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‘Bravo For Adventure’ (review)

Written and Illustrated by Alex Toth
Published by IDW Publishing /
The Library of American Comics


I remember being intrigued by Alex Toth’s Bravo for Adventure back in the ‘80s.

For a while, it seemed as though I saw his Errol Flynn lookalike hero Jesse Bravo and his classic-style logo in the fan press every time I turned around but I never actually saw any of his adventures!

Now I know why.

IDW finally serves it all up right in this volume. All the various spot illustrations and unfinished story pages are wrapped around the three—that’s right only three—completed Jesse Bravo pieces.

It seems Toth, comic book artist, animator, and veteran stylist who bucked the system and insisted on doing things HIS way or not at all, found out when given that chance that it really wasn’t all as simple as that seemed. Dean Mullaney’s concise Introduction gives the lowdown on what went on, what went down, and what went wrong behind the scenes.

Then we get to the good stuff.

Toth, of course, became an absolute master of black and white art, and this book contains some of his best creator-owned work. Of the three stories, the first is merely an introduction to the character, offering interesting background but probably as much for the artist as for the readers.

The last story is a surreal and phantasmagorical 17-page piece reminiscent at times of some of the more esoteric and personal work of Steve Ditko only without any of the political or sociological overtones. A quick and quirky read.

The gem here, though, is the middle story. It’s a 48-page old-fashioned adventure (Bravo!) story with noir touches, tricked out in a lovingly cinematic style and featuring such purposely cliché characters as our handsome stunt pilot hero, movie producers, old friends, his pals and sidekicks, a tough dame in peril, gangsters, gunsels, deceptive friends, and cool vintage cars, trucks, and bi-planes.

Alex uses gallons and gallons of black ink throughout. In fact, there are some panels where I’m pretty sure he didn’t actually draw anything. He just cleared the black ink away to leave behind enough white to give the impression of what he wanted you to see there.

His own unique lettering, both in balloons and sound effects, adds immeasurably to the one-man band effect and inevitably, in the end, you’re left wishing he had left behind many more Bravo for Adventure tales. You don’t need someone to revive the character. Jesse Bravo is a good character but really nothing that special. But you sense that he could have been, WOULD have been a classic of sorts if Toth had chronicled more of his adventures.

Most people who see Toth’s work tend to become Toth fans. He achieved the type of class that all comic art aspires to be. Take a look at his baby—Bravo for Adventure—and you most likely will become a Toth fan, too.

Booksteve recommends.


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