Showcase titles always have an uphill fight of it. By definition they have a constantly-changing run of heroes and stories. In addition, The Brave & the Bold confusingly shares almost exactly the same title with the current Batman animated cartoon running on the Cartoon Network and thus the tie-in comic as well.
In spite of all these handicaps, B&tB is often stellar. The title has usually been dedicated to presenting highly diverse and original combinations of protagonists — my favorite from decades ago was Batman teaming up with Sugarn ‘n’ Spike. DC also does nto scruple to use the title to promote titles or characters it is trying to shill. But it is far the most successful when they allow the creators to dig into the deep dark corners of DC’s back bench. This issue, #27, kicks off a run by award-winning writer J. Michael Straczynski. They have obviously handed him the master superhero list and told him to run with it. And, oh happiness, he is starting off with Batman (to keep the accountants happy), and Robbie Reed of Dial H for HERO, for the fanboys.
The Hero Dial is one of those silly gimmicks from the ’60’s that they simply don’t create any more. As you can see in the cover image, it is a telephone dial — one of the characters complains that this is so old-fashioned and it ought to be digital. You dial H-E-R-O on it and zap! you transform into a random superhero, usually one never seen before or since. It is a fine gimmick for a highly-creative writer and artist.
If this concept were invented in 2009 it would be a vehicle for gender-bending, race and cultural conflict (“OMG! I’ve become …. the Right Winger!”), and probably sexual exploration. Thank heaven, Straczynski does not try to update it at all. Robbie Reed in fact does little and comes off uncharacteristically timid, while the Dial goes off and fights the Joker with Batman. Although the story is the typically dark and grim Batman tale, Batman himself is unusually wordy and willing to explain.
I gather from surveying the upcoming covers that B&tB will be doing stand-alone issues for a while. This means it will be highly congenial for the new reader. This issue would be a fine place to hop on board and experience the full dizzying range of the characters in the DC stable.