This week DC Comics launches their first The Brave and the Bold title since 2011 with writer-artist Liam Sharp’s six-part mini-series starring Batman and Wonder Woman. While the 2011 series read like storyboards to a Saturday morning cartoon, Sharp’s new series is steeped heavily in Irish myth, both in the narrative and art style. The art may be a wonder to look at, but the story focuses too much on its Celtic roots, making it mostly inaccessible. Even after digging past the layers of Irish mythological context, this issue is all exposition and no action.
This issue has problems, but goddamn it is fun to look at. Each character is intricately detailed, especially in close ups — wrinkles, warts, cuts, and every other inch of each character’s face are drawn with care. Colorist Romulo Fajardo Jr. fleshes out Celtic themes more with his colors, placing a specific focus on greens and oranges reminiscent of the Irish flag on almost every scene while drowning out other colors with grayscale tones. Even when the scenery switches from the fairy world of Tir Na Nog to the streets of Gotham, there’s a noticeable focus on green and orange hues that subtly embed the feel of Ireland into the environment.
That being said, there’s too much focus on Irish folklore and not enough on the DC heroes to make this issue accessible for most readers. After my initial read, I felt like I was back in my college English classes — confused yet confident I’d understand more after a second read with Google by my side. Unless you’re versed in Irish myth (or just smarter than me), you’ll spend too much time reading this issue either confused or Googling things to make sure you’re understanding them. There’s a late attempt to explain the context of Tir Na Nog, the world Wonder Woman is summoned to, but it is too convoluted to really clear anything up. After a second read with more Googling, I actually had a better grasp of everything that was going on, but it felt like such a chore to get there.
Once I was able to dig through the layers of folklore to get to the meat of the story, I found a mystery that wasn’t really intriguing. You not only need an familiarity of Irish folk tales to understand the context of the story, but you’ll need an interest in those stories to be drawn to the core mystery at play. This mini-series foreshadows a “who done it?” story in the context of Irish fairy tales, but if you’re not charmed by Irish fairy tales (like me) you may just ask, “who cares?”
Part of my disconnect to this issue is the lack of Batman in it. Despite being a titular character, Batman appears for a total of four pages out of 23 and his inclusion in the story isn’t clear. It’s assumed that he’ll eventually assist Wonder Woman in investigating the mystery unfolding in Tir Na Nog, but after this first issue I don’t see any indication of how that’s going to happen. Actually, nothing really happens in this issue until the final four pages — it’s mostly clouded explanations of Irish legend.
Oh, before I wrap this up, there’s a really awkward scene between Steve Trevor, Wonder Woman, and the Celtic God Cernunnos that HAS to be talked about. First of all, readers are introduced to Wonder Woman in the midst of a sexcation with Steve and the attempt at romantic dialogue is cringeworthy. Things turn from cringey to downright weird when Cernunnos appears and insinuates that he should join the two. He says it in old-timey Celtic cadence, so at first I thought I must’ve misinterpreted the situation, but after re-reading the passage a few times I realized he was definitely trying to start a devil’s threesome. Then he attempts to slyly play it off after being rejected with ye ole’ “it’s just been so long” line. Has that ever worked for anyone?
I wouldn’t call this a bad issue, it’s just not my cup of tea. Sharp clearly knows a lot about Irish fairy tales and The Brave and the Bold: Batman and Wonder Woman #1 is his chance to inject that knowledge into the DC Universe. This issue turns me off because it’s too much non-stop exposition covered in a thick Celtic film. If you’re a fan of Irish folklore and have always wanted to see that world interact with the DC Universe, you’ll love this series. If you’ve got no interest in Irish tales and were looking for a new adventure focusing on Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince’s relationship, you’ll be disappointed. Hopefully the following issues focus less on Sharp’s knowledge of Irish legends and more on the titular characters of the series.