In The Brave and the Bold: Batman and Wonder Woman #3, the story moves forward at a calm pace. Where previously the focus was mostly on Wonder Woman, it shifts to Batman in this chapter. We get to see inside his analytical mind as the pair are solving the murder of the king of Tir Na Nóg. The comic presents an interesting narrative in that Sharpe manages to blend Wonder Woman’s fantastical and Batman’s grounded aspects almost seamlessly. While there are still a few instances where I think Sharpe is overwriting dialogue, at the same time there is a lot more focus on the actual plot. And, before we dive into the review proper, here’s a heads up to fans of the World’s Greatest Detective—Sharpe fully embraces that aspect of the character, which is something that’s been missing from Batman and Detective Comics arcs for a good long while now.
Like the previous two chapters, this one doesn’t focus on action and fighting either (although there is a brief skirmish halfway through). For the most part, it’s all about conversations set against a gorgeously illustrated fantasy backdrop. While this might not be everyone’s cup of tea, I personally think Sharpe’s approach to telling this story is quite soothing. I find myself transported to Tir Na Nóg by the lush backgrounds, and to me it feels like the dialogue is proceeding calmly. That is not to say that it lingers or distracts from the main goal; on the contrary, Batman and Wonder Woman keeping a cool head in the midst of it all is precisely what maintains the focus on the murder investigation throughout.
And it is this investigation that is probably the main selling point to Batman fans. What’s striking is how Batman is so out of his element in Tir Na Nóg. His costume aesthetically clashes with his environment and at times he seems somewhat lost in this realm. But I think this is precisely the point here—the fact that his looks clash with the world around him mirrors how his analytical, methodical mindset doesn’t exactly belong in Tir Na Nóg either. If we strip Batman’s dialogue from the story and place it out of context, it can be read like a police procedural, something I wouldn’t expect in a fantasy story. And the effect that all of this has is quite fascinating. Take Batman away from Gotham, put him in a magical fantasy setting, and explore how he will still try to take the scientific, analytical approach of a detective. Seeing how he still employs his detective skills in this other realm serves to highlight this aspect of the character. He isn’t solving a mystery with his fists, like he’s been doing in many Bat-books in recent years, but he’s using his mind first and foremost, and only resorts to violence if necessary. One thing that might be missing from this portrayal of Batman is intimidation—at no point is he really intimidating to those he’s questioning. But at the same time, he doesn’t seem to need it, because after asking his questions, we see him reflecting on his findings and discover clues along with him.
What also stands out to me with regards to Batman’s dialogue, is the voice that Sharpe gives him. I noticed this in the previous chapter as well, but with more of an emphasis on Batman in this chapter, it really hammers home to me. He sounds almost academic in the way that the syntax of his sentences is constructed, and the specific terms that he uses. This is a far cry from, for example, Tom King’s shorter and structurally simpler sentences. I’d even go so far as to say that Batman sounds like a different man here. And that’s not a bad thing. It fits the tone of Sharpe’s narrative and this detective-focused Batman. In fact, it’s fascinating to see him explain to Diana how his mind operates, and how he usually goes about solving mysteries. Honestly, Sharpe understands this side of the character, and it really makes me wish he’ll write and draw a street-level Gotham-based murder mystery somewhere down the line.
Wonder Woman’s role in this episode is mostly to guide Batman through Tir Na Nóg. She shows him several important locations, and explains to him some phenomenon that have been affecting him (such as a temporary memory loss at the start of the issue). But what solidifies Sharpe’s depiction of Wonder Woman here is mostly in the artwork. We see her compassionate smile. We see her stop on the road to comfort a sad creature. And we see her absolutely kick ass during the brief but awesomely drawn fight scene. She goes in with full confidence, and overpowers her foes like we’d expect of her. In this book, she’s a true Amazon, a warrior, a guide, she’s wise, and someone who cares about others. Barring a few minor instances where her dialogue seems slightly off, I’d say this is the quintessential Wonder Woman, even if she’s not taking center stage in this particular chapter.
As for the writing as a whole, this book seems somewhat less overwritten than the previous chapter, where I felt that Sharpe provided too much information at once, to such an extent that it was hard to keep up with. Here, the script is more on-point, and mainly revolves around the investigation itself. However, Sharpe still takes sidesteps along the way, and there are a few instances where I wonder if they are really necessary to include. For instance, there is a moment where Batman tells Wonder Woman about an Irish nanny he briefly had when he was little, and how she used to tell him about Irish folklore. The information mostly just boils down to super-short summaries of those folklore stories, but otherwise doesn’t add much to the overall narrative. In fact, I’m not even sure what Batman was talking about, and I guess I’d have to do a Google search in order to find out. Because of this, I think that these little details could have been cut; they merely distract from the actual plot, even if it just occurs in two panels. Now, if there is an actual connection between the two stories that Batman mentions and the object he subsequently finds—an object that is required for plot progression—then the inclusion of these stories could actually be pretty cool. But if that’s the case, I think Sharpe should’ve made it more clear. Now it just feels like a couple of random anecdotes.
Furthermore, Sharpe still uses some exposition, but I feel that it’s more naturally incorporated here than in previous chapters. Mostly, it occurs in conversations between Batman and Wonder Woman, where they are informing each other about important stuff. And later, when they enter a discussion with Cernunnos, the exposition is relevant to their discussion. However, while I personally have no problems with this and enjoy the dialogue, I can imagine that some readers out there will be put off by this as the comic really is quite wordy. But what I especially enjoy about the dialogue is how Sharpe manages to give each character its own unique voice. For example, Batman sounds very analytical and serious. Wonder Woman is all about compassion, confidence and wisdom. Cernunnos’s lines are more lyrical, fitting for a deity of folklore. So, in short, I think that Sharpe really is a good writer who knows what he wants his characters to sound like. But at times it seems he’s struggling with balancing out extensive exposition with more to-the-point dialogue. In the end, however, the good certainly outweighs the bad, and this is still a damn fine story.
And there’s damn fine artwork, too! Sharpe continues to craft beautiful panel borders that fit the theme of Irish folklore. The sheer idea that the panel borders alone are beautiful to look at speaks volumes about the rest of the art. The styles he uses range from magical (especially the opening pages) to grand and lush (see the majestic landscapes that Batman and Wonder Woman travel through on horseback) to apocalyptic (as Batman and Wonder Woman pass through the ruins of a city). We see strange rock castles towering into the sky, overgrown with vegetation, and with a walkway spiraling up to the entrance. In most of the panels we can see little creatures, such as a hedgehog in shorts and wearing shoes by a river, and others. There are even rock formations with faces and hands. And the wild mushrooms growing here and there speak to the psychedelic atmosphere that can be felt on reading the book. Truly, Sharpe has created a realm that feels so real that I’m completely absorbed by it. On every page there is something that I find myself staring at, and it’s hard to look away or even flip the page because it’s so amazingly well drawn. And when I do manage to flip the page, I’m presented by the next beautiful vision. Truly, this book is worth reading for the art alone!
The colors by Fajardo add a lot of dimensions to the art. His extensive palette is what truly makes Sharpe’s pencils come to life. The colors are vibrant and about as detailed as Sharpe’s pencils. The more I look at a panel, the more colors I see, and it’s like they keep on subtly changing as I continue to look closer. The color-work is layered and offers a lot of variety to the visual aspect of the book, and it’s the perfect fit for a fantasy-themed comic, if you ask me. I honestly have no complaints about it. It’s just that good!
The World’s Greatest Detective! Need I say more?
You like when a writer treats two icons (Batman and Wonder Woman) as equals
You love reading, because there are plenty of words to read in this book
You want a book that combines good writing with gorgeous artwork
Overall: Clearly chapters one and two were mainly intended as setup, whereas Sharpe is really starting to focus the narrative on solving the murder now. The story is told through phenomenal visuals, and while the book is still somewhat overwritten at times, Sharpe’s clearly nailing down the characters’ unique voices. Especially the emphasis on the World’s Greatest Detective, who’s doing some true detective work and analysis to put together clues, is a real treat for Batman fans. Overall, it’s just a really good book, and well worth a read. Highly recommended!