Pop Culture Gadabout
Friday, March 09, 2007
      ( 3/09/2007 12:10:00 PM ) Bill S.  

"I THINK YOU REVEL IN MY DISCOMFORT!" – First question to cross my mind when I recently received a review copy of the revived DC superhero title, The Brave and the Bold, was, "So which Green Lantern is this on the front cover?" Last time this writer ventured very deeply into the current state of Green Lantern, the ring of power was in the hands of a young cartoonist named Kyle, while Hal Jordan – the Silver Age GL of my youth – was apparently serving time as the Spectre for some major cosmic crime. The figure on the cover of B&B #1, flying over a Batman who appears to be ducking back from a power ring shot, looked like Hal Jordan, but I lived through the first Spider Clone Saga, so I've learned not to take this stuff for granted.

Fortunately for me, writer Mark Waid obviously recognizes that I'm not the only returning reader who might be a buzzy on the GL front, so he establishes things quickly without being too openly expository: we see two GLs – the black Green Lantern John Stewart, played by talented voiceman Phil LaMarr Justice League cartoons, and his white compeer – as they're flying through space, reminiscing about great team-ups past. As they prepare to soar their separate ways, the white GL advises John to check out planet Wondil-8: "I hear Green Lanterns eat free," he sez. "I'll tell 'em Hal Jordan sent me," John replies as he swoops off. Well, that answers that question . . .

On his way back to Earth, Hal happens upon a corpse floating in space – the discovery is not, we suspect, happenstance since Hal himself has already told us that he regularly takes this particular flight path ("I could find my apartment blindfolded, I've made this approach so many times.") – so he rings up Gotham City, where it turns out the Batman is also looking at an identical dead guy on the floor of the Batcave. It's a mystery, alright, so naturally you do a "quick consult" with the guy who used to be billed as the World's Greatest Detective long before it was decided that Dark Knight was a sexier title. GL heads for the Batcave where one – or both? – of the bodies prove to have a playing card from the Kismet casino in its shirt pocket.

Waid makes smart use of the Batcave setting in this sequence, including that giant penny which has long been a part of the background – and, while our teamed-up heroes fend off an attack by the still-mysterious bad guys, we learn GL's power ring no longer has the dumb vulnerability to the color yellow which used to be a part of the Silver Age comics. Our duo travels to Las Vegas, showing up in the Kismet Casino in their civilian identities, which provides the writer a chance to play Bruce Wayne's playboy identity off Jordan's middle-class adventurer persona: there's a nice irrelevant scene at the blackjack tables designed to contrast Hal's risk-taking ways against the more deliberate Batman, and, while I don't really have a sense if this dichotomy makes "historical" sense, it works for the story.

Kismet's owner proves to be a villainess I vaguely recognize (Bruce helpfully tells us that she's "run afoul of the Justice Society in the past"), who's in possession of the MacGuffin that brings out the story villains for a second big dust-up. Both the Batcave and Vegas fracases could've been a bit more clearly delineated for this reader: artists George Perez & Bob Wiacek had me longing for the cleaner, less frenetic superhero art of Silver Ager Gil Kane more than once during the fight scenes – especially when they get hyper-busy with the green and pink power rays. You can clearly see the twosome having fun with the Vegas setting in general, though: the page where Bruce & Hal first enter the Kismet has an appealingly Bond-ian feel.

Ish #1 ends with the MacGuffin in the hands of our mysterious alien antagonists – and with the promise of an issue two team-up between GL and Supergirl. That's another character who's had more pretenders than the throne than I can keep track of, though, on the basis of this minor but diverting opening outing, I feel confident scripter Waid'll be able to babystep me into her current story . . .
# |

Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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