by J. Michael Straczynski (writer), Jesus Saiz (artist)

The Story: After sustaining injuries from an experiment gone awry, the Flash finds himself in World War Two Belgium and joins up with the Blackhawks in an effort to survive the war long enough to heal and find a way back to his own time.

The Good: It isn’t often that a comic can be entertaining as well as literate, but this is the second time this comic has defied expectations and delivered something more than just another superhero story.  A theme has begun to emerge in Straczynski’s work, a meditation of sorts on the nature of heroism, and it is one he explores to great effect here.  The Flash is characterized as being a man just slightly removed from the human condition, so consumed with superheroic ideals of justice and doing the right thing that, even in his weakened state, he tries to deal with the war as if it was another superhero battle.  Limping around the frozen battlefields of Belgium in his brightly colored costume, he is literally viewed by the Blackhawks as an abnormality and a joke.  When Flash crushes a Nazi ambush by knocking them all unconscious with rubble from a bombed out building, he isn’t praised for saving the day but instead admonished for letting the Germans live.  Straczynski uses this disconnect to underscore an incredibly important point about how, given the gruesome circumstances they were all forced to adapt to, the Blackhawks are every bit the heroes that Flash is, and perhaps even more so.

The Not So Good: I’d have to say my only complaint with this issue was that it wasn’t longer!  I generally prefer reading “done in one issues” and often use them when recommending comics to new readers, but that style of storytelling can actually work against the reader when the writer imbues it with as much thematic value and insight and JMS did with this issue.  I found myself wanting more story and was upset that more pages couldn’t be given over to further explore Flash’s time spent with the Blackhawks because as good as Straczynski’s story was, I couldn’t help but feel like it would have been that much better if he’d had another issue.

Conclusion: The Brave and the Bold seriously impresses me with stories that are as entertaining as they are insightful.  This is some quality storytelling here, and I have a feeling it’ll just keep getting better.

Grade:  A-

-Tony Rakittke