Batman #23 Featured Reviews 

“Batman” #23

By | May 19th, 2017
Posted in Reviews | % Comments

In ‘The Brave and the Mold,’ Tom King and Mitch Gerads present a well-written one-issue story that brings together elements of mystery, mysticism, deception, and dehumanization.

Cover by Mitch Gerads
Written by Tom King
Illustrated and Colored by Mitch Gerads
Lettered by Clayton Cowles

In a new story The Brave and the Mold! Swamp Thing comes to Gotham City featuring new art and cover by Mitch Gerads.

As written by Tom King, ‘The Brave and the Mold!’ plays out like an old TV show, complete with scene breaks marked with chapter headings. It all feels very old school, in a refreshing change from many other comics. Sadly, there is no appearance from the Grey, the elemental embodiment of the fungal kingdom, despite the name of this issue and its play on the ‘The Brave and the Bold.’As written, King’s Swamp Thing seems to have degenerated mentally since his solo series. He has limited emotional output, and speaks far slower, more akin to the Swamp Thing grown by the Parliament of Trees than Dr. Alec Holland. Normally, this could be seen as a symptom of authors not paying any attention to most of the previous work, but given how Alec was steadily coming into his powers, it seems to be a natural growth (no pun intended).

King’s Batman is well written, lacking some of the less liked quirks shown in some earlier issues to get down to the essence of the character; a man who dearly misses his parents, and is driven to help others in similar situations of loss, among his other crusades. His emotional nature plays well against the borderline inhuman Swamp Thing, with the two of them together balancing well against relative everyman Commissioner James Gordon.

King’s humor plays a part in how this issue plays out, such as random references to eccentricities in the DC universe. Given the somber nature of much of the plot of the issue, these brief instances of respite allow readers to catch their breath and laugh with the scenes. From the random appearance of the Swamp Thing in the first place right behind Jim Gordon to an awkward scene in the Batmobile to the occasional sequence of comedic beat panels, Tom King continues to show his mastery of manipulating the tone of an issue to suit the story, and thereby making the sadder parts of the mystery hit ever harder. In fact, his use of a favored running gag villain from as far back as issue 6 of the series, a fan favorite, is so funny in part because of its presence between scenes of death, as a kind of release valve for the audience.

Mitch Gerads’ use of color and pencil seems to almost effortlessly bring the Swamp Thing to life in the daylight of Gotham City. Much like Jesús Saíz in the fifth volume of the Green avatar’s own solo series, he manages to use a collection of greens to create a look that is definitely that of the recognizable character, but at the same time fits in very well with the likes of James Gordon, Alfred Pennyworth, Batman, and others in the city. He seems otherworldly, yet grounded in the world, literally as well as figuratively.

His use and disuse of color is also telling. The fact that flashbacks are in a monochrome scheme give a feeling of how it all comes from the past, but also seems like an old recording. Speaking of old recordings, the way in which he draws actual camera footage is so realistically handled that it may as well be the real thing. It includes time stamps, shaky imagery, grayscale, and more. The lines of imperfection in the footage shown are so well known to the general populace of readership that they may as well be included to add legitimacy.

On the other hand, when Gerads does use colors, they make the scenes ever more vibrant. The blue glow of the Batcomputer in the dark depths of the Batcave contrasts with the green lighting inside of the Batmobile, and both of these color schemes balance against the natural white lighting of the inside of an art museum, where there would be no need for other colors.

Continued below

What is beautiful can also be disturbingly gruesome, as Gerads does not only use these colors in ways to emphasize the background. The combination of pencil and color form a truly disturbing murder scene, even more than the one that kicked off the issue, though the very same expert uses of color that gave general moods to the audience in other cases. The change is so abrupt that readers might feel almost physically ill, though that is not to say that this use of shock is in any way bad.

Clayton Cowles gives excellent work on lettering. In particular, the chapter headings are exceptional, seeming to blur in white over a black background, as if taken straight out of a mid-twentieth-century televised horror story. As written, one can almost hear a canned voiceover speaking the title names, taking the reader back to eras such as that of the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

On the whole, the team on this issue works together wonderfully, developing both Batman’s dual life as Batman and the mourning orphan Bruce Wayne under the cowl while also giving a progression to the life and times of Alec Holland as the Swamp Thing.

Final Verdict: 8.0 – A well-written and well-illustrated short tale about a team up between Swamp Thing and Batman that sheds light on them both.

Gregory Ellner

Greg Ellner hails from New York City. He can be found on Twitter as @GregoryEllner or over on his Tumblr.