Spotlight Sunday 5.20.18

Spotlight Sundays

We’re finally seeing blue skies and sunshine this morning, and I find myself barely remembering what that was ever like, which brings to mind the plight of some mythical creatures, meaning that there are spoilers for…

The Brave and The Bold: Batman and Wonder Woman #4
Writer: Liam Sharp
Artist: Liam Sharp
Cover: Liam Sharp
Rated T+

“When the encroaching veil of forgetfulness descends to take away those bright recollections of lives once lived, we turn to our art – and we remember!”

The Brave and The Bold is a title – and a phrase – with a long, rich history at DC. Starting off as an anthology series, the original Brave and Bold went on to become a “try-out” series, introducing new characters and concepts, and in #28 it provided the debut of the Justice League of America.

By the time I started reading it with any regularity it had become a team-up book, with each issue containing an adventure featuring Batman and some other character from DC’s stable, much like the beloved animated series that drew its inspiration from the comic.

The series was revived as a team-up book for a time in the mid-aughts, though it was not limited to “Batman and…” instead choosing random pairings of different characters.

Team-up books of that sort were popular when I was a kid. In addition to B&B, DC had DC Comics Presents, which was a “Superman and…” book – after the Byrne relaunch, for a time, Action Comics took on that role – and World’s Finest, which was a combination team-up anthology book, with the main team-up being Superman and Batman.

Marvel had their own team-up books as well, such as, well, Marvel Team-Up, which featured characters being paired up with Spider-Man, and a book featuring the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing teaming up with someone new every month in what seems like it would have to be a porn parody: Marvel Two-In-One.

(Along with the infamous Giant-Size Man-Thing, Marvel also had another porntastically-titled book: Marvel Triple Action.)

The thing I always liked about the team-up books was that they gave characters who didn’t appear regularly – and some who were, at least to young Jon, incredibly obscure – a chance to shine, with a little help from a more well-known friend.

Eventually, team-up books, like so many things do in comics, fell out of favor, and while there have been various attempts at reviving them, most of them don’t stick around for long, and they don’t follow the original conceit of [Main Character] and [Guest Star].

This limited series does, at least, retain the Batman portion of the old book’s premise, though it differs from the older version in that the team-up is an extended tale.

Speaking of which, the tale involved centers on the mystic land of Tir Na Nóg, a realm separated from the world of mortals, populated by creatures of magic who in the distant past decided to cut themselves off from mortals.

For centuries they’ve lived in their hidden world, all-but forgotten by the mortals they left behind, and forgetting themselves thanks to the spell that keeps them separated from the mortal realm, forgetting more and more with each passing year.

Still, ancient grudges and enmities may be forgotten, but they’re never quite forgiven, and so the inhabitants of Tir Na Nóg have lived for centuries in an uneasy peace, forgetting why they hate each other, but not that they do.

Recently, that hatred has, apparently, gone from mere grumbling and occasional skirmishes and led to action, in the form of the murder of the king, which will likely lead to all-out war. To prevent that, Cernunnos, the Horned God whose magic created the current living situation, reaches out to the mortal realm to bring in Wonder Woman to assist in resolving the crisis.

At the same time, a homeless man who is obsessed with piercing the barrier between worlds has been engaging in occult activities in Gotham City, which, of course, catches the attention of Batman, which is a lucky “coincidence,” in that Diana soon realizes that there’s only one person she knows who can help her determine who killed the king.

And that’s basically where we find ourselves as this issue opens, with Wonder Woman and Batman investigating the murder, and determining that there is, of course, a deeper mystery.

This comic isn’t exactly action-packed, focusing instead on a lot of exposition and an exploration of Celtic mythology and lore, as Batman and Wonder Woman visit the king’s widow and learn a little about the history of Tir Na Nóg – or at least, what its inhabitants remember.

Much of that comes in the form of paintings depicting battles and tragedies from the past, all of which lead ultimately to the tomb of another king, Nuada, where it is discovered that a glamour has been placed on the body to obscure the fact that the king’s silver arm is missing.

I don’t mean to give the story short shrift, but the fact is that most of the narrative is essentially a lesson in Celtic mythology, and I’m not conversant enough in the lore to provide much commentary.

Beyond that, the real centerpiece of the comic is not Sharp’s writing, but rather his glorious, meticulously-detailed and lovingly-rendered art, and, in particular, the paintings that show the history that’s being told.

There is a poignancy to the lives of the people of Tir Na Nóg, living as they are, surrounded by the reminders of a life they have long-since forgotten, but while it’s an interesting book to read – and it’s beautiful to look at – this isn’t a comic you pick up if you’re looking for any kind of visceral excitement. I say that not to find fault, but rather to set expectations.

It’s also very dense, both visually and narratively. There’s a lot to see in every panel and a lot to read, given that it seems like something of a deep-dive into a mythology that is likely much less familiar than, say, Greek or Norse mythology for the average reader.

It’s not like some dry university lecture – after all, it also features Batman – but it is a lot, and part of the reason I don’t have that much to say about it is that it says so much already. I do wish that – as is pointed out in the pages leading up to the reveal of Sharp’s paintings – more of the story were told through art, with just a little bit less expository text, but it’s a minor complaint about a book that has, despite the lack of explosive action, been a pleasure to read so far.

Anyway, let’s just close this out with some more gorgeous art.

That does it for this week’s Spotlight Sunday. Check back on Saturday for the Showcase.

As always, special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one).

And please don’t let the veil forgetfulness keep you from remembering to support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon.

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