Super Types

January 22, 2010

DC Reviews: The Brave and the Bold #31

Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artist: Chad Hardin and Justiniano
Cover: Jesus Saiz

“Small Problems”: The Brave and the Bold is all about our favorite DC characters coming together and sharing an epic adventure. But what made this issue stand out from the others was the unlikely paring of the Atom and the Joker.

The story begins with a team of physicians awaiting the arrival of Mr. Ray Palmer for aid in a special case with a special patient, to which he makes his unique entrance via the telephone line. The Atom is informed of a rare neurological disease the patient is suffering from, and the only cure is administering a compound into the brain on a microscopic level, otherwise the patient will die. Atom, as any doctor would be, is glad to help, until he learns that the dying patient is a particular famed mass murderer — the Joker.

Atom, not seeing the bad side of such an evil person being diagnosed with such a deadly disease, needs some convincing before he attempts to save a life as twisted as Joker’s. Atom is persuaded, and takes the compound up Joker’s nose, into the bloodstream, and to the brain. Atom toys with the idea of all the different ways he could end the Joker while inside the delicate parts of his head, when he finally comes across the brain with all its electric pulses carrying memories and commands through Joker’s body. Atom gets careless and is struck by an electrical pulse — a memory from Joker’s childhood. Atom lives this memory of a young, pre-acid bath Joker brutally beating a bully on a playground just as Joker remembers it.

As the journey to release the compound into Joker’s brain intensifies, Atom is struck with more memories of murder and mayhem throughout Joker’s life. Atom’s mind begins to slip as Joker’s has, and Atom even starts to understand the Joker. After experiencing Joker’s wrath as if he were the Joker himself, Atom contemplates abandoning his mission and letting Joker’s fate play out as nature intended, but decides to not wear the guilt of Joker’s blood on his hands, and delivers the cure.

Later, as the Joker wakes up, Atom is at his bedside where Joker finds it humorous that Atom actually saved his life. Atom is sickened that he now understands Joker’s look on the world, and maybe even shares it, and fears that the nightmares of Joker’s memories will remain with him longer than he would like.

Anyone who is familiar with Straczynski’s work knows that he produces quality, and this was an absolutely fun issue, however there were a few thing I didn’t care for. It’s definitely interesting to explore the childhood and background of a character such as the Joker, however the back story given to the Joker in this issue was one of a born thug and murderer, and didn’t reference at all the origin of a decent, but troubled family man given by Alan Moore in The Killing Joke. The born-a-heartless-murderer rap seems all too predictable, and uninteresting compared to Moore’s interpretation.

In an issue where you would think all the character exploration would revolve around the Joker, I found the Atom’s journey more meaningful. The Atom proved a more enjoyable protagonist than you would expect from a micro physicist whose power is to shrink really small. Along with charming quips and a bit of an attitude, Atom struggles with the great philosophical debate on whether or not we should allow such a crazy murderer to continue to live. Super sized struggles for a bite sized hero, but Palmer shows his integrity and chooses not to wear the guilt on his shoulders.

Harden and Justiniano’s art is pretty cool. The inner workings of the body were all pleasing to the eye and had a grandiose scale. The deranged stare on young Joker’s face was even a little scary, although I could have done without the giant green sideburns they gave to adult Joker.

I love unusual parings and hero/villain swaps like Atom and Joker, and that’s a big part of what made this issue so much fun to read. And I can’t go without mentioning how Straczynski threw in a memory that was a scene pulled right out of The Dark Knight. Straczynski’s run on The Brave and the Bold has been just a hoot (and that’s not a compliment I give often). If you’re an all-around DC fan, you need to be reading this series.

Andrew Hurst



  1. billy

    Sounds like a good read but I do agree with you about the origin.

  2. Slim Shady

    I thought this issue was very entertaining…I loved to see how fucked up the Joker’s past was.

  3. ugh.
    Really? How many times will the Joker’s life be saved or protected by a hero who “can’t bear the thought of his blood on my hands”? That is a WAY overdone ending and an extreme cop out! The Joker is a murderer! He’s beyond help! All the Atom had to do was NOTHING and the Joker would be a bad memory!!!

    OK, I’m going there…I will now place the blame of all future murdered victims of the Joker sqarely at the Atoms feet. Saving the Jokers life was NOT heroic or noble…it was assinine and plain stupid.

    Hey Atom, Barbara Gordon wants to thank you for your “heroism”.

  4. Billy

    @Bill-I don’t read any DC and that is some funny crap right there. lol

  5. @Bill

    I totally agree with you. In Batman and Philosophy: The Dark Knight of the Soul, the whole first chapter is all about why Bats just doesn’t do the deed. Very insightful.

  6. Sorry about the venting guys. I’m really a Marvel guy myself, but I feel the Joker is way overused and this whole “no one will kill him/let him die” thing has gone on for far too long. Same goes with any persistant murderous villain, Marvel is at fault too. The Joker is just the poster boy for this is all.

    Look at it this way; what do we do with rabid dogs? What about animals who kill and devour a human? Answer: they are put down. Why is this not applied to the Joker? All the Atom had to do was NOTHING! Yeesh.

  7. ARGH!!

    I wanted to read this but we sold out on Wednesday before I got a chance too. It’s weird that the Alan Moore origin story was either ignored here or ret-conned. Dang, I really want to read this now!!

  8. […] Single Issue (or One-Shot) •  Brave & the Bold #28: “Blackhawk and the Flash: Firing Line,” by J. Michael Straczynski and Jesus Saiz (DC) • […]

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