First, it should be noted that having Jim Aparo's "Brave & Bold" artwork collected, in color, for the first (LONG overdue!) time is reason enough for a five star review. That said, despite the egregious errors in layout by DC Comics, this is still a five star rave BECAUSE OF THE OUTSTANDING QUALITY OF JIM APARO'S ARTWORK, especially during the early to mid-seventies, which is when the "Brave & Bold" issues collected herein were published (it's a shame that whomever DC hired to put it all together didn't made the missteps mentioned below). Jim Aparo's intial run on "The Brave & the Bold" took place during the height of his artistic powers. Unfortunately, when the guy who did the layout for this collection dropped the ball for issues 112-117 (which were published as big, thick, extra-packed comic issues, featuring a brand new story and then B&B reprints). DC and their graphics coordinator chose to display the covers of these issues at the same size as the original comics. And the covers for these issues featured Jim Aparo's original artwork, plus bits of artwork from the reprints, so the original artwork was shrunk down and sectioned off. Seeing the covers reprinted is a terrific thing if you don't own the comics, because you'll be seeing Aparo's covers for the first time. But an absolutely dumb idea if one is putting together a book to celebrate the genius of Aparo: DC should have ENLARGED the covers, focusing specifically on the section that contains Aparo's artwork, especially since these issues were produced during the height of his artistic ability.
Aparo REALLY got good around issue 104 or 105; and he became great by issue 111, the one with the famous Batman/Joker cover that Amazon has displayed. That artistic ability remained strong right up until around issue number 147 or 148 of B&B -- after that, too many projects resulted in artwork that was rushed in quality and the layout of Aparo's design for each page -- when he was at the top of his game, few comic artists could come up with spectacular splash pages or layouts in the manner of Aparo).
And when it comes to issues 112 through 117 -- some of the finest covers Aparo every cobbled up -- DC SHOULD have enlarged the Aparo art section of those six covers, reprinting the entire cover on a separate page (or reprint all six covers in smaller versions on one or two pages). To see what I'm griping about, go look up these issues -- there's a DC database that has the covers on display, along with a synopsis of the stories in each one. You can check out each cover by changing the number, from 112 all the way to 117.
They also should have produced, even in a smaller version, as mentioned above, the covers for issues in which Aparo did all of the interior artwork, but someone else did the cover, like issue 110 (featuring a team-up with "Wildcat"), so that it isn't confusing to the casual reader when two issues (sans covers) are presented back to back, as they are in this first volume of Aparo artwork devoted to "Batman"-oriented comics. And several pages in the beginning -- one in-between a couple of issues -- are wasted with a bad attempt at an "artsy" layout (one page is completely black, except for part of a piece of Aparo artwork peeking through at the top of the page!). What a waste of valuable space!
ON THE PLUS SIDE, there's the Aparo artwork: in COLOR! To borrow from another comic book creator, excelsior!
This volume stops with issue #122 (the Batman & "Swamp Thing" team-up). There are plenty more great "Brave & Bold" comics featuring Aparo, artwork, including a few issues here and there near the end of the run, including 178, with "The Creeper" -- a costar that often brought out the best in Aparo (heck, just for good old-fashioned strangeness, and because vampires are popular, DC should make sure to include issu 195, with "I Vampire" as a costar). The second volume alone could include issues between 123 and 144 or 146 which include Aparo's artwork (he missed a couple of issues), and DC could still do one more focusing solely on the "B&B" title. So let's hope that DC does at least two more volumes featuring Aparo's "Brave and Bold" artwork (correcting bad design and layout decisions) and BEFORE they move onto his equally stellar work on Detective comics (oft-times, jus the COVERS for that title were spectactular). In fact, Aparo did a cover for one of those giant Batman specials DC used to publish back in the '70s that is nothing short of spectuacular (it features Batman on a rooftop, surrounded by "spotlight" pictures of the joker, catwoman, etc.) -- I have a copy -- here's hoping they use that in one of the Aparo volumes.
And one hopes that DC might even spare a few pages for some words about Aparo and his artwork by one of his fellow artists (absolutely nothing was included this time out).
Finally, DC picked two fantastic covers for the dustjacket of this first volume of Batman-related, Jim Aparo artwork: for the front, they used issue 107 (Batman and Wonder Woman); for the back, they used what I consider to be the BEST "B&B" cover Aparo ever did, for issue 119 (Batman & Manbat). It's a knockout, and if they couldn't use it as the cover, glad they used it on the back, blowing it up even larger than the original comic.
In any case, that the brilliant artwork of Jim Aparo has FINALLY been collected by DC Comics is cause for celebration. Anyone wanting a collection of one the finest comic book artists to put pencil and pen to paper need only buy a copy of this book. I can't find anything to grumble about when it comes to Aparo's artwork during this period of time. He was -- to use the cliche -- at the top of his game (great layouts, great artwork, and he's obviously enjoying himself -- there are even a few "easter eggs to be found, such as Peter Falk, as Columbo, showing up in one panel of an issue). Legends of the Dark Knight: Jim Aparo, Volume One, may turn out to be the ultimate collection of Aparo's artwork.