Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Review: The Brave And The Bold #3 & #4

Happy New Year's to everyone. I hope 2014 treats everyone well.

For me, I thought there would be no better way to start off the new year than to head to the long boxes and review a back issue. And with Supergirl and Lobo tangling in the current title, I thought  it would be fun to see how the two characters have interacted in the past. And so I present to you, from 2007, The Brave and The Bold, #3 and #4.

I definitely enjoyed this series, especially the first year, as writer Mark Waid and artist George Perez wove together one long arc which brought in a bunch of DC characters organically into a crazy reality bending story that culminated with the Challengers of the Unknown saving the universe. While the cover sports just two, the issues include all the characters as they slowly work their way to the climax. So Supergirl appears in #3 even if she isn't on the cover.

In rereading these issues for the review I am again reminded regretfully that Mark Waid doesn't write for DC anymore. It is clear he understands these characters and what makes them tick. Especially Supergirl. She isn't the easiest character to write. In the best of all worlds, she is an optimistic and sweet. She wants to help anyone she can and looks for the best in everything. And she be fierce when she needs to be, not letting anything stand in her way to do what is right and bring justice to the universe. It is a fine line. Lean one way too much and she is saccharine. Lean the other and she is overly angsty and angry. In these issues, Waid walks the tightrope. This is my Supergirl.

And it is clear that Waid is going to write the characters how he wants to write them. These books came out the same month that Joe Kelly was having Supergirl remember gunning down her high school classmates with a crystal flechette gun. None of that nonsense here.

Lastly, Perez is simply Perez, bringing his sensibilities to the issues. Detailed when he needs to be. Showing tremendous expression in his character. And setting up pages with inset panels, crunching the story when it needs it.

This isn't the 'new' Supergirl or the 'new' Lobo. Who cares!

In B&B #2, Supergirl had joined Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) to the gambling world of Ventura to try to track down thieves. It is an oddish issue with Hal clearly smitten with the irresistible Kara,  telling himself over and over to 'think good thoughts'. She is seventeen! But I think it is Waid's way of saying that Supergirl is so perfect that people find her charming.

Unfortunately, Hal takes off leaving Supergirl stranded with no way of finding Hal or heading to Rann where she needs to be.

Looking around, she asks if anyone knows a guide who can help her. I like how she politely asks if anyone can help her. There is that core of goodness which shines through even in a slimy place like this.

Don't worry we see plenty of the fierce.

The alien above leads Supergirl to the best tracker he knows, Lobo.

Standing before a firing squad, Supergirl rushes in, saving the day, dressed like a biker to hide her identity.

When Lobo asks why he should help her, Supergirl opens up her shirt and flashes Lobo. Flashes the S-shield that is.

It is an amusing opening for the characters, setting up a running gag with Lobo being a lecherous buffoon and Kara showing him his place.

Lobo agrees to take her to Rann ... for a fee.

Unfortunately, Lobo keeps sidetracking them, taking them to bars. In this scene, he arm wrestles Supergirl while the crowd gambles. Lobo wins and tells Kara he will finally take her to Rann after he buys everyone a round.

Irritated by the delays, Supergirl knocks out the nearest ordering alien and then asks if anyone else is thirsty. With the crowd silenced by that display, the two leave.

Again, it is the small things in comic art that make me smile. First off, that expression in the first panel is priceless. That is one irked Supergirl, looking out the corner of her eye to see if there are any other takers. But I also love how the panels slowly get bigger in the row, giving it a feeling of movement, progression, as we walk out the door.

In the first of many strange turns in the arc, the doors of the bar transport Lobo and Supergirl to some topiary labyrinth, tall hedges forming walls.

But these are super-powered beings. No mere hedge maze can stop them right?

Oh but this is a magic maze where Supergirl's super senses are worthless.

Still it allows Waid to inject some more bawdy behavior by Lobo with put-downs by Supergirl. The first panel has Supergirl rebuffing Lobo's jabs that she is checking out his package by saying she would need her microscopic vision for that. And then she icily tells him to stop when he says looking at the back of her head is a good view.

He is oily and creepy. And she is appropriately angry about it but holding things in check for now.

If vision powers aren't helping, Supergirl decides to reconnoiter from the air. She flies straight up (first telling Lobo she will melt his face if he peeks up her skirt) only to crash back in from the ground.

And so we finally see that fierceness of Supergirl, that impetuousness of youth. She is learning and isn't perfect. And she can lose her temper. That last panel, angrily lashing out at the maze is great!

Lobo is a tracker though and is able to get them out of the maze. And there at the end is ... Destiny, minus his famous book. That is what has been stolen. That is what Hal is trying to find.

One page after losing it about the hedges, she is again the voice of reason. When Lobo goes to attack Destiny, she stops him. It is great how she asks him just what is wrong with him.

And that sense of justice flares to the front. She promises Destiny that if she can find the book she will return it to him.

But there is more to it than that. The book must be recovered and given to those who need it. Hmmm ....

Great stuff by Perez here, the garden looking lush and beautiful.

 As I said, Supergirl can be fiery in her defense of those being mistreated. Here, the person being mistreated is herself. Barbed with one too many 'dumb blonde' jokes and creepy innuendos by Lobo, she decides it is time to end them.

She throws him to the ground and batters him until he gives up, even if it is with an awkward end.

Still, it is that will to rise up and defend, and that unpolished nature ... the young hero growing into the role ... that I love about Kara.

 But if there is any moment that sums up Supergirl's character, it is this one. After she learns that she could read open the book and read it herself, she is suddenly silent and contemplative, a stark contrast to the bubbly and energetic hero she has been so far.

And that smooths Lobo's rough persona just a touch. He tells her that she will grow up fine. And when she wonders about other Kryptonian out there, he breaks the tension with a little joke, not even off-color.

And that is the wonder of Supergirl, that that light, that optimism, that joy, and that need to help ... it is infectious. It can inspire and soften even as jaundiced a soul as Lobo.

And this series of panels, closeups, profiles, single characters and both characters, it adds to the conversation. You need the first panel to feel Kara's mind racing and to sense that Lobo notices it. You need the off-Kara in the third panel, showing something is off a bit. And you need that last panel, allowing Supergirl to get the 'spotlight' as she senses that whiff of kindness from Lobo. Wonderful.

The two finally arrive at Rann. Given the universe is in peril, Supergirl assumes Lobo will continue to work with her, helping her find the book.

But Lobo isn't that magnanimous. It leads to this great parting shot.

Supergirl takes off to the planet, reneging on her payment, and telling him she could have beaten him at the arm wrestling contest from earlier ... without breaking a sweat!

How great is that last panel, Supergirl plugging her ears and saying 'la la' while Lobo steams. It once again shows that innocence she has, that elan of youth. She is trying to save the universe but she is ribbing Lobo at the same time. And saying a slip of a thing like her could have bested him in strength easily ... it is hits him where he is most vulnerable.

That mix of right and responsibility, innocence and goodness, mixed with passion and unbridled energy, and a bit of an edge - it is that cauldron that makes Supergirl who she is at her best. She is a young Kryptonian, learning the ropes, trying to be a hero. Taken alone, the 'punch out the bar patron', 'yell at shrubbery' basher might be considered angsty or 'Hell on Wheels' ... the perfect new 52 Supergirl. But it is clear that hope and optimism is the main facets of Supergirl, and these episodes of frustration are adjuncts.

I have nothing but praise for these issues. This is a fun story with a wonderful Supergirl and great interactions with the 'Main Man' version of Lobo. These are probably easy to find and cheap. But the trades might be better to see how it all turns out! Supergirl plays a decent role throughout this story.

Overall grade: A


Anonymous said...

On the Basis of his work depicting Supergirl in "The Brave and the Bold", George Perez is officially and publicly forgiven by me for his role in the nefarious COIE #7.
And as for Mark Waid it is crime against nature that he is NOT Supergirl's prime writer at this very instant, he would be one of the few who has an intuitive feel for Kousin Kara. He understands that Supergirl has a quick intelligent mind and a bottomless reserve of courage, BUT none of that is alloyed with any experience and so he depicts her as making good decisions but in the circuitous fashion of a saavy teenager.
Makes me all the more alienated from the current characterization...c'est le guerre. There is always "Batman '66" for however long that lasts.
Hey Anj, Happy New Year have you see "Molly Danger" Jamal Igle's self published graphic novel financed from Kickstarter??


Count Drunkula said...

I loved these issues, the whole story arc. It's some of my favorite work from George Perez. And Anj, you're right about Waid writing the characters the way he wants to, which is why the Batman/Blue Beetle team up reads like Batman's first meeting with Spider-Man (that's a compliment, by the way).

The pages with Hal Jordan and Supergirl are incredible, too!

Martin Gray said...

This really was a wonderful run, like a more serious DC Challenge with a consistent creative team. And yes indeed, Waid and Perez's Kara was like the best textbook ever.

Happy New Year,

Saranga said...

I adore this story and I am not usually a fan of Perez's art, but with Waid writing it just works.

"Hal clearly smitten with the irresistible Kara, telling himself over and over to 'think good thoughts'. She is seventeen! But I think it is Waid's way of saying that Supergirl is so perfect that people find her charming"
Nah, I think Waid is just saying that Hal's a perv :)

Anj said...

Happy New Year and thanks for the comments.

I am glad you all enjoyed this book as much as I did. Maybe I should review more of it at some point.

The DC Challenge reference is perfect Mart.

And yes, Saranga, maybe Waid is saying Hal is a slave to his desires.

I wish Waid was writing something for DC. I am loving his Daredevil.

Gear said...

Thanks for the look back Anj! This was a very nice take on Supergirl, and as you say it was during a time that things weren't going so well in her own book. Waid's Supergirl was smart and occasionally introspective, and had a sense of humor and the absurd that was lacking in her own book at the time,

Please review the rest of that series if you have the time.

ealperin said...

Awww... That was a nice read!


Anonymous said...

Your review convinced me to order copies from Amazon. I didn't hear about those issues back in 2007.
-- DW

Anj said...

Thanks for continued posting!

Gear - will see when the bug for more B&B bites me. But will keep it on the short list of back issues to review.

ealperin - It is a great read

And DW - thanks! That is the best compliment that can be given to a reviewer!

Anonymous said...

After checking the DC Database, it turns out that Issues 1-6 of Brave and Bold were devoted to that one storyline, titled "Lords of Luck." Supergirl appears in issues 2-6. Those six issues have been collected in a trade paperback, "Brave and Bold: The Lords of Luck."
-- DW

Anonymous said...

I like sueprgirl look here!