Seriously, just when you think Liam Sharp has given his all in producing the majestic artwork on show in The Brave and The Bold, he turns it up to 11 on this newest issue of this 6 issue series with even more outstanding art and styles that have soaked up a plethora of influences from fantasy artists such as Alan Lee, Celtic artistic tradition and beyond. This is all distilled through Sharp’s brushes, pens and pencils to create a world of wonder and magic that truly feels fantastical in scale and execution. Sticking to broad, tall panels on each page allows Sharp to flesh out this once-mighty world in a way that shapes this pantheon in a definitive way. That’s when he’s not offering the reader full page collages, or even splash pages revealing even more of the beauty and history of the Celtic myths. Sharp is paving the way at DC Comics for other future creators to step right into, just like Kirby’s Asgard. Fully realised and fully formed, and from a creator who knows his stuff.
Years of research and reading for pleasure has given Sharp a knowledgeable insight into a pagan world few are aware of these days, but in the stories he has mined from Celtic sources, he also offers the reader a chance to investigate further for themselves. The stories of Fionn Mac Cumhaill – or Finn McCool to you Yanks – the Fomorians as well as other legends and myths from pre-Christian Ireland, are all touched upon in this story, but tantalisingly so. Especially in this issue as Sharp introduces beautiful, delicate watercolours (which reminded me of the aforementioned paintings of Middle Each by Alan Lee, that helped shape Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy almost 20 years ago now) to retell the story of Nuada and The Silver Arm. Something not only integral to the plot but a plot crying out for further reading. And, while there are a lot of sources to view online, I would also recommend The Silver Arm trilogy by Steven Lawhead. And with all this bold artwork and brave storytelling one might easily forget that, like Watchmen, this is in essence a murder mystery. Its a police procedural narrative like Seven, but with wondrous woman and equally mighty men! Hey, that’s why Batman’s here, after all, remember?
I may very well be preaching to the already converted, but I hope not. This is a comic that deserves a bigger audience. Not because I’ve got a man-crush on Sharp and his new found zeal for challenging himself, but because of the story he is carving out. This may be a six issue mini-series, but it is the culmination of a lifetime’s worth of love. Love for storytelling, for myths and legends that deserve to be remembered and re-read, and a love for the medium. With two issues left to go, I’m keen to know who the killer is, but more keen to learn more about this stunning, sensual world.
I’m already thinking of this as my Book/Mini-series of the Year, but this one issue – with it’s amalgamation of art styles and influences – could well be my pick for Issue of the Year too. So, stop reading this review and go out there and hunt down The Brave and The Bold. And, if you’re lucky enough to be at MCM London this coming weekend, be sure to track Sharp down and say ‘Hi’ from me!
A true tour de force from one of the industry’s brightest and best. And, with two issue to go, I can’t wait to find out what he’ll be doing next for DC!
The Brave and the Bold #4 is currently available from DC Comics.