Friday, August 10, 2012

Even Without Knowing All The Characters, The Brave And The Bold: Without Sin Is All Right!

The Good: Decent dialogue, Interesting plots, Good character moments, Most of the artwork
The Bad: Annoying reuse of Green Lantern’s character conflict
The Basics: Objectively, it seems like I ought to be more enthusiastically recommending the team-up book The Brave And The Bold: Without Sin, but I’m not. Go figure.

I try to keep an open mind about everything I get in to read. After all, I make no bones about not knowing everything, especially when it comes to graphic novels. Even so, given how I was not wild about the two prior volumes of The Brave And The Bold graphic novels, I went into reading the fourth volume, The Brave And The Bold: Without Sin with a little more wariness than normal. Despite being on guard, I actually enjoyed The Brave And The Bold: Without Sin. The Brave And The Bold: Without Sin, like the prior books I have read in the The Brave And The Bold series is essentially a team-up story in the DC Universe. Actually, volume four The Brave And The Bold: Without Sin features two completely unrelated team up stories.

The Brave And The Bold: Without Sin features a two-issue arc that focuses on Supergirl and Raven (neither of whom am I overly familiar with). The rest of the book is the title “Without Sin” arc that focuses primarily on Hal Jordan’s Green Lantern and the Phantom Stranger, with a supporting appearance by Green Arrow. And The Brave And The Bold: Without Sin is mostly impressive, though it is not without its faults.

I have only now gotten in a few Supergirl books, so the seeming extensive amount of her character conflict presented in her part in The Brave And The Bold: Without Sin is something I have to take on faith as appropriate. Having not read a single book that even alluded to Raven, her character is entirely new to me and their team-up appears interesting and pretty mundane as far as team-ups go. In other words, the two heroes seem well-suited to a team up and their story is really only lacking in a villain that is compelling in a way that makes one want to read any of the scenes he is in.

My bigger issues with The Brave And The Bold: Without Sin is how Hal Jordan is used. The Brave And The Bold: Without Sin clearly comes from a time following Hal Jordan’s resurrection and I can dig that. But the story uses a character element that offers no reflection upon the actual character. Hal Jordan was possessed by Parallax and went on a killing spree throughout the DC Universe before he was put down. Since his resurrection, he should have a lot more wisdom to understand the Phantom Stranger and, frankly, it seems lazy of author David Hine to put Jordan in a situation where he might be possessed again. I’m not saying that the whole Parallax arc disqualifies Hal Jordan from any possession arcs, but in The Brave And The Bold: Without Sin the element of possession is introduced without any character reflection on Jordan’s part and that is more problematic than audacious.

The first two chapters of The Brave And The Bold: Without Sin focus on Supergirl and Raven. The “Past Tense” storyline finds Supergirl having nightmares about her father and the way he programmed her to be a killer. Frustrated and unable to find anyone else to reach out to, she abducts Raven for a conversation. While Raven teaches Kara to meditate and find her voice, a young man suffering from identity issues breaks into a University laboratory where her believes a weapon of mass destruction is being built. In responding to that threat, Raven and Supergirl will discover parallels between their own parental conflicts and his.

This story in The Brave And The Bold: Without Sin is pretty simple and is essentially about three people with daddy issues. It’s not bad, though it is a little obvious. Moreover, the villain never quite pops, arguably because of the narrative technique. Writer Marv Wolfman intersperses the villain’s story with the budding relationship between Raven and Supergirl and it is not entirely clear why. The villain is clear, but whose flashbacks pop up every few pages and frames takes a while to develop and that technique is more annoying than imaginative.

The artwork in The Brave And The Bold: Without Sin is universally good, though it is not extraordinary. The sense of movement in Supergirl’s hair when she lifts off is well-rendered and Raven looks consistently adult in her costume (which is a striking contrast to her clearly teenage appearance out of it). The “Past Tense”/”Fathers” story is well-colored and easy to read, though it is a story that ultimately lacks a truly deeper theme.

The lack of a compelling theme beyond telling an obvious superhero story extends into the second section of The Brave And The Bold: Without Sin. The best writing, the best movies, pretty much the best anything, includes a bigger picture aspect and I have found that to be true in the most audacious and impressive graphic novels as well. Books like Kingdom Come (reviewed here!) and Justice (reviewed here!) make a deeper commentary on humanity and they hold up exceptionally well as a result. Despite being an engaging story, The Brave And The Bold: Without Sin is, alas, not truly deeper than that.

The “Without Sin” section of The Brave And The Bold: Without Sin is a fairly engaging story with excellent artwork, though. The four-part story focuses on a mission that the Phantom Stranger and Green Lantern (the Hal Jordan incarnation) take on together. On Earth, there is a hospital where a small group of children with severe birth defects are being raised. One of them, who has never had any apparent ability to interface with the real world begins to suddenly write volumes of information in many different languages. She writes about the ends of worlds, worlds destroyed by a villain known as the Purge. And one of her tomes features a world that has not yet been eradicated.

Journeying to Kahlo, Jordan and the Phantom Stranger catch up with the resident Green Lantern there and learn about the pleasure planet and its people. On Kahlo, the citizens dream as the result of a parasitic type creature and that same creature makes for a real boost to the planetary economy. With the tourist trade booming, a black market for exporting the entity also thrives and that has brought the attention of the world-slayer Purge. In fighting off Purge on Kahlo, Jordan and the Phantom Stranger inadvertently turn its attentions to Earth and the helpless girl there who might be all that stands in Purge’s way!

The latter two thirds of The Brave And The Bold: Without Sin is presented with painting-style artwork that is truly exceptional for most every panel. While the individual frames may not have a great sense of movement within them, the between-panel movement is good and makes the story very easy to follow. The story, however, is more basic than I would like. The adventure is good and the use of Green Arrow – who is characterized as somewhat (appropriately) frail – is one of the better ones that I have read. But there is a serious neglect of the characters involved. None of the characters grow, change, develop or even reveal much of their own true nature, making The Brave And The Bold: Without Sin a much tougher sell than I would like.

Even so, The Brave And The Bold: Without Sin is worth reading and is an engaging story, even if it ultimately has a somewhat inconsequential feel to it.

For other books in the The Brave And The Bold series, check out my reviews of:
Volume 1 – The Lords Of Luck
Volume 2 – The Book Of Destiny
Volume 3 – Demons And Dragons


For other graphic novel reviews, please be sure to visit my Graphic Novel Index Page for an organized listing of all the graphic novels I have reviewed!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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