art, once more Sharpe is doing amazing work, although I have to say that it feels like a slight step back from the quality in issue #1. By no means do I intend to say it’s significantly worse—the keyword here being “slight”—but there’s something here that stand out to me. There aren’t as many interesting backgrounds; in fact, there are quite a few panels that have no backgrounds at all, but I don’t see a reason for them being empty. Sometimes you want a background to be empty so more attention is drawn to a character’s face. But it’s also possible it just results in a somewhat boring look. Certainly, the panel frames, the layouts, the runes and the Celtic symbols make for a unique look, but I consider all of these as extras. I’d rather see good backgrounds instead so we get a better feel for the world that the characters inhabit.
Yet, this doesn’t mean there aren’t any backgrounds at all. When Sharpe does draw them, they are amazingly detailed and layered. For instance, the old homeless man stands in an overgrown garden. Sharpe draws plants, grass, trees, bushes, but also junk, a broken chair, a tent. As if that isn’t enough, he continues to draw a building, a wall that surrounds the garden, and part of the street. There are street lamps, and people, and the hood of a car. The rest of the vehicle, as well as the road, falls outside of the frame, suggesting that the world continues past the borders of the panels.
Moreover, the psychedelic scene where Batman battles hallucinations is also layered and detailed. No matter where you look, there are creatures everywhere. From weird evil-looking mushrooms to little bats. And there are gnomes and various other crazy monsters. They are all setting on Batman, truly showing us how overwhelming all of this is to him. Clearly Sharpe excels at drawing the fantastical. Besides the hallucinations, the inhabitants of Tír Na Nóg once more look imposing and powerful. Some look like armorclad demons, and others look like Irish Celts with fitting beard styles, fur cloaks and woad painted on their faces. It’s fun to see Wonder Woman, with her Greek outfit, blending into this world of folklore and myth.
Romulo Fajardo Jr. returns for the coloring. He remains consistent through the book, and like last time he manages to set the world of folklore and Gotham City apart, while still maintaining an overall coherent aesthetic. It’s night time in both realms, but where Gotham looks more gritty and grim, Tír Na Nóg looks like a fairytale kingdom, especially in the way that the ethereal moonlight floods into the castle hall, and some of the fantastical creatures look entirely alien with their red eyes and grayish skin tones.
All in all, the artwork once again maintains a high standard. While we visit two distinctly different worlds, they mesh well and nothing ever feels out of place. This is not easy to achieve, and if you ask me, this book is worth picking up for the amazing art alone.
You want to see the more analytical side of Bruce Wayne
You want to see Diana being eloquent and powerful
You like it when a comic blends a modern city and a fantastical realm into a cohesive whole
You don’t mind if a story takes its time
Overall: This is a nice follow-up to chapter one. While it’s mostly just characters talking to each other, what they have to say is actually quite fascinating. That said, there is a problem with an overuse of exposition in places as too many unnecessary details are provided, which some readers might find off-putting. However, this is a typical case where strong character work makes up for a slow moving plot. I do hope, though, that Sharpe will kick things into gear next time, with Batman and Wonder Woman working together to solve the murder. All things considered, I do recommend this book. While it might not be as strong as the opening chapter, it’s clear a lot of care and thought has been put into it.