Many childrens’ librarians know the difficulty of finding kid-appropriate comics featuring mainstream superheroes. One I had particularly enjoyed was DC Comics’ series Batman: the Brave and the Bold, but it, like too many other kids’ titles from DC and from Marvel, went out of print quickly. That’s why I was delightfully surprised to open a box of review copies from Capstone and find hardcover releases of single-issues of the Batman: the Brave and the Bold comic books.
What I enjoy about Batman: the Brave and the Bold is that it has a silly, cheesy vibe. The basic premise of the series is Batman stopping bad guys with the help of a wide variety of superheroes from the DC Comics Universe, from familiar heroes such as Wonder Woman and Green Arrow, to lesser known folks like Kid Eternity, the Doom Patrol, and The Great Ten (“China’s Ultimate Super Team!”). The villains are also a mix of familiar – Lex Luthor – and more out-there baddies – General Immortus and Mad Mod.
Everything is drawn in bold strokes and I’m not just talking about the art. The humor is punny, with plenty of silly phrases like “Great Cod Almighty!” (said during an adventure with Aquaman) and “Black Knights meet ‘The Dark Knight’ – Good Night!” The first few books sometimes include a bit of preachiness, such as Batman assuring Power Girl, “For all your strength, it was the brute force of your character that saved all those people.” And when Batman visits other countries, the residents are Saturday morning cartoon caricatures – British citizens say “Wot!” and “Jolly Good Show!” and the Chinese superheroes prefer to be called “Super Functionaries,” a “humbler” term.
But when combined with the retro-style art, which is all chunky figures, angular faces, and bright colors, the result is old-timey and fun, rather than painfully dated. There’s plenty for both kids and adults to laugh at and enough action to keep superhero fans reading. Parents will appreciated the toned-down costumes of the female superheroes, who still have curves, but who also have enough fabric to cover them. Teachers will like that there are – as in most Stone Arch titles – educational extras at the end, in this case “Secret Bat-Files” on the guest villain and hero, a glossary, and visual questions and prompts. These prompts show readers pictures from the comic and ask them to consider why the creators made the choices they did for that particular image and why those choices supported the story.
Even though there are several different creators, the titles flow smoothly from one to another, with no overly obvious change in style or tone. This, along with the short, single-issue format, makes these a good choice for more reluctant readers. Capstone’s Stone Arch books always have sturdy, hardcover bindings, though the price is a little high at $15.95 per volume (school and library rate). Hopefully Capstone will consider hardcover omnibus editions, if the single-volume ones sell well, as those would help libraries stretch their budgets further. Other DC Comics series being released by Stone Arch are Tiny Titans, DC Super Friends, Justice League Unlimited, Superman Adventures, and Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade.
Batman: the Brave and the Bold (Capstone/Stone Arch editions)
The Attack of the Virtual Villains
By Matt Wayne; art by Phil Moy
Menace of the Time Thief
By Matt Wayne; art by Andy Suriano
The Case of the Fractured Fairy Tale
By J. Torres; art by Carlo Barberi
Charge of the Army Eternal
By J. Torres; art by Andy Suriano
The Secret of the Doomsday Design
By J. Torres; art by J. Bone
Batman Versus The Yeti!
By J. Torres; art by Carlo Barberi
DC Comics/Stone Arch Books, 2013