Title: The Brave and the Bold #32
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artist: Jesus Saiz
Colorist: Trish Mulvihill
Publisher: DC Comics
The big news came down last week that J. Michael Straczynski would be getting writing duties on not one but two major DC comics: Wonder Woman and Superman. I guess it was only a matter of time before JMS got a shot at the major comic titles that a man of his talent deserves. But I couldn’t help but feel a little sad at the news, mostly because I feel these new assignments mean the end of JMS’s run on The Brave and the Bold. I don’t know if the idea of him possibly leaving this book affected my feelings, but I was a little disappointed by the story this month.
I sat there after reading this latest installment of B&B strangely unaffected. Past issues from JMS had been filled with emotional stories of personal sacrifice, making hard decisions in the face of adversity and heroes facing their own mortality. This story had all of the elements of past Brave and the Bold stories from JMS: two strong heroes (Aquaman and The Demon) teaming up to stop a very dangerous threat to the Earth, nice action sequences and smart writing. So why was this story devoid of the emotional impact I felt from previous issues? I went back, read the story again and came to the conclusion that the story failed to work for me because of a man called Whitford Crane.
Who is Whitford Crane? He is a sailor, the sole survivor of a shipwreck that claims the lives of his fellow shipmates. Whitford witnessed his fellow sailors being dragged down to the bottom of the ocean by mysterious creatures before washing up on the shore in front of Aquaman and Demon. Aquaman decides that Whitford can be of use to hunt down the creatures that sank his ship and, more importantly, find the larger menace that threatens the Earth lurking under the ocean. Demon gives Whitford some gills and off they go to hunt down and defeat the Cthulhu like creature dwelling at the bottom of the ocean.
So how does Whitford Crane monkey wrench the story? Well, the story is told from his perspective, not Aquaman or Demon’s. You don’t know what either of our heroes are thinking, fearing or worrying about. I think that is what Straczynski did so well in previous issues, letting readers into the minds of the heroes, showing their fears, hopes and moments of indecision. Straczynski is at his best when he shows the reader just how hard it is to be a hero, just how much you have to give up to do the right thing and having to live with the decisions they make. Poor Whitford is really just an innocent bystander and to be honest, I couldn’t care less about what he thinks about the situation he is in, he is just there watching the action unfold with nothing to add to the battle that is occurring around him.
Unlike previous issues there are no conflicts between our two heroes, not only is there no conflict between them, they really don’t even speak to each other. I understand that The Demon is a, well… demon and not prone to witty banter or a lot of chit chat. Perhaps that is why Straczynski included the character of Whitford to serve as a catalyst for exposition, with either Aquaman or Demon explaining what is happening to Whitford as a way to impart information to the reader.
The battle with the creature itself is pretty straight forward, even fighting a giant demon squid, Aquaman and Demon never seem to be in serious trouble during the battle and make short work of the creature. Without the internal dialog of the heroes involved the battle is pretty boring and even the ending with Whitford Crane trying to prove to himself that he wasn’t imagining the whole experience falls flat because we already know the answers to his questions.
I guess Straczynski was due for a stumble on this book. He really did have a good run up to this point and I can’t really complain too much about one weak issue. I just hope he finishes his run on The Brave and the Bold on a strong note and doesn’t let his last few issues slide because his has bigger fish to fry now.