So right off the bat (ha HAAAA), let me tell you: this is a super weird issue of Detective Comics. That’s not inherently a bad thing, as it’s plenty entertaining, but it feels a lot different than any other Batcentric issue of any title in the DC stable.
If you want to get an idea for the kind of story Tomasi is going for here, then look no further than the title: “The Brave and the Old.” Besides being an obvious pun on The Brave and the Bold, the title card itself looks like a direct lift of the trade dress from the classic comic series. And, while there are certainly some modern elements at play, this arc isn’t that far removed from being called “The Brave and the Bold featuring Batman and Deadshot.” In my book, that’s never a bad thing.
And I’m not kidding: this feels like it would fit right at home in the Seventies, in the best possible way. It’s crazy and kind of ridiculous and Tomasi just leans into it, unashamed of the fact that this comic is just so weird. Even the synopsis feels like something Bob Haney would have written: “Bruce Wayne and Deadshot and also a plane full of billionaires crash-land on a mysterious island after their jet was struck by lightning on the way to an energy summit and Bruce is found and taken care of by a Japanese and an American soldier from World War II who have been on the island since the Forties oh and also Deadshot shoots a snake in the face.”
In short, I kind of love it.
Frankly, the only thing keeping me from rating this issue higher is that it’s pretty light on plot. We pick up right where the previous issue left off, with the plane crashed on an island “somewhere in the Pacific,” with a severely injured Bruce Wayne lying unconscious in the middle of the forest. He’s discovered by the aforementioned soldiers, who argue about where he could have come from (“maybe he’s a… space creature“), then nurse him back to health. Meanwhile, Deadshot is rounding up and protecting the surviving billionaires, because he was paid to kidnap them, not kill them, see.
Of the two stories, it’s Bruce’s time with the soldiers Clarence and Hiroshi that bears the heart and soul of the issue. We find that these men have been on this island for decades, and at first, they fought each other. After all, as soldiers on opposing sides, that’s what they were supposed to do.
Eventually, though, they realized that they’d have a better chance of survival if they worked together, and so they did. Now, here they are, still kicking after decades of isolation and abandonment. The pair have a great rapport with each other, needling and poking fun as only the best of friends can do. They even have alternating days where they speak English and Japanese, which I thought was quite charming. What greater sign of respect is there than learning someone else’s language and using it to communicate with them on a regular basis?
The scenes with Deadshot and the rest of the passengers, by contrast, are much more straightforward as a survival tale. It’s plenty entertaining, especially with how ludicrous it is to see a guy in a suit like Deadshot’s just traipsing around an island. His banter is droll and sarcastic, but there’s just something missing from this thread that keeps it from truly connecting. It might be that he doesn’t really have anybody to play off of, until Bruce shows back up late in the game, or that Tomasi doesn’t explore what it would be like for a trained assassin to be so far out of his element.
There’s nothing really bad about anything in the issue, even with the weirdness of Deadshot’s story, but it does feel a little too padded out. While I’m not sure how things are going to be wrapped up in the next issue or two, this and the preceding issue could have definitely been consolidated together. Trim some fat from the both of them and you could have included a lot of the events of this issue in the previous one, making the story a bit tighter while giving us more bang for our buck.
The slight narrative quibbles aside, I love Christian Duce and Dave Baron’s work here. Most of the environments consist of jungle clearings, and Duce renders those well enough, but what I was really impressed with was his framing and layouts. There are some really stunning partial and full splash pages with some incredibly dramatic angles, heightening the tension and adding to the kind of “action movie feel” of the story. I’m usually not a fan of Deadshot’s modern look, as I find it overly busy and complexly designed, yet Duce manages to make it look utilitarian and… I mean, as practical as it can be. The mask can still be cleaned up and streamlined, but it still looks great.
It’s their different stylistic choices that really stuck out to me, though. I love the coloring on the flashback scene, drenched in sepia tones, some of Baron’s lighting effects are just gorgeous. Take the campfire that Bruce, Clarence, and Hiroshi huddle around, or the backlit silhouette of Bruce against the moon. Given that they’re stranded on an island, after a horrific plane crash, it would have been nice to see a bit more grit and dirt besides Deadshot’s cracked helmet and some torn clothing here and then. Still, the coloring doesn’t look sterile by any means.
As always, a big shout-out to Rob Leigh’s lettering too. It’s unobtrusive when it needs to serve the story, as all good lettering should be, yet he’s not afraid to throw in some clever touches here and there. I particular love the subtlety of the slightly transparent “BLAMM” when Deadshot shoots the snake, for one, and the fact that the same effect is used any time Lawton takes a shot.
Like the past few issues, there’s an epilogue with Mr. Freeze, and while it isn’t necessarily illuminating, it’s pretty heartfelt. Freeze waxes poetic about his longing for Nora, waiting in restless anticipation for the day when they will be reunited. It’s a little flowery, but Tomasi manages to sell it by looking at Freeze through a sympathetic lens.
- You love Detective Comics.
- You like the old Bob Haney The Brave and the Bold.
- You want a crazy adventure with some stunning art.
Overall: This is kind of weird for a Batman story, but I’m all about it. Tomasi’s writing channels Bob Haney’s old The Brave and the Bold scripts in the broad strokes, taking two familiar characters and chucking them into a truly crazy adventure. There’s still plenty of heart to spare, though, as Tomasi proves he’s able to bring out empathy and compassion like nobody else in the business. Add in some truly stellar artwork from Duce and Baron and the ever-reliable lettering of Rob Leigh and you have yourself a strange, crazy, endearing issue of Detective Comics.