It’s highly likely that the average CBR reader has never read an “Inferior Five” comic in his or her life. It’s likely that most readers have never even seen the Inferior Five before, except maybe in an “Ambush Bug” issue, or in a panel or two of some Grant Morrison comic. Merryman has appeared more than the rest of the team, for sure.
Surely most readers have read at least one “Legion of Substitute Heroes” story though, right? That Paul Levitz/Keith Giffen one-shot classic, where the team “defeated” the bell-bottom trouser-wearing Pulsar Stargrave? That Silver Age “Adventure Comics” issue that involved the Subs and the Legion of Super-Pets? No? Then what about that Geoff Johns/Gary Frank “Superman and the Legion” arc? That had plenty of Subs in it, though they were well past their hilarious prime.
The fact is that the Inferior Five (a parody team created by E. Nelson Bridwell and Joe Orlando in the mid-1960s) and the Legion of Substitute Heroes (a funny but earnest group of future teens created by Edmund Hamilton and John Forte in the early 1960s) are two of the greatest superhero teams in the history of the DCU. And they have never teamed up, ever. Until now.
“Brave and the Bold” #35 has its problems. The time travel (and there’s a lot of it) doesn’t make any sense, even when Fire Lad goes out of his way to explain the logic of the plan. But since his plan hinges on taking a Time Bubble one hour into the future, to swap it with another Time Bubble in the same room (even though the Time Bubble wouldn’t be there one hour in the future, because Fire Lad and the gang just stole it to go one hour into the future), well, it falls apart from the beginning. Or, it should, but it’s an Inferior Five/Sub team-up, and logic is not its main draw.
No, this comic is about goofy fun, gags, and hilarious incompetence. And because the Inferior Five and the Subs are so good-hearted, so innocent, and so full of gung-ho effort, everything they fail to accomplish becomes another ridiculously fun milestone. J. Michael Straczynski does a nice job with the banter, and Jesus Saiz nails the sight gags and facial expressions. It’s possible that he goes a little too far with the Dumb Bunny character, but since she was designed to be a parody of sexist female stereotypes in comics, it’s hard to say that Straczynski makes her a sexist female stereotype. I mean, he does. But that’s the point.
It’s certainly the best version of the Subs outside of Edmund Hamilton, Paul Levitz, or Keith Giffen, and it’s, by default, the best version of the Inferior Five since the Silver Age. But sometimes it’s enough just to put these kinds of characters together and have fun with the possibilities that arise. And that’s what we get in this issue. It’s broad. It’s dumb. And it’s the greatest Inferior Five/Legion of Substitute Heroes team-up in the history of comic books.