Pick of the Week

Pick of the Week – 04.21.2010 – The Brave and the Bold #33

What did the
iFanboy
community think?

455
Pulls
Avg Rating: 4.8
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 51.4%
 
Users who pulled this comic:
Written by J. MICHAEL STRACZYNSKI
Art by CLIFF CHIANG
Cover by JESUS SAIZ

Size: 32 pages
Price: 2.99

Before I go too far with this, it is almost impossible to explain why I picked this book without spoiling it.  Suffice to say that if your'e going to read any farther than this, the surprise of the book will cease to be the surprise. But then, the real reason I picked this is because of that very surprise.  It was the best kind of surprise because I didn't see it coming.  That's why you should never read solicits.

Longtime readers know that I'm not the biggest fan of Straczynski's writing.  There's nothing mystical about it, but it's just not my favorite style, for whatever reason.  But I am a fan of Cliff Chiang, who's been working on a graphic novel project since he left Green Arrow/Black Canary a while ago.  These emotions were put at odds with one another with this issue, but I decided to buy it anyway, and see what would happen.  This normally where I say "and boy, am I glad I did," except that it's not where I felt that.  To be truthful, I read through most of it, and was sort of picking it apart in my head and trying to figure out what I didn't like, and remarking little things that bugged me, i.e. why does that guy have an iPhone when Barbara Gordon is still Batgirl? I reasoned that these were out of continuity, or that I should just stop nitpicking and read the damn story.

The gist of the story is this. Zatanna wakes from a bad dream, and decides she needs to make a night out. She gets Wonder Woman to go with her to fetch the lovable nerd wallflower of the story, Batgirl, and they take her dancing, after they convince her that she really needs it.  There are moments, and hints, and strange things going on here and there, and I was genuinely in the dark about what was going on.  Again, I tried not to be annoyed, and just went with it.  Then, near the end of the issue, I got it.  From a structure standpoint, and with my admittedly low expectations, I was caught completely off guard with the reveal at the end of the book, tying it into one of my favorite DC stories ever.  I literally got chills as Barbara reached for the doorknob, and again now as I write about it.  For whatever reason, the story this is tied into affected me deeply, and it was about as well structured a single issue as I could imagine.  It worked completely, by taking me totally off guard and then pulling a gun on me. The sadness Zatanna and Wonder Woman felt was the same sadness I felt, and while it was a bit of a downer, the end cap of the last page left me with a little smile.

The issue also left me with all sorts of questions, but not the type where I was searching for a no-prize.  Instead, I wondered why Zatanna and Wonder Woman didn't do something about what was going to happen.  Why didn't they warn Barbara?  What did they know that we didn't?  It wasn't to say that Straczynski judged it wrongly, but just that it made me think, which it definitely did.  My hat is off to a story that can jostle you like that in just 22 short pages.

The reason I showed up, Cliff Chiang's art, almost feels like an afterthought, but in truth, the storytelling was half of why this worked.  I think the most important thing in the art was the body language Chiang gave the girls as they went from club to club.  Look at how awkward, yet beautiful Barbara Gordon is portrayed.  Look at the way the last 2 page spread is laid out.  Look at the terrible resignation on the faces of Zatanna and Wonder Woman after they put Barbara in a cab.  Look at the fun they're having singing karaoke.  I suppose all the clues were there, and I should have seen it all coming, but I didn't, and that's because Cliff Chiang's art sidetracked me, and I never saw it coming. I've also got to give it up to the artist for drawing people as they actually might look.  The clothes were right in the clubs, where some people looked cool, and some looked goofy clubby, and the girls' dresses were all perfect and contemporary.  So often, artists fail at making these characters look believable outside of their costumes, but Chiang did it perfectly.

So yes, there's a timeline issue, where apparently, Barbara has only been Oracle for a year or so, according to the pop culture clues in the story, but at the same time, who cares?  Who cares if this is perfect continuity? It doesn't detract from the emotional punch of the whole thing, so other than having some fun talking about it, it doesn't matter in the end.  What does matter is that this was a really solid little piece of comic book skill that fits in so well with the overall continuity of these characters, and I'm very glad I read it.
 

Josh Flanagan
It is important to challenge your expectations from time to time.
josh@ifanboy.com

Comments

  1. I read the first paragraph and promptly stopped. Must wait until I get my books, but I’m damn excited to read this. Can’t wait.

    *Queue Kick-Ass coming in here and remarking on the fact that Josh picked a JMS book.

  2. @drake You beat me to it but i was gonna mention that it was a DC book

    This wasn’t even on my radar but after reading those first two paragraphs i gotta go back to the store and get this now. i kind of love it when that happens

  3. I saw this pick, read the first paragraph, and then stopped and read this issue first while eating my lunch at my desk.

    Wow. 

    Good call, Josh. This was a fantastic issue on many levels. It USES continuity in the best of ways, it tells a full, rich story in a single issue, and it is emotional without being overly sentimental.

    Wow. Great pick.

  4. Interesting pick.  I didn’t pick this up, but I’m now considering running (figuratively) back to the shop to grab a copy of this.

  5. This take place before "Killing Joke" or something? I’m having trouble reading what the hook is from the description.

  6. @WIlliamKScurryJR: That’s intentional so as not to spoil.

  7. My recommendation? Works best if you’re not worried about the hook, and just read it at face value. It’s just a good story. If you read it while trying to "figure it out," it may lessen the impact.

  8. What Dave said.

  9. I got as far as Barbara reaches for the doorknob, and…decided I need to go buy this after work.

  10. Funky pick! Good review!

  11. Great review.  I haven’t picked my books up yet, but this will definitely be the first one I read.

  12. So Josh finally has surrendered dreams? And picks JMS?  The most shocking part of this review is this:

    "It is important to challenge your expectations from time to time."

    Talk about surprise!  Or perhaps a tactical move to throw off the predictability of the recent picks and regain credibility?  Touche.

    If I was reading DC in singles, this would likely be my pick seeing as how JMS is their best writer.  Will get the paperback in 2012.

    @Drake – And here I am sir!

  13. why, WHY, WHY DID MY LCS SELL OUT OF THIS???? I went in at 1, not 7pm! grrrr……

  14. Brave and the Bold is one of my favorite DC books. I think im the only person at my shop who buys it. In the world of overly complex, "every month is a crossover event, universe at risk" story arc that lasts for 2 years, its always fun to get a one shot series with great characters. 

  15. Wow, it’s only 2pm on the west coast!  I love earlier picks. Like so many, I’m not reading the review until I get my issue. 

  16. Going to have to grab this at midtown now.

  17. @kickass… regain credibility? from what?

     

    @Josh and everyone else – Barbara is one of my favorite characters and it sounds like this issue nailed it perfectly. Can’t wait to get my hands on it.  

  18. Funny thing. I just got back from the shop and saw this. It just so happened that I picked up a copy for my daughter off the rack for a surprise. Now I gotta read it too.

  19. Great pick Josh!!!

     Matthew

  20. This was wonderful. I just started picking this title up a few months ago. Great pick. I agree whole heartedly.

  21. I’ve been meaning to try this run for awhile now.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had the Aquaman/Demon issue in my hands, then put it back at the last second.  I guess now is the time to finally jump on.

  22. So I picked up this book expecting a fun and breezy read featuring some of my favorite DC leading ladies. While this certainly was fun at the beginning, I was not expecting the story to take the turn that it did until that scene where Z and Wonder Woman were hugging in the bathroom. I absolutely loved this issue, it was one hell of an emotional surprise. One of my favorites in a long time.

  23. I just read my copy.

    It’s a good pick, and really does your iFanboy job well of pointing out comics I might not be paying attention to/don’t have on my list. I did get The Brave and the Bold with Aquaman & The Demon based on Conor’s recommendation (it might have been more than just Conor, but I chiefly remember Conor talking about it). Now I’m very tempted to add The Brave and the Bold to my ongoing LDC subscription list.

    Thanks!

  24. For me the realization came when Wonder Woman mentioned oracles.   Now, I dont think I will become a monthly B & B reader, but I enjoyed this issue a lot.  And like a lot of other folks, I never would have picked this up on my own. Thanks Josh!

  25. This book was a punch in the nuts.  So, so good.  I haven’t finished everything else, but damn, if my heart wasn’t ripped out as the whole concept of the issue dawned on me.  Awesome stuff from a consistently good title.

  26. Well at the end of the book Oracle says she was having a dreaming the story. So maybe her dream was out of continuity? it was an iPhone? Also that mad magazine fold-in style was awesome in that last 2 page spread. Yes I folded the page and then “opened the door”. @josh did you notice that? I ask only cuz you didn’t specifically mention it.

  27. Interesting pick. I’ll have to pick this up if my shop has any copies left.

  28. I read this book and came here immediately. I haven’t finished my stack but wanted to see what others thought. I really liked this book and I figured at the beginning it was a throw away story and I almost didn’t pick it up. I was sort of regretting getting it and then it got heavy and important and it’s the runaway surprise for the week.

    I’m glad I didn’t see the reviews or solicits, because I usually don’t care if it’s spoiled and I’ll read everything before I even see the book, I don’t care about them, but this not being spoiled for me was an immense treat.

  29. Agreed on all levels. JMS took my heart, after he showcased a lighthearted girls night out story…..and just stomped all over my heart once the actual homage or relevence to the story occured. Fantastic art by Chiang too.

    I think this is DC’s best title as of right now. No doubt about it.

  30. @Josh I am a jms sorta-fan i think he is at times a genius and at times he can frustrate me case in point his first two arcs on amazing were well amazing, but some of that later stuff, cough Stacey kids, cough kinda blew. But this is my second tbtb and what a great issue this was! Great structure! The only reason this wasn’t my potw was I don’t know these characters (literally first zatana and b. Gordon I have ever read) and I have read only a little WW. Since I was unfamiliar with them the end didn’t pack the emotional punch for me. I got the gist of it and loved it but didn’t get the kick in gut I would have if I knew these characters. That being said I liked the b. Gordon character any reccomendations for more to read with her?

  31. After what i’ve heard said about Straczynski on the podcast I didn’t think I would like him, but I really loved this book. Glad I picked this up.

  32. I was a little wary of this going in, but I think it was a successful issue.  I particularly liked the characterization of Barbara, who’s less sure of herself than the other women, yet the story is sprinkled with hints of what’s to come (I like the idea that she only really becomes certain of herself as Oracle; she went from being one of many costumed heroes to a broker of information and power).  I  get what Josh is saying about the story taking precedence over the art, but for me, Cliff Chiang’s depiction of the women gave the story a lot of its power.  We really see those things about Barbara, we see that moment of Zatanna and Diana embracing and Barbara on the outside, knowing she’s left out of something but not what.

    I’m glad this was the pick, I probably would have passed it by left to my own devices. 

  33. I think the lack of warning was explained by their saying that when an oracle prophesizes something, it’s only made worse by the person trying to fight against it.

  34. this book is featured in at least 3 articles this week.

  35. I wonder if JMS will stick around on Brave and the Bold once his runs of Superman and Wonder Woman start…

  36. I’ve got my wife reading Batgirl, which she loves, and she read this last night – it blew both of us away – fun, beautiful art; dancing in the face of dread was pitch perfect.

  37. I did have a few nerd issues with some of the characterizations and the way Z used her powers – but once I realized where the story was going I was turning each page with equal amounts of excitement and dread.  This series is a love affair to bronze age DC comics but also a great way for new DC readers to learn about these characters with awesome one-and-done stories.

  38. I liked it.

  39. Thoroughly enjoyed it, thanks for the heads up Josh. 

  40. I yell "NO!" when I finally realized what’s going on

    Great comic, excellent review

  41. I was absolutely amazed by this book and how much JMS was able to fit it in with that major storyline.  Like everybody else here, I was like, "What’s the big deal?  They’re clubbing and need a break."  And then I start to piece together what happens when Barbara’s talking to her dad. 

    I too wondered why Zatanna and Wonder Woman didn’t at least warn her, but guess it goes back to what they were saying in the restaurant where they would interefere with fate because it could only make it a thousand times worse.  I can live with that.

    All in all, was just glad to read something about Barbara in her Batgirl days and is really pumping me up even more when JMS officially takes over Superman and Wonder Woman.

  42. Now it’s only a matter of time before Alan Moore complains about the use of one of his stories.

    ….Hey he’ll do it to Geoff Johns he can do it to JMS. 

  43. HOOOOOLY SHIT!

    I’d like to preface the rest of my thoughts by quoting conor: "PICK OF THE WEEK!" This is such a good read, I don’t even care that it’s out of continuity (iphone reference). I’m going to immediately place this book on my shelf next to TKJ.

  44. @Mangaman

    iPhone reference doesn’t really make it out of continuity. I mean the thing came out 3 years ago. Now just pretend that this is Oracle only a year or so later.

     

  45. @Mnagaman  Iphones travels through time…

    I got misty… Ok I cried for lil moment there. This is real Girl Power! Feminist don’t seem to understand it but JMS does.

  46. Overall awesome surprising week for me 🙂 

  47. Maybe Booster told Z and WW, to not even bother trying to change it. It can’t be done.

     

    Little known fact: The Iphone has been around in the DCU since 1981.

  48. @NawidA: can’t pretend man. Own the OLD version of TKJ and I used it as reference to a thesis a few years back on the portrayal of Deleuze’s "Active and Reactive" in the comics medium. In the continuity I grew to love this is out of it, which doesn’t make it bad. I just said I loved this story. I pretty much ignored that panel. It’s unimportant and offers nothing but a good chuckle so it’s all good. We need more one-and-done stories like THAT calling back to collosal moments in comics history.

  49. @Unoob: another fact: Beyonce’s Single Ladies was released on the DCU in that year.

  50. I haven’t been digging the current Brave and the Bold books, but saw that Batgirl (Barbara in particular) was part of it and pre-ordered it.  SOOOOO glad I did.  Perfect issue.

  51. I didn’t have any idea what was coming until the conversation with Zatana and WW in the bathroom and the dinner scene, and suddenly it was just a sense of dread leading up to the ending.

     Tremendous issue.  Granted, it’s the first book I’ve read this week but it’ll be tough for anything to pass it for POTW…maybe GL…probably not.

  52. Read somewhere that JMS’s goal is to make Brave and the Bold a top ten selling book.

    Do you all think he will be able to pull it off?

  53. @Scorpion: No, definitely not. (Which is nothing against JMS.)

  54. This issue deserves an Eisner and cements my feelings that this is my favorite book on the shelf.

  55. Simply wonderful.

  56. @Scorpion: I think he talked about top 20 for this book (he was talking about making Thor top 10)…

     

    As to whether he can do it? I hope so, it’s a great book and it deserves those kind of sales. 

  57. Yeah, you might be right–top 20.

  58. Eseht era ton eht sdiord uoy era gnikool rof

     Made me laugh out loud

  59. I got a little teary eyed reading this book.  I love Barbara Gordon as Batgirl and this was a great book this week, this issue just reminded me of how much I would like to see her as Batgirl again.

    Although I outright cried when I found out that all of the Pages have already been sold according to Cliff Chiang. 

  60. Is no one going to mention the lesbian kiss?  (was it a lesbian kiss)  Cause, ya know, that’s sort of a big deal.  Ten years ago, DC wouldn’t even let Midnighter and Apollo kiss, and now, one of their three biggest characters is lezzing out just a little bit…

  61. Boy did you read that wrong.

  62. I feel like I did………….

  63. I looked at the panel like three times……

     

     

    it just doesn’t look like two women crying on one another……….(see what you want to see) 

  64. Would’ve never picked this up if not for this.  Thanks!

  65. there is something rather elegant that JMS does here. i mean he could have set this story as the night before TKJ but instead by placing it in an undetermined period before it sets this story apart from being fan fiction (that and Cliff Chang’s excellent art).

    also the scene in the diner is crafty as hell. using the oracle to both explain WW and Z’s predicament while at the same time reminding us readers of Babara’s importance in the DCU as Oracle – it’s as clever as it is thoughtful.

    my only gripe is that you have to have read TKJ to really get the impact and for that reason I find myself pondering whether this is a successful "story" or a "chapter". 

    glad I read it though. so so glad.

    Thanks.

  66. Picked this up thanks to the recommendation – one of the single best issues I’ve read this year.  It dawned on me just as they put Barbara in the taxi.  This is how you do it.

  67. @NawidA, yup that’s what I was going to say.  

    The iPhone situation is just one of those relative comic book time events.  The main comic book stories always take place in the common day, and thus other important events occur in a relative past. In example, the Joker shooting is always 2~ years in the past, and thus the flashback can have iPhones because the iPhone was introduced 3 or so years ago.  

    You don’t typically see DC using "Marvel Time" (which is what this is, see http://enterthestory.com/marvel_time.html), but it looks like JMS decided this was okay with him (and I guess same with the editors).  You could also call this Simpsons time, since Bart Simpson is always in the 3rd grade, Homer Simpson is always 38, et cetera.

    On the other hand, I think JMS did such a thing on purpose to annoy or force this sort of questioning, since the character could have just had a generic "cell phone" and thus no one would have noticed this detail.

    No one has to like it, but that’s just how these things go.

    In short, JMS wanted people to notice the iPhone, perhaps to get people talking and thus helping future sales (complete speculation here on the sales angle).

    @Gabe, "lesbian kiss"?  Waiter, I’ll have whatever he’s reading! 😉 Man, talk about trying to increase sales.

  68. @Gabe: I see what you’re saying. Chiang did draw it in a way where we couldn’t see what they were doing. They were just hugging close so….what else were we suppose to believe?

    Then we see a semi-flashback of what they were doing in the bathroom so he explains it. 

  69. Also, I’m pretty sure barbara thought they were kissing too……

  70. Yeah, Barbara thought they were, but then later we see in a minor flashback to that scene that they were just talking about what was happening. No lesbianism this time!

  71. Barbara did think that. It was a joke.

  72. @powerdad I think the iphone was just because the whole thing was actually a dream of Barbara’s.  Yes it happened in real life once years ago when she was Batgirl but the retelling we had this time was a dream which wouldn’t necessarily be exact.  It could be all kinds of anachronistic.

  73. @gobo, that’s an interesting idea, but that doesn’t make much sense to me. The iPhone incident occurs outside of Barbara’s area (remember her heel has broken and Z calls for her), she’s not even aware an iPhone has been crushed. Also, more importantly to me later as Barbara’s cab drives away, WW and Z look at each other with sad faces and then go their seperate ways. (Besides all the conversation recaps later on with WW and Z talking to themselves later on.) Basically I think its harder to believe Barbara would be dreaming about actions which are occuring away from herself.

    I guess I would ask you to identify where the dream starts and stops on the pages.

    At the end of the comic when Barbara wakes up we just know what she’s talking about when she mentions dreaming about dancing. We know the Z plan to give her a lasting memory of dancing has paid off.

    Honestly, it’s not that important to me how someone chooses to read it, and I like the "idea" it could have all been a remembered-dream, but it just doesn’t work logically for me.

  74. @powerdad I’ve definitely had dreams where I’m not the sole focus of attention, it’s not always from my POV.  But that might just be me 🙂

  75. Hmm, I didn’t see the whole thing as Barbara’s dream because the dramatic irony in the issue comes from Z and Diana knowing something that Barbara doesn’t.  And if the story was about her realizing that they knew this and didn’t tell her, I’d expect a different tone.  But I might have to re-read it with that in mind.

  76. I think, the bulk of the story wasn’t her dream, but the memory that the dream was based on. The anachronisms were more about silly comic book time than anything else. Oddly enough, they’ll date the story more than anything in 10 years.

  77. So picked it up this weekend, and I fucking whimpered at the end, a whimper came out, damn =/. well deserved picked of the week

  78. @josh, agreed about dating the story. If it had been a more generic reference, the story would stand the test of time better.

    Again, I would imagine the iPhone reference is deliberate, and JMS desires a reaction of some kind from the readers. (I speculate here he’s trying to give people someting to talk about, and thus increase exposure, and perhaps raise sales. And again, just groundless speculation on my part.)

  79. wow–can’t believe I am so against everyone’s opinion. Worst thing I have read in years

  80. Awesome. Glad I read it before reading the review.

  81. This is the one to beat for Best Single Issue of the Year.

  82. Loved this issue. I picked it up after reading this post. One thing that went through my head while reading: I’d love to see this issue drawn by Jamie McKelvie of Phonogram/Rue Britannia fame.

  83. I’ve used white-out to remove the "i" from iPhone in my copy. Now it’s a timeless classic!

  84. This was the best single issue I’ve read year to date.  I’m still picking my jaw up off the floor.

  85. This is where digital ROCKS ! This issue finally available on comixology and DC app
    Go buy it
    You won’t be disapponted ( SNiff) ( tears in Eye)

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