The Brave And The Bold: Without Sin TPB review

Brave and bold or tired and old? Tom Fenwick examines the revival of a once long-running team-up...

The Brave And The Bold has a long history and comes with the tinted spectacles that only years of nostalgia can bring. Its original run spanned 30 years, a team-up book which brought disparate characters from the DC universe together in new and unusual adventures. Over the course of its history, many famous creators have tenured, most notably Neal Adams, with his storylines from the Sixties/Seventies setting a standard for many years to come. Most recently, Mark Waid revived the title and has just finished a popular run, which returned to the nostalgia and fun inherent to team-up format. Waid’s departure posed questions as to the future direction of this book and is where Without Sin picks up.

In the eponymous story from writer David Hine and artist Doug Braithwaite, The Green Lantern, Phantom Stranger,and later Green Arrow, band together to investigate the plight of a severely crippled girl named Cora who lives in a sinister orphanage. Of course, she is no ordinary little girl. She has mysterious powers and a dark message buried deep within her subconscious and attempting to discover the truth leads two of the team off-planet and far from earth. It is there they meet an alien, known ominously as The Purge, who is committing mass-genocide in the name of spiritual purity. This intergalactic mass-murderer, his connection to Cora and unpleasantness at the orphanage leads to a finale where the fate of all mankind hangs in the balance.

Without Sin overflows with brooding and eerie tones, feeling like the stuff of nightmares rather than the lighter hearted romps that we have come to expect from this title. Hine brings us horrors by the score, from deformed children and evil scientists to soul-rotting brain bugs, punctuated along the way by intergalactic sex tourists and their mutilated corpses. This dark sensibility was evident in Hine’s breakthrough work Strange Embrace, and he taints the world of the mainstream hero with a brutally gothic plot, which allows for a smaller number of heroes than we have previously seen in The Brave & The Bold, but also a tighter story arc. This creates a realism reminiscent in style to creator Dennis O’Neil or the aforementioned Adams, as well as also a freshness which builds on the past and brings its own inspiration to the genre.

Braithwaite’s art is a perfect companion to the pace and tone of the script, from the dark corridors of the orphanage to the lush and vibrant alien world. His close-up work in particular allows for an intense engagement with the characters. When Cora is terrified or Green Arrow has to do some inventive bomb disposal, Braithwaite leaves us in no doubt of the fear behind their eyes. Combine this with Hine’s script and you have a story that concerns the fantastical, yet grounds itself in reality, creating something new, but with a nod to the nostalgic.

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The second story in the book is a much smaller arc called Fathers, by Marv Wolfman and Phil Winslade, which chronologically came prior to Without Sin. There are some captivating moments, with a plot where Raven and Supergirl discuss daddy/daughter issues and try to stop a student activist’s violent protest. Unfortunately, it feels so horribly dated and clichéd, that by the end you would be forgiven for thinking this was drafted in the Eighties and recently dusted off for inclusion here. It is unfortunate that the art mirrors this sentiment, so whilst Winslade’s work is solid and suitably dark, it cannot escape the dreary convention of the script. The story is tired and anticlimactic, with nothing to save it from feeling like filler between the end of the previous run and the beginning of the next.

This is a book of two halves. Fathers shackles itself to The Brave And The Bold’s generic past, coming off as a tired fantasy weighed down by the need to serve convention, whilst Without Sin is an excellent sci-fi mystery, with overtones of horror, which transcends its trappings. So console yourself and read the title work twice, a mysterious yarn which proves to be exciting, unusual and unafraid to hearken back to the title’s nostalgia, whist never miring itself in the past.

The Brave And The Bold: Without Sin can be pre-ordered.


4 out of 5