RETRO REVIEW: The Brave And The Bold #28 (February/March 1960)

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With all the talk about Gal Gadot being cast as Wonder Woman in the upcoming ‘Man Of Steel’ sequel, people are abuzz wondering if this will be the film that starts the buildup to an official Justice League of America movie.  For my money, if you REALLY want to do JLA right, you need to forget about all that “Darkseid invasion” folderal, and have the most powerful heroes in the world go medieval on a giant echinoderm.  It’s what Chris Knight would call ‘a moral imperative!’  Your Major Spoilers (retro) review awaits!

SUMMARY

Pros
I love Mike Sekowsky’s art.
Gardner Fox = Clockwork story precision.

Cons
Snapper Carr. *sad trombone*
Ends somewhat abruptly…

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

READER RATING!

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (2 votes, average: 4.50 out of 5)


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B&B28CoverTHE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #28
Writer: Gardner Fox
Penciler: Mike Sekowsky/Curt Swan
Inker: Bernard Sachs/Stan Kaye/Joe Giella/Murphy Anderson
Letterer: Gaspar Saladino/Ira Schnapp
Editor: Julius Schwartz
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: 10 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $20,000.00

Previously in The Brave And The Bold: In the Golden Age of comics, there was the Justice Society of America, a group of heroes that served as much as a social club as it did a heroic assemblage.  After the super-hero boom when bust, all but the hardiest of superhero titles disappeared for a few years.  As the 1950s ended, though, costumed crusaders began reappearing here and there, and as a new decade dawned, editor Julie Schwartz commissioned a new super-hero team for a new era.  Cue the giant alien space-monster!

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Interestingly, in this first appearance, the heroes of the JLA are already assembled as a team, with signal devices and protocols and even a secret headquarters.  Honestly, it does help the tale being told here, as we don’t have to waste any time (and Fox & Sekowsky don’t have to waste any storytelling energy) on the matter of team assemblage.  Instead, as Aquaman’s call goes out, we see the members of the JLA respond.

Or, in the case of a certain Man of Steel, we see him NOT respond…

B&B282Green Lantern quickly heeds the call, as does Wonder Woman, princess of the Amazons.  But as the radio signal reaches the mean streets of Gotham City, we see a different kind of story…

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Fox again makes what I consider to be the smart decision here, acknowledging the presence of a larger team, but keeping the active group in this debut story smaller.  By side-tracking the ultra-popular Superman and Batman, we get a smaller and more manageable team, as well as avoiding the problem of the biggest superheroes in history overshadowing the new kids on the block.  At the time of this story, Wonder Woman and Aquaman are the veterans, both having debuted in ’41, but Green Lantern is only a few months old, with The Flash and Martian Manhunter clocking in at 4 and 6ish years of action, respectively.  The team meets in their secret underground headquarters, and splits into teams to address the three landing sites that Aquaman’s fishy pals have identified, with Green Lantern taking the lead-off role…

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After the Starro absorbs the energy of an atom bomb (!!), it nearly gets the best of the Lantern, but Hal prevails, as he always will, so long as Geoff Johns has any say in the matter.  Meanwhile, at the second Starro site, the twin titans known as Wonder Woman and the Martian Manhunter get their own giant starfish to deal with.

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Working together, the twosome (oddly, the physically strongest Leaguers participating in the mission) face down Starro’s drone, but the monster starts a fire that nearly takes out J’onn for good.  Diana and J’onn learn from their mistake, teaming their efforts to keep the creature from its goal, saving a building-full of the world’s greatest scientific minds…

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One of the things I love about this issue is that, after this chapter, writer Fox takes a moment out to explain the (real) science behind starfish and other members of their family, such as sea cucumbers, before launching into the Flash’s adventures in the city of Happy Harbor.  Upon arrival, he finds two mysteries: A mesmerized populace, and whatever particular psychological disorder creates the speech patterns of young Snapper Carr…

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Defeating his creature with the power of science (SCIENCE!), Flash calls in his partners, but the League discovers quickly that Starro sacrificed his pawns to take their measure, and begins using their weaknesses against them.  During the battle, though, one of his mental force blasts hits young Snapper dead on…

…to absolutely no effect!  Young police scientist Barry Allen (aka The Flash) quickly puts his friend’s power ring as a scientific instrument…

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It is a Silver Age comic book, clearly, with all the expositionary dialogue and descriptors, but I do love Green Lantern’s heroic thought balloon, reminding us that the actions of superheroes have consequences on the working man.  It’s a shame that they don’t follow that tenet these days, especially in terms of excessive property damage, not mentioning any names *calledTheManOfSteel.*  Having identified the substance that renders Starro powerless, (based on the weakness, it should be noted, of a real Earth starfish) the Justice League leaps into action…

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…and BOOM, it’s over.  The abruptness of the ending is really the only pacing issue that I have with this story, as Fox adapts his trademark JSA “break-up-into-teams-and-assemble-the-solution” trick for the new generation of the team.  As far as Mike Sekowsky’s art goes, I’ve always been a fan of his layouts and story-telling techniques, and it’s nice to see how well his art meshes with the various inkers in play here.  Certainly, Snapper is annoying as hell, and the book is as Silver Age as Silver Age can be, but it’s still a fun little tale.  The Brave And The Bold #28 is a book that has massive historical significance, but still delivers a smooth and entertaining read, earning 3.5 out of 5 stars overall, with even its flaws seeming charming half a century later…

Rating: ★★★½☆