Brand is cool, but his threat of 11 is a big turnoff to me. What are his 2 WP for anyway? Make that zero and reduce his threat to 9, and he is fine.
Your alternative with the lower starting threat would no doubt be good, but I'm glad to see him with 2 will, which ties him w/ a few others for highest in Tactics sphere. It's not like there aren't ways to ready him after questing (UC). Also, it's good to have him versatile, especially since will is such a crucial stat for most scenarios. I'm certainly excited for Bard.
I'm not as keen on Bombur, since Bifur is such a great addition to Lore at the same cost. Yes, Bombur is technically a better defender with 2 more HP, and I try to have a character with 5 HP for some treacheries/enemies, but both Bombur and Bifur will need a few support cards to be reliable, great defenders. I'll give Bombur a shot, perhaps there's something I'm missing about him and I'll be pleasantly suprised, but so far I'm underwhelmed…
Unexpected Courage works fine when you have enough core sets - I only play with one though, so UC is not a reliable option. However, you are right that there are ways to use Brand for different actions. I started to include "Spare Hood and Cloak" into my recent decks. A cheap card that can help you so much. Would help to maximize Brand's use.
That said, I still think that 11 threat is too much for a hero that is designed to shoot his arrows at enemies in the staging area. Well, at least "A Light in the Dark" may find its way into some decks. Or, even better, "Fresh Tracks".