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Bravo for Adventure


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By Hervé St-Louis
April 20, 2021 - 00:46

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Bravo for Adventure is the collected edition of cartoonist Alex Toth’s original graphic novel about Jesse Bravo, an American stunt pilot, adventurer, and airman operating in California during the 1930s. Of course, where there is trouble, there is Jesse Bravo, with villains, beautiful women, and intrigue. Over 40 years after its creation, all four original stories that comprised Bravo for Adventure are finally collected in an affordable format for Alex Toth fans.

Bravo for Adventure was an original graphic novel project commissioned by European publishers wanting to investigate the field of original and more adult tales in comics. Recruiting many other cartoonists, they turned to Alex Toth and asked him to produce any project that was of interest to him. He produced some of his best work there by drawing on themes he liked a lot; airplanes, intrigue, film noir, and a swashbuckling hero that looked like Toth’s ideal man, Hollywood actor Errol Flynn. Publishing conundrums with the French publisher shutting down his operation meant that Toth’s Bravo for Adventure was never printed entirely. As seen in the collected edition, he asked himself several times if he should go back and add new chapters to Jesse Bravo’s world. He did so twice but only one main adventure remains of the story of Jesse Bravo.

The stories are serviceable but readable. They fit the crime noir genre so do not expect Shakespeare. The treat of this comic is to see Alex Toth, master cartoonist at work drawing airplanes and action shots in his remarkable black and white style with great economy of lines. The main story shows us a glimpse of Jesse Bravo who could have become quite a heroic figure had more adventures been released. He was not at the centre of the action but somehow, everything rotated around him.

While I liked the art very much, the storytelling was a bit perplexing at times. I know it is heresy to write that Toth’s work was not perfect, especially such late work. Well, it was not. It was great and quite a treat though. Readers can marvel at all the tricks and techniques used by Toth throughout his career and learn from them. The use of excessive black ink often obfuscates the panels and make quick recognition of what’s happening difficult to grasp.

Toth’s imagery concentrated on drawing shots that were closely focused on the figures and mostly their faces. In that tiny space, he would add jut enough elements to make the page dynamic. I also noticed, to my surprise that Toth frequently broke the 180 rule and had characters flip place from panel to panel, adding to the confusion. The sample coloured pages are superior to the original colouring proposed by the European publisher and much better than that done by Paquet, the current publisher of the French edition. It would be fun to see more of those original pages one day.

If you read Johnny Bullet, you’ll of course have figured out that I am a poor Alex Toth student. I was amazed at the many similarities between Jesse Bravo and Johnny Bullet that went beyond their infamous initials. This is why I felt that the story was not the best developed aspect and I yearned for more. There was so much that was barely unearthed in the few available Jesse Bravo stories he created for publication. Still, for fans of Alex Toth, Jesse Bravo is some of the most mature and idiosyncratic work done by the cartoonist, where he got to play with all of his favourite toys.

Rating: 9.5 /10


Last Updated: September 6, 2021 - 08:15

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