Book Review: Batman: The Brave And The Bold: The Winning Card

Batman: The Brave And The Bold: The Winning Card
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mitch Gerads
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Review by Davydh Tidey

Batman: The Brave And The Bold: The Winning Card, is the first collection from DC’s brand new anthology series, Batman: The Brave And The Bold. It brings together the complete Tom King/Mitch Gerads/Clayton Cowles Joker story; a 21st-century update of the first meeting between The Clown Prince of Crime and The Dark Knight.

This is something that fans have wanted to see for years. Of course, the creative team’s made up of an all-star list of creative talent… but does this story live up to the hype?

Yes. Yes, it does.

This book collects the complete “Winning Card” saga, from issues #1, 2, 5, and 9 of the ongoing Brave & The Bold series, and all the original covers by Simone Di Meo.

Do you think it’s midnight yet?
The Joker

A missing child, a husband murdering his spouse, and a threat of a robbery. What do these things all have in common? They’re all the start of a much larger, much darker story… 

Tom King and Mitch Gerads deliver a terrifying look at the Joker’s early antics, Jim Gordon’s police career before becoming commissioner, and Batman’s brutal beginnings. The grand game between Batman, the GCPD and the Joker is only just beginning, but the rivalry’s already there, whether these people know it or not. 

Tom King’s story here is not a simple one; there are many different moving parts that come together to a foreboding conclusion. King has a talent for making single chapters feel like a whole, giving the reader a short story in each one, all serving the overall narrative beautifully. We’ve seen it in Human TargetRorschach, and Strange Adventures. Now we’re seeing it for the character he’s (arguably) contributed the most to in recent years. 

Mitch Gerads. That’s it, that’s the tweet. 

Gerads is an amazing artist, we all know this, but adding his grainy, muted colors to this makes it an all-around incredible experience. There are so many visual clues that this is early days for Batman and Joker that are easy to miss on the first go around, but once you go back and take it in, they’re all there for you to see. This is a beautifully illustrated story.

In some panels, a hazy effect is used on the art, giving the feel of a distant memory, or fading consciousness, extremely effectively.

From the first page you’re desperate to see where the story will take you next… and who dies along the way.

Your father, too, he liked to fish.”
– Alfred

As a rule, The Joker generally needs no introduction. We all know who he is, we all know what he can do, and we all know the depraved acts he’s capable of.

Well, this story finally gives readers Batman’s introduction to his arch-nemesis…

Where the first chapter of this story gives us the origin of the Joker’s myth, the second delivers an introduction to the man. Tom King and Mitch Gerads retell the first meeting between the Dark Knight and the Clown Prince of Crime, complete with underestimation, overconfidence, and bravado. What a ride!

This story could easily be read on its own as a stand-alone graphic novel, but works so much better when looking at previous chapters of Batman’s early years as a crime fighter adding context. If anyone could have picked up the threads of Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s legendary dark thriller Batman: Year One and run with them, it had to be Tom King and Mitch Gerads. In my opinion, no one could have done it better.

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 the city before Batman becomes plainly evident, and Bruce’s inexperience is clearly on show throughout. Yet another hit for Tom King.

The vignette method of writing in anthology books really lends itself way to King’s style of writing and is the perfect format for this bleak take on classic Batman. The Dark Knight’s head cannot be a good place to be at the best of times, let alone when this terrifying new threat hits the city like a bullet train. 

The Joker eventually ends up killing randomly; no more clues, no more jokes, just death. Of course, it’s ALWAYS a game for him, but, thankfully, a certain someone is learning how to read the signs…

Conclusion

Batman: The Brave And The Bold: The Winning Card not only gives us Tom King’s pitch-perfect Batman, but Mitch Gerads is on TOP FORM. I imagine it adds a huge amount of time to create this level of work, but having him color his own pencils and inks delivers a feast for the eyes, and I would love to see a full series done this way.

This 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.

I must also give a huge shout-out to Clayton Cowles. His title cards/pages for the Joker’s dialogue add an atmosphere, a feeling of true insanity, and a feeling of this story being set in the past. His sound effects and speech balloons are also, as always, placed in a way that lets Gerad’s art sing, and really helps with the flow of the story. This book has been created by three masters of their craft.

It’s just excellent content all around.

Review Copy Courtesy of Penguin Random House. All Images Courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Batman: The Brave And The Bold: The Winning Card is available to purchase from all good book retailers and comic book stores right now – ISBN 9781779529053


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