Book Review: Bravo For Adventure by Alex Toth

Bravo for Alex Toth!
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Legendary artist and noted curmudgeon Alex Toth never made a secret of his continued frustrations with editorial interference, bad scripts, and the continued trend toward gritty anti-heroes in mainstream comics. So when given the opportunity to create his own comic series, he took a look back in time to the halcyon days when dashing film heroes like Errol Flynn and comic adventurers such as Terry and the Pirates buckled swash and took part in all manner of high adventure and derring-do.

The end result was Bravo for Adventure, a throwback adventure that many consider to be Toth's seminal work - his magnum opus, if you will. And when a guy, who Gil Kane referred to as "the finest artist that comics ever had," sees his magnum opus collected in a fine hardcover edition by IDW and the Library of American Comics, you'd be hard pressed to find a reason not to buy it. Whether you are an artist yourself or simply a student of the game, Bravo for Adventure is a collection that deserves a spot on the shelf of any comic aficionado.

The story involves Jesse Bravo, an Errol Flynn lookalike whose primary means of income is his air-charter service. Whether flying eloping couples to Yuma, Reno, or Las Vegas or doing stunt work for a Hollywood filmmaker, Bravo and his team of pilots always seem to find themselves getting into one scrape or another. It's the type of story that one might refer to as "rollicking" (in fact, Dean Mullaney uses this term in his introduction to the book) and would be right at home with a 1930s film serial or an Indiana Jones movie.

The storytelling is as simple and to the point as Toth's impeccable artwork. There are no frills and no wasted brushstrokes. There's no need to be fancy, as Toth packs more raw emotion and personality into a handful of simple lines than most artists do in a whole page. The phrase "economy of line" comes to mind and it's an apt description of the work of a master. You know what? I should probably capitalize that. Alex Toth is a Master Cartoonist and that skill is reflected in this collection.

In addition to the main story, there's a shorter homage to a few other comic greats, including Will Eisner, Hugo Pratt, and Milt Caniff. We also get a behind-the-scenes look at sketches and design work, advertisements, and a rare peek at some colored pages for never-published editions of the book. Bravo for Adventure's large dimensions (13.2  x 9.7) make it a feast for your eyes, and its hardcover and thick pages ensure the highest quality reproduction that should stand up to repeated readings.

Listen, I'm not quite educated enough to consider myself some sort of Alex Toth historian, but I know quality when I see it and I've been a fan of the man's work for some time now. And I know enough to recognize that if a college course was ever going to be taught on the guy, Bravo for Adventure would be required reading. Actually, it should be required reading for anyone interested in art or comic books - period.

You know what? Scratch that. Everyone should just buy this book. It's fantastic. What are you waiting for?

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