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Subj: From the Archives:The Brave and the Bold #175 ....
Posted: Sun Jan 21, 2018 at 02:41:45 pm EST (Viewed 86 times)
It may seem to be something completely random. Something that at first inspection would seem to be an idea with limited scope and of little of substance which to offer the all-purpose and well capable Batman as he goes about his usual business as Gotham City's guardian - after all, just what story advantage or personal aid could a common news reporter, a woman at that, offer to the Batman as he engages with his latest problem of how to stop the approach of formidable Super-villain Metallo? What convincing method could a writer devise for allowing Lois Lane an equal footing in a story starring the Batman...? How to make it... interesting?
Perhaps the truth to the matter, as Paul Kupperberg and fellow master storyteller Jim Aparo go on to show us, is to not bother asking such tedious self-defeating questions and instead just dive head on into telling a story. And it would be very easy to look at The Brave and the Bold #175 and its self-contained brilliance and just assume its sheer efficiency in its storytelling was a fluke, a confluence of circumstance allowing for the writer in question to somehow manage to wrangle out a series of pages that managed to ignite into more than their sum elements might have otherwise suggested. But this is a faulty line of thinking. One that unfairly sells short the once taken-for-granted shape and formatting of plotting such books in days gone by, the techniques of which issue #175 here employ were in fact not at all unique when it came to plotting books such as these, and for anyone coming to this book today fresh, without any preconceptions of what to expect, I would be so bold as to predict that the person in question might well find a product of considerable professionalism and of no small enjoyment, all thanks to the discipline and lean storytelling the book so confidently employs.
There is a significant clue that lies in the opening of The Brave and the Bold #175 as to as to why storytelling over the near four decades since its publication has changed and declined for the most part. Opening with a typical dramatic splash that is entirely the norm for this era of superhero books this 'hook' for the shelf-browsing reader in fact us joining the story, as turn the page and the dramatic first page of the Batman swooping down on the villainous Metallo seques seamlessly into the following pages of continuous action as the Dark Knight is faced with a direct contest against an armoured powerhouse who's normal natural match is none other than Superman himself...
What's interesting of course, apart from the way in which Paul Kupperberg neatly opts to start this issue well into the story, is that he also places the events into a context, this is Metallo after his appearance in Superman #317, a point which will have some additional merit as we progress.
Managing to hold his own initially Batman is brought low unexpectedly by the villains Kryptonite beam, something which is not meant to be effective against humans, but which reduces Batman to his knees and allows the villain to make his escape. Often considered the, or a, definitive Batman artist by some Jim Aparo's work of this era is never less than engaging to follow and, technically, quite brilliant. The single panel sight of a recovering Batman rising to his feet while behind him we see Metallo gliding away might seem a simple thing to look at, but consider how effortless Aparo constructs the image, and how exciting in itself it is... the immediate scene switch across the same page to the next morning and an unexpected visitor to Waynetech is no less confidently done. It should be a forced moment in the story. Yet as Bruce Wayne is conveniently on hand to accept the visiting Lois Lane the scene never feels less than natural, the charming Wayne is clearly knowlegable and respectful on his visitor's credentials and achievements, and no doubt her links to old colleague Superman opens the right metaphorical doors yes, but the scenes are wonderfully well done as they show the warmth and the decency of both characters and the fact these two are professionals, mutually confident in themselves and adult in their ability to greet and meet with others. As such whether the two have met before or not is made utterly irrelevant...
I'm dwelling on this scene perhaps a little too much, but thanks to Aparo's effortless gift for panel construction and compelling human interaction his work on most things was always a joy to read and loo0k upon. Bruce Wayne's gentle leading of Lois into his office is a case in point. Paul Kupperberg's playing with readers awareness of Wayne's secret life and the wry irony of Lois' approaching him purely for his perceived access to the confidences of Batman lends the meeting between the two an unspoken air of competition, the two subtly testing the others intentions and awareness for their own unspoken ends, all in the service of furthering their own unspoken agendas.
It's an interesting point, and an awkward on mind, that Lois Lane believes that Bruce Wayne has some access to the mysterious and elusive Batman... it was a norm in these days that the secret civilian identity of the Superhero would be accepted as having some vaguely defined relationship with the star of the book of course - People regularly approached Barry Allen for his 'access' to The Flash, Peter Parker too might be sought out for his ability to perhaps contact Spider-Man, and even Clark kent might be thought of by some as having a possible means of reaching out to Superman, but these are all people tending to be connected with media or law enforcement organisations, the sort of agencies these superheroes regularly liaise with, why should Lois believe millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne would have the slightest idea, or position, with which he might be a confidante of the Batman?
Regardless of convenience there lies an undeniable charm to the whole experience of this meeting. Uncluttered by exterior concerns it's a story who's only purpose is to exist in this one moment in time, to be enjoyed for what it is and be forgotten about immediately the next month. Lois' reasons for coming to Gotham are given further weight as she has been following an anonymous lead to the activities and whereabouts of Metallo and his need for a new powersource to keep him alive. That it links to the villains last known sightings and links with the 'Skull' organisation lends a nice weight to events as this was the group that played a significant part in the background events of Superman #310 through to #327 thereabouts, of which Metallo was briefly involved in. And so it transpires that Lois' resons for being here in Gotham have neatly, and very plasibly, intersected with the case the Batman is working on. And how great a testament to the quality of writing and artistic ability that none of it feels at all forced...
And so the rationale for what might seem like an uneven choice for a team is skillfully presented as anything but folly. In actual fact Paul kupperberg has presented a set of circumstances, motivations, and sheer simple necessity that makes a meting and co-operation between Batman and Lois Lane entirely natural and logical. Lois has a seam of information and a tangible lead of which Bruce-Batman-Wayne would find most useful, and Lois being entirely sensible and realistic feels that due to her lead taking her to Gotham City then the Batman's assistance and protection as she proceeds would be a sensible option to explore. We can only assume that Superman is off elsewhere. Frankly though such a point is really not all that important here as the story is so deserving.
It's Late. I'm rambling again. And I'm barely halfway into the issue and it's many points of interest.
I should talk about the subsequent page to the above as Lois receives her evening visit from the Batman, there's a reason quietly given here that suggests why it is Lois didn't go to Commissioner Gorden and instead thought Bruce Wayne might be worth exploring as a contact point for Batman's attentions. There is no end of praise I can shower to the undervalued Jim Aparo and his easy to overlook gift for storytelling, like the best in the business - the seemingly effortless ability of Curt Swan or Alan Davis to bring a deceptively clean line to his work while imbuing a pages characters and events with a range of subtlety and entirely convincing humanity that the readership just take their gifts for granted. Look to page 5 for example as Bruce Wayne's guarded inner thoughts are contrasted to the openness and social crusading spirit of Lois Lane. Page 13 and that ever-so-small bottom-left panel that somehow crams in a tight shot of Lois in a copter cockpit and the pilot in the foreground while also allowing room for an acre of speech-text... this is a panel in particular of which Aparo would make seem all in a few minutes work, but of which I would dare to say the majority of modern artists working today would be incapable of doing. Of filling. Certainly not like that.
Then there's that mid-section of page 16 with Lois' vulnerability and concern on full display as Kupperberg reminds us, communicated through Aparo, that Lois is a normal human being, and courage is something that she too has to summon forth to take the correct actions and do the courageous thing. Yes, here is a book that, if it is about anything, is about courage. And whether it was Paul Kupperberg's intention or not is besides the point, as this is Lois Lane at her best. The readers everyman figure. And for that matter I might even go so far is to suggest this is an example of Batman at his best too, but brilliant in his determination and resourcefulness to make full use of whatever is available to him and at hand at the moment. Unencumbered by technology and such distractions this is the era of the true detective he is known as, a man reliant only on his own wits and ability, and wonderfully free of any baggage and ancillary staff... far from being any unlikely match-up the choice in aligning him with the ace reporter from Metropolis is shown to be one of the most sensible and workable pairing in the canon of any team-up book of the era. Lois needs the Batman for the task at hand, but as we see the Batman also benefits from Lois as more than any Vicki Vale or Iris Allen this is a reporter who endeavors to play an active role in events, and while certainly no fearless soul she does know when to intervene, and when to take to the sidelines to allow events to unfold.
But enough. The Brave and the Bold #175 - my humble recommendation for you to seek out and duly enjoy.
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