Review by Ian Keogh
A second collection of Jim Aparo’s Batman work almost exclusively teams Batman with other DC characters, all but one story written by Bob Haney.
That barely a month was missed while Jim Aparo both pencilled and inked The Brave and the Bold for eleven years speaks to his professional abilities, but over the course of this work produced between 1975 and 1979 his style evolves. It pares down, with less inking detail, but Aparo’s layouts remain expansive. An occasional page is rushed and cramped, but that’s in a collection of over five hundred, most impeccable. Aparo has a consistent interpretation of Batman as a costumed athlete, rather than the musclebound bodybuilder so frequently seen in the 21st century. This is a Batman you can believe in far more easily, occasionally having difficulty with a muscular thug rather than beating up Darkseid. Joe Staton’s credit is for laying out a Plastic Man story finished by Aparo.
The first sample page is from a cleverly layered and meta plot, with Batman and Sgt Rock chasing clues while Haney, Aparo and editor Murray Boltinoff in the ‘real’ world must constantly adjust the plot, which has been hijacked by terrorists. It’s great, but also the last appearance for the Sarge. Compared with the previous volume Batman teams with his Justice League colleagues far more often than the obscure characters Haney enjoys writing. Deadman, Phantom Stranger and Wildcat appear, but only once, and while the Metal Men chalk up two slots, the second is combined with Green Arrow, the most frequent guest star. Haney still fits most into the type of crime mysteries he prefers, involving assorted gangsters and their activities, and he adroitly skirts superheroes demanding superhero action. He likes the Joker, but few other supervillains are used, so both Wonder Woman and Flash battle a large tiger. On occasion his plots require stretching of credulity, such as accepting Commissioner Gordon once accidentally killed an alien, yet even that results in a taut thriller with good use of Hawkman’s alien origins and a bounty hunter on Gordon’s trail. The ending is too pat, but it’s been an exciting ride, and Haney’s excellent at sustaining a mystery and with the pay-off. The surprise of the 150th issue’s guest star still holds up.
As before, collecting so many Haney’s stories reveals some devices overused, the mysterious unknown ganglord or killer for one, or the item in several pieces. He also has little concern for DC’s overall continuity. Aparo draws a great disorientation scene, but anyone bothered by the idea of Green Lantern defecting to the Soviet Union for a single story will be troubled by Haney’s writing. The jarring character notes increase from around the halfway mark. Batman giving up, Black Canary becoming a fashion designer, and the final team-up is packed with misguided attempts to note what was then contemporary.
Right at the end, Aparo’s work jumps back to 1973 for two brief solo Batman tales written by Archie Goodwin. They’re both gems, and highlight how Aparo’s style had changed over the 1970s to less work intensive methods. However, it’s never skimping and his refinement shines through what’s still a readable collection. Volume 3 takes his Batman work to 1982.
One story advertised ending another doesn’t appear, as it was drawn by Romeo Tanghal. If you just want the full run of Batman team-ups irrespective of creator all these and the Unknown Soldier teaming are found in the second volume of The Brave and the Bold Bronze Age Omnibus.