Batman: The Brave and the Bold #16A comic review article by: Chris Kiser
In the same manner as the animated series that spawned it, Batman: The Brave and the Bold is a youngster-oriented comic through and through that actually has a pretty wide appeal for adults as well. Typically, that's because -- as I touched upon in my review of the series' issue #13 -- it's a pretty great comic for an adult to buy for children, perfectly designed to orient the youth of today to the landscape of the DC Universe and fully prepare them for a lifetime of comic readership ahead. Are you a fan-mom or fan-dad eager to mold your little ones into your own image? Then plop this treat in front of them and watch the seeds of geek germinate.
Though, to be perfectly honest, not all of us in this weird fan club of ours are ever going to successfully procreate. (No, no, I'm not talking about you specifically, just all those other awkward folks you see milling around your local comic shop.) But even for those whose lives will ultimately become a dead end on the family tree, Brave and the Bold has something to offer. At its best, it's a consistently spot-on lampoon of superhero culture, both of the tropes that define it and the people who create and consume it.
The book's latest issue falls squarely in that latter category. It's ostensibly a Valentine's Day tale, wherein the impish and lovelorn Bat-Mite goes gaga for the most prominent female member of the Bat-family, Batgirl. But as he attempts to woo her in his trademark klutzy, overbearing way, it becomes clear that this plotline is merely a vehicle for telling a different story altogether. Beneath the surface, Bat-Mite's antics comprise a biting satire of obsessive fandom and the pitfalls therein. He is us, the comics-loving community, at our worst.
Take, for instance, the way he relates to Batman, of whom he's supposedly the biggest fan. Not content to watch his hero take out a gang of criminals in a practical and efficient (read: unentertaining) manner, Bat-Mite taps into his fifth dimensional magic to give the bad guys a second wind. Twice more his notion of fixing a situation involves summoning super-villains to fight Batman because, as he explains, "Everything's better with super-villains." You see, Bat-Mite's own notion of what Batman -- a character in a comic book imagined by writers -- is supposed to be is so narrow and stubborn that he's completely closed off to any efforts to innovate or improve it. Sound familiar?
When it comes to his courtship of Batgirl, Bat-Mite's ideals are similarly stunted. He views her in light of the warped portrayal of women he's read in comic books, quickly casting her as a mere companion to a male counterpart instead of her own person. Desperate for tips on how to win her over, Bat-Mite whips out an old issue of Lois Lane and concludes that, as with Silver Age Lois and Superman, the key to Batgirl's heart is saving her from mortal peril (which he then quickly forces her into). It's not too much of a stretch to think that, had he referenced one of many issues of the New 52, he might have reconfigured her costume into a Harley Quinn-style bustier or suggested an NSA tryst a la Red Hood and the Outlaws' Starfire. Phew, good thing this is a kids' book.
Thankfully, this comic isn't all lecture and dressing down, ending with a note of encouragement to disheartened readers. As it turns out, #16 is the final issue of Brave and the Bold, a fact that makes sympathy with Bat-Mite -- at least in part -- a reasonable sentiment. Who among us haven't wept inside upon the cancellation of a favorite series before its time? Therefore, we can all stand to benefit from Batman's final words of wisdom to his diminutive devotee. "You still have your collection of my old issues, right? You can re-read them anytime you want." It can be easy to forget that these stories we adore are just that, printed on pages that don't magically vanish once new editions stop coming out. As another Batgirl once put it, "It's only the end if you want it to be."
Raised on a steady diet of Super Powers action figures and Adam West Batman reruns, Chris Kiser now writes for Comics Bulletin. He once reviewed every tie-in to a major DC Comics summer event and survived to tell the tale. Ask him about it on Twitter, where he can be found at @Chris_Kiser!