Solicits don’t usually matter very much. I think that in general, people base their comic buying decision on what the comic is about as a whole and the creative team, vs the promotional text for an individual issue. However, for a series like this it’s actually very important. Readers don’t have a good way of knowing at all what’s inside an anthology collection like this except for the solicit. That’s why the repeated errors are a big problem.
There are two errors this month. One is a titling error for “Batman: Pygmalion” which isn’t a huge deal, but the other is listing the entirely wrong story for the black and white story at the end. Instead of correctly listing Sean Lewis and Javier Fernandez, they listed a different story by Lanzing and Kelly from three months ago. This month the actual story happens to be better than what they wrote, but this is not even close to the first time this has happened. Get your stuff together DC. Anthologies can’t work like this.
Batman: Pygmalion part 1
Guillem March is the latest artist-turned-total-package in this opening chapter to “Batman: Pygmalion” (or at least that’s what the index page lists it as; the solicit called it “Back to Year One” which makes more sense as a title to me, and it’s never clear which one is “correct”). As an artist he’s undeniably very talented, and it shows here. There’s a striking use of colors and framing to create dramatic tension and convey emotion, even without words. When you’ve been drawing Batman for decades you tend to get pretty good at it, and that’s never more clear than when Bruce re-dons the cowl and the you’re overcome with an immediate shift in atmosphere. It imbues the symbols of the bat with an almost supernatural quality.
None of this is to dismiss the writing, either. It’s a story in which you can see a long list of possible influences. From the amnesia arc in Scott Snyder’s Batman to any number of stories examining the dichotomy between Bruce Wayne and the mask. What March does is blend these concepts together to reexamine Bruce’s identity through a fresh lens.
Batman wakes up in the home of a young girl and her mother with no memory of who he is. It’s only through the encouragement of the girl, Aurora, that he begins to rediscover himself. This relearning process allows us to see the responsibility and toll of becoming Batman similar to Year One, but with a twist (hence why I prefer the original title). Aurora’s innocence and child-like adoration of Batman as a hero paints a rosy picture of his role, which is complicated by the resurfacing of the traumas which drive him.
This first chapter sets up plenty of avenues through which it will be able to examine Batman as a character, which I’m excited to see continue. It will be future chapters that determine just how meaningful those commentaries will be.
Stormwatch: Down with the Kings part 6
With the big reveal at the end of last issue that Amanda Waller is the one in control of Stormwatch, the new direction have started creating problems for the team. The opening mission is a perfect demonstration of the ways things have changed. Shado begins executing prisoners as a form of interrogation, taking the rest of the team by surprise. At no point is she stopped or reprimanded by her superiors, signaling that this is all acceptable behavior now. Tensions begin rising, and divisions form regarding how comfortable people are with all of this. You’ve got teammates paranoid about being secretly implanted with bombs, and even Director Bones begins showing subservience. It’s all great examples of “show, don’t tell” storytelling.
This massive shakeup is sold by Waller herself. Along with Jeff Spokes’ gorgeous as always art, Brisson writes her as a dominating and terrifying presence. Without even needing to address anyone directly, her position of power and the way she wields is a thing to behold and demands respect. Her ruthlessness comes off naturally and believably. The “at all costs” government agent is a well worn trope at this point, but here it works. The way she presents her justifications are harsh, but still come across as arguably reasonable in a realpolitik sort of way. Waller is a character that can be a blast to read when done well, and here is no exception.
What hurts the story more than anything else is its non-ending of an ending. Almost all of this issue is devoted to exploring the new status quo with Waller as leader of the team and then… that’s it. The mini-crammed-into-an-anthology that’s been going since the first issue is over. It comes off as a backdoor pilot for a future Stormwatch ongoing that may or may not happen, especially with the final “The End… for now!” If it does end up getting made with this same creative team, then It’ll definitely be worth checking out. However, that doesn’t change that as a finale to this story, it’s anticlimactically frustrating.
Harcourt: Second Life part 3
Keeping in line with the last two parts of this story, there’s not really much here to talk about. Almost the entire chapter is told via Harcourt’s internal monolog about how she wants revenge for being both killed and manipulated. We get a brief glimpse into her being taught to kill as a kid, a scene of her getting instructions from Waller, and a quick fight scene in the present day as a framing device. It would be enough to slightly move the plot forward were it not for the fact that it’s all pretty much the exact same stuff we already saw in the previous issues.
Aside from seeing her get a new weapons-based power along with a cliffhanger for a confrontation with Captain Boomerang (both of which probably make up a total of two pages of story), nothing new is learned or happens. This story’s greatest sin is simply its extremely poor use of the limited space it has to tell its narrative each month. It’s 30 pages in so far, but I don’t think there’s even enough meat here to properly fill a full single issue.
This is exactly the sort of story we need more of in a collection like this. It’s a simple, short, and sweet Batman adventure with a memorable hook. The opening starts off great with an immediately intriguing premise. A performer plans a one man show about Batman that will reveal his secrets. It’s a gripping idea that makes you want to keep reading to see what will happen. When it turns out that the whole thing was a ploy to trap Batman, it’s exciting and unexpected because the initial premise was good enough to have been the whole plot. Within the span of only eight pages, “The Performance” delivers a clever concept, a surprise twist, and a satisfying conclusion where Batman triumphs by outsmarting the villain.
If it had more stories like this, I think Batman: The Brave and the Bold would be a much stronger series. If it had more stories like this, it would be Batman: Black & White.
- You want a twist on the Year One premise
- Amanda Waller is one of your favorite characters
- You like short, effective Batman adventures which keep you engaged
Batman: The Brave and the Bold #6 is a collection of mostly good stories that would work better in another format. They’re often either the opening to what is clearly meant to be an ongoing, or a story broken up into too small of chunks to flow properly. The highlight is easily the final short story by Sean Lewis and Javier Fernandez.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purposes of this review.