Review by Karl Verhoven
This volume finishes Mark Waid’s run of teaming DC characters, and most pairings are more mainstream than those seen in the previous books. He’s dropped the plot featuring the Challengers of the Unknown that closed off The Book of Destiny, and his stories here are more or less straightforward. They’re clever in places, make use of DC’s rich history, but there’s not much in the way of real tension to them, with the heroes seemingly always in control and never really endangered. The one exception is the ending to the second chapter, the book’s only continued story, which segues well from Green Arrow and Deadman teaming to Nightwing and Hawkman.
This comprises the title story, which otherwise features little in the way of spark. Slightly better is Catwoman’s attempts to outwit Superman as he visits Gotham and attempts to halt the auction of a map to an unrevealed location. This and the previous tales are illustrated by Scott Kolins, whose style is evolving from his better known work on the Flash. It’s sometimes awkward, as if he’s having trouble forcing all the necessary characters into a panel, but Kolins (sample art) knows a spectacular image when he’s created it. Waid’s best story here teams Batman and the Jay Garrick version of Flash. Few superheroes have Batman looking up to them, but Garrick is one, and the story toys nicely with themes of succession and responsibility, while Jerry Ordway obviously enjoyed drawing it.
In 2008 four stories weren’t considered content enough for a graphic novel, so there are several earlier works included, two by Waid. Pairing the Wally West Flash with Captain Marvel is relatively ordinary, but the comedy of Impulse meeting Zatanna and screwing up her act is fun. The best story here, though, is the earliest. In 1981 someone accomplished in any other form of writing producing comics was almost unheard of, and the handful of scripts by then TV writer Alan Brennert stood out from the crowd. They combined a workable plot with ethical issues and convincing characterisation, and in this case took the unusual step of ageing superheroes Hawk and Dove from the teenagers they were to their late twenties. “You’ve got to stop measuring everything you do against your brother”, Dove is told by his wife, “or you’ll never be anything more than half a person”. Hawk is faring no better, the callousness of the early 1980s fuelling his always simmering rage, and while time has caught up with Brennert’s techniques, he’s not yet been overhauled, so this remains a good character piece. Better still, Batman’s involvement makes sense, and it’s all nicely drawn by Jim Aparo in his attractive graphic style.
One story doesn’t make Demons and Dragons essential reading (and it can also be found in Tales of the Batman: Alan Brennert), but it raises the overall quality and is the only character study in the book. This series of The Brave and the Bold continues with a mixed bag of creators in Without Sin.