Writers: Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi
Artists: Ivan Reis, Patrick Gleason, Scott Clark and Joe Prado
Inkers: Vicente Cifuentes, David Beaty, Mark Irwin, Christian Alamy
Colour: Peter Steigerwald and John Starr
Where do I start this time around? I’ve already emptied all the bile and contempt I have for this book in past reviews, and even wrote my own oath for it in the last installment. Will this issue of Brightest Day buck the trend, or will it continue its lackluster performance and publish its way right out of my pull-list?
In the aftermath of Blackest Night, some of DC’s dead heroes and villains return from beyond. The question we’re left to wonder though is, why? Brightest Day follows Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, Hawkgirl, Hawkman, and Boston Brand as they struggle to understand why’ve returned, while Ronnie Raymond is left to struggle with his guilt over what he did to Jason Rusch’s girlfriend during Blackest Night.
What’s the Story?
This issue begins by re-introducing J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter, to the series. He’s been absent since issue three. The story picks up in a California park with the green creature we saw back in issue two of the series. It attacks a couple and kills them. On the next page, Martian Manhunter is hovering over the remains of Professor Erdel’s lab in Colorado, clearly indicating the green martian from California is another being entirely. As he lands though, the soil and fauna around him begins to die. After moving about for a bit, he notices sets of footprints, and becomes increasingly fearful of what could have made them. We’re then treated to several scenes where J’onzz confers with Barbara Gordon about some case files, becoming alarmed when a pattern of killings emerge. They contact Titans tower looking to speak with M’Gann, another martian. J’onzz is informed that she’s gone on a retreat to Austrailia. Once he arrives though, he finds her suspended from the ceiling, partially shifted between her green skin colour and her natural white martian state. She’s bloodied and battered; perhaps dead.
The second story of focus returns us to Boston Brand, Hawk and Dove. Brand attempts to resurrect Dove’s sister, but instead they’re attacked by a construct of Holly (Dove’s sister). Strangely it demands to be taken to the white lantern, but is met with another solid white construct of Don Hall, the original Dove. The ring says two things here: “Despite what others have said, dead isn’t dead” and refers to the attack as a warning. We’re then treated to another wrinkle to Boston Brand’s return; he’s hungry and hasn’t eaten since he returned. We learn Brand loves cheeseburgers, and leave him for the time being. Above all however, Dove points out perhaps the entire reason the ring has taken him on this journey is to help remind him what it means to live. That plot point was clear early in the series though, so its revelation isn’t game-breaking.
The third focus of this issue brings Firestorm back into Brightest Day. We pick up Jason and Ronnie’s story at Jason’s college, where we see a quick interaction between Jason and a female classmate (she would make a good supporting character in a Firestorm comic…*nudge-nudge*). Afterwards, Jason walks off by himself only to begin hearing what I presume is the Firestorm matrix. It asks him what the chemical compound is for chewing gum as the steel girders on a construction site begin to change into bubble gum. Jason and Ronnie suddenly merge into Firestorm despite not being in proximity to each other and leap into the fray. Unfortunately Ronnie is a little hung over after a late night, leaving Jason to share in Ronnie’s hangover. They quickly try to save the two construction workers from the rig using a large air bag to break their fall. As they do though, Ronnie throws-up black bile onto an unappreciative construction worker. Firestorm flies away, but doesn’t make it very far before Ronnie has trouble flying straight. Meanwhile, the same voice that asked Jason what the chemical compound for bubble gum was earlier begins to tear down Ronnie for all his failures, and after a time it’s clear that both Jason and Ronnie can hear the voice, and that they’re not alone in the matrix.
The final story in this issue continues the Aquaman story from issue five. Here we see Mera attempt to explain her true mission to Aquaman after being attacked by Siren and her brigade. Mera explains that she was sent by her father to destroy the Atlanteans and even more, assassinate Aquaman himself. She quickly explains though that once she met him and fell in love with him, that all changed. She explains how she abandoned her mission, and tried to hide her identity and where she came from. She explains to Aquaman who their attackers were; chief among them her sister Siren, who now leads a death squad intent on killing Aquaman once and for all. Again.
The Pretty, Pretty Pictures
The art’s hit and miss in this issue. I wasn’t too fond of the Martian Manhunter art in this issue. Some of the scenes such as the creature leaping from the pond on the first page are fairly decent in their graphic nature. Overall though, Martian Manhunter feels too bulky or blocky in certain panels, almost too much of an overblown cartoon character. He looks very plane in other panels and feels very uninteresting. There are several panels I do like, such as the one’s where Martian Manhunter is walking the grounds of Professor Erdel’s laboratory grounds. Here the artist drew a close-up of his hands touching the earth and you’re able to clearly see the earth dying around it. It’s nice artistic touches like these that save the art which otherwise leaves something to be desired.
The Firestorm art was drawn and coloured quite well. The team really captured some cool elemental effects such as the Firestorm transformation, the steel girders changing into bubble gum and then the gum exploding across the pages. One strange thing I noticed in the panels was how they were organized. Its unconventional layout seems odd, but contributes to the artistic display. For example there’s a page sectioned off into a smaller triangle showing Firestorm flying upward with his arms bleeding deeply into the adjacent panels. The rest of the page shows him hovering and contemplating his next move while a man falls. This is shown in the remaining rectangular panel of that triangle. The following page is broken down differently, showing Firestorm flying from two different angles along the top and left side of the page, and then a short sequence of rectangular panels progressively showing them saving the man, losing control, and seemingly vomiting on the man. It’s an interesting, more chaotic approach to the art especially with the gum everywhere, but it’s done rather well and I enjoyed it.
Ivan Reis seemingly drew both the Aquaman and Boston Brand stories. They’re still awesome. Reis continues his great work in the book, continuing many of his stylistic trademarks throughout his time on Green Lantern. He continually manages to capture the emotions of his characters, as well as elemental auras and constructs. His best work in the issue though is saved for the Aquaman story, where we’re given a great splash page of Aquaman and Mera chronicling their history together, a great emotional scene between them, and anchoring panels featuring great work on both Black Manta and Siren.
This review has sounded too positive. As that may be, it’s warranted. After several lackluster issues, Brightest Day finally turned in a good issue. The book actually felt fairly organized compared to past issues where the stories seemed like they were arbitrarily slotted in without care for cohesion or continuity. The past few books have felt disjointed at times, leading to a choppy reading experience thereby disrupting the story’s flow and any momentum the characters’ arcs gain. This issue follows a more carefully planned layout, with Martian Manhunter’s story bookending the entire issue, with Firestorm, Aquaman and Boston Brand’s stories touched on throughout the issue’s remaining sections. What I appreciate and thought was neglected in previous issues centres on the story flow I mentioned. Each piece of the story told in this issue is started and finished in one swoop. In contrast, past issues have started a story, left it for four pages, only to return to the same story to conclude that portion of the arc. This issue corrected that problem of which I’ve been rightly critical of so far.
I think the best thing Johns and Tomasi can do at this point is to follow this issue as a blueprint for the remainder of the series, perhaps even alternate story focuses between the bi-weekly releases. This issue felt more balanced than all of the previous issues maintaining a main focus. It then supplemented it with secondary stories, and I think that it at least masks the problems this format lends itself to. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best option. This issue was definitely a step in the right direction, especially leading into what Geoff Johns describes as the “game changer” in references to Brightest Day #7. I just hope they continue the momentum.
Stay tuned for my review on issue seven in two weeks, because with this issue I’ve granted Brightest Day a stay-of-execution from my pull-list.