Review: Batman: The Brave & The Bold #5

Batman: The Brave & The Bold #5
Writers: Tom King, Ed Brisson, Rob Williams
Artists: Mitch Gerads, Jeff Spokes, Stefano Landini, Jorge Fornés
Color Artists: Mitch Gerads, Jeff Spokes, Antonio Fabela
Letterers: Clayton Cowles, Saida Temofonte, Simon Bowland, Clem Robins
Review by Davydh Tidey

Batman: The Brave & The Bold #5 brings more surprises than ever, with a big reveal for the new Stormwatch team, the truth realized for Emilia Harcourt, and (surprise, surprise) yet another killing spree from the Joker! 

Oh, we also get a sad, hard-hitting story of the futility of life in Gotham and the dangers of substance abuse…. and Batman!

Joke

In your opinion, you joining them in their graves — that would be… helpful?”
– Alfred Pennyworth

Tom King and Mitch Gerads return to the fold of Batman: The Brave & The Bold to continue their Joker story, digging even deeper into the psyche of Batman in his early days. The Dark Knight’s head cannot be a good place to be at the best of times, let alone when a terrifying new threat hits the city like a bullet train. 

The Joker is now killing randomly. No more clues, no more jokes, just death. Of course, it’s ALWAYS a game and a certain someone knows how to read the signs…

If anyone could have picked up the threads of Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s dark thriller Batman: Year One and run with them, no one could have done it better than Tom King and Mitch Gerads. King’s writing is tonally perfect for the world of Gotham City during Batman’s early days and slips in perfectly with its close predecessor, reminiscent of Miller’s own take on the proto-Batman. The unregulated darkness of a city before Batman becomes plainly present, and Bruce’s inexperience is clearly on show throughout. Yet another hit for Tom King. 

Mitch Gerads is on TOP FORM. I imagine it adds a huge amount of time to his work, but having him color his own pencils and inks delivers a feast for the eyes. I would love to see a full miniseries done this way. His Joker is creepy and haunting in a particularly unique way, and the way Batman’s been drawn shows off his early suit and rudimentary gadgets in brilliant detail. It’s just excellent content all around. 

Lie

It was under the bed.”
– Ravager

Espionage! God fight! Nuclear meltdowns! Stormwatch really does have it all. 

In this newest installment, still on the hunt for artifacts to defend themselves against the Justice League (should it ever come to that), the team now has their eyes on stealing from a literal God. Way to shoot for the moon, guys. The truth behind their mission is also FINALLY revealed to Stormwatch, and the team is just as shocked as the reader.

Ed Brisson (who’s writing TWO stories for this issue, how does he find the time?) continues his tale in masterful fashion. Quietly one of the best teams on the DC roster right now, Stormwatch is begging for an expansion to this story post-Batman: The Brave & The Bold, or at least more titles from these really interesting personalities. Brisson has given the more well-known characters a new lease of life in these stories, and the lesser-known ones a much-needed spotlight. 

Welcome back Jeff Spokes, and what a return! Inventive panel layouts and the clean linework I loved in the first stories, plus a highlight on the individuality of all the characters at play while out of costume, make this an extra special story for me. Bring me more.

Deceit

You murdered me and now you’re gonna pay!”
– Emilia Harcourt

Emilia Harcourt continues her revenge rampage from the previous issue, clearly intent on paying back the man who murdered her. She has their name, she knows their face, and she has their gimmick. She’s ready for them, and she won’t back down until she’s got what she came for.

Something big is also building with Amanda Waller and her various Task Forces, and Rob Williams seems to be adding another piece to the complicated tapestry that is Harcourt’s story. The ending of “Knight Terrors”, Robbie Thompson and Eduardo Pansica’s Suicide Squad run from 2021 and her role in the Green Arrow miniseries from Joshua Williamson and Sean Izaakse are all building something, and I can’t wait to find out what that is. Harcourt’s part should be interesting to say the least, judging from this brutal, engaging story. 

The art from Stefano Landini and Antonio Fabela continues to be viscerally violent, with Harcourt getting a grip on her new powers with ease and she uses them in creative ways. The storytelling in the art is as fluid as it is violent, with some colorful villains meeting their fitting, cannon-fodder ends on these pages. 

Misdirect

It’s hard to hear the angels when you live in hell.”
– Batman

Oh boy, here comes the sad one. 

Batman: The Brave & The Bold #5 features a unique story, in that it’s a massive tonal shift from its predecessors. From the start, you’re given a detective noir vibe that leads Batman down the road to a tragic, thrilling, yet ultimately pointless crime. It’s very Ed Brubaker in it’s approach, which is every bit the compliment it appears to be. 

Ed Brisson absolutely nailed this. The tone throughout is so somber and so serious, but never shifts over into a ridiculous cliche like so many of the tales of this kind do. You’re asked to take a moment to really absorb the story, and lose yourself in its world… and so easy to do so. I’d love to see Brisson tackle a full book with Batman as a proper detective like this in the future. 

Of course, he is joined by the always wonderful Jorge Fornés. The artwork is a huge draw for the tale as it compliments the tone perfectly. Fornés should always be the first choice of artist for a crime/detective book, especially one where he gets to draw his unique, short-eared Batman. 

Conclusion

Batman: The Brave & The Bold #5 rules. Simple as that. This anthology title continues to deliver in every way. This may be my favorite issue yet, and “The Angel of Gotham”, Brisson and Fornés’ closing chapter, may actually be my favorite modern Batman story. There’s not a single miss on these pages, so do not miss this issue!

Images courtesy of DC Entertainment


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