Thursday, May 20, 2010

Brightest Day #2 - Slowing Down With Grace

I've been singing the praises of Brightest Day for a while now. It's been hard not to. Geoff Johns has really revitalized the DC Universe from the ashes of Blackest Night and the Brightest Day event that follows it has been every bit the ball bustingly awesome story that readers have come to expect. The first two issues of Brightest Day were riding the wave of awesome from Blackest Night. They never missed a beat, but as is often the case with most things in life it's hard to keep with that kind of momentum. Brightest Day #2 is still awesome, but it lacks the extra punch to knock the reader's socks off that the first two did.

It starts off with some good moments involving Firestorm, who seems to be having a real identity crisis. Since Blackest Night Firestorm has been having a bit of an identity crisis. The two sides that make up Firestar, Jason Rusch and the Professor, are not getting along and when this merger is the sole basis for an ass blastingly huge amount of power it's cause for concern. They try to get help from Ray Palmer, Captain Atom, but something goes horribly wrong and the ominous flash bodes well for the next step in this conflict.

Sadly, that's the last we hear of this story. That's how Brightest Day is structured. It sets the tone with each of these sub plots to wet your appetite for the next. It can be hard to follow at times, but Geoff Johns makes it worth it.

The next plot involves a pretty nasty development involving J'onn J'ozz. And wouldn't you know it? The video game Rock Band is involved! Actually, it's not really involved. It's more of a funny backdrop, but it still makes you wonder how much EA paid to get that placement in the book. Whatever it was, for a comic this cool it's more than worth it. It's just a shame we'll never know if the warranty was paid up because the image of the Martian Manhunter on the TV causes quite a stir and by stir I mean a murderous rampage. In some ways you feel Rock Band is a victim too and that only adds to the tragedy.

To counter this somewhat gruesome act, a nice little plot with the Martian Manhunder unfolds. He visits the grave of an old friend and learns of a woman from a vision he had on Mars. It requires him to do a little grave digging, but only J'onn can make it work and not have it be disturbing. Seeing his emotional response to the picture really reminds readers why he was the heart of the Justice League for so many years.

From there he visits the man's daughter, who by now is old and near the end of her life in a nursing home. He takes her on a little trip, posing as her father and flying her on a little journey into the past. It makes for a nice little montage into J'onn's history and helps reconnect with the character that has been missing for too long. This is by far one of the most emotional parts of the book. Since J'onn is such an emotional character, it makes sense to have him revisit the past to a point. He's been lost to many and since so much of his character is tied to the past and what happened to his home planet, this little side plot is a nice way to really dive back into what makes this character tick. It's enough to make anyone rethink their stance on little green men. They can have a big heart as well. Only J'onn J'ozz can pull of mimicking an old woman's father and not have it be creepy. Plus, it helps that the father looks like Colonel Sanders from KFC.

From here, things slow down and get a bit more disappointing. In the midst of these stories the plot involving Hawkman and Hawkgirl makes another appearance. I found myself enjoying their little saga in the last issue the most. They were going after a shady group that got their hands on their first incarnations from Ancient Egypt. They were both foaming at the mouth, ready to throw down and beat the living shit out of whoever dared to desecrate their bones.

Well sadly, that didn't happen. In fact, it seemed they didn't even catch up to the bastards. They just arrived in some room full of artifacts and got pissed at all the reminders of how their fate was being controlled. It makes for an intense moment and all, but it's about as exciting as it sounds. Considering how it was set up in the last issue, this was a major disappointment.

The same can be said for the next plot involving Boston Brand, Aquaman, and Mera. In the last issue Aquaman flashed some of his Blackest Night digs in a way that would probably make Mera a suspect for necrophilia. But before that mystery is even touched on, they just dive back into the ocean. There's no development of this plot. There's no hint at what will happen involving that brief flash from Blackest Night. They just disappear and leave Boston Brand as confused as the readers.

It seems like a hell of an oversight. Boston Brand even ends up doing what I think a lot of readers might want to do and goes after Aquaman to get some answers. Problem is he still doesn't seem to have a firm handle on the new ring of his. It didn't come with an instruction manual so basic things like flight really don't come easy. It's almost comical to look at. The man is like Al Bundy trying to assemble a bicycle from scratch. It hurts his pride almost as much as his body.

But like Al Bundy, Brand does get a handle of things towards the end. He had to fall a hell of a ways to get it, but better late than never right? Well that may not be the case because where he landed wasn't exactly friendly. It turned out to be the Anti-matter universe and someone big, scary, and gut bustingly powerful isn't happy about his presence. It sets the stage for the next issue and hopefully some much needed action.

So what was the problem with this issue? Geoff Johns is usually pretty good when it comes to working out the little things. Here there just seems to be too much prelude and not enough feature presentation. It's like watching a bunch of trailers and they cut out at all the parts you want to see. Some parts are very well done, like the one involving the Martian Manhunter. Others like Aquaman and the Hawks just fall flat. It almost feels like you're left with a comic half awesome and half mediocre. Even though mediocrity by Geoff Johns is still plenty awesome to hold it's own against most writers, it won't blow your mind with supreme awesome and will only keep you interested in seeing the next issue.

The score for this is difficult to work out, but taking both the good and the not so good into account Brightest Day #2 gets a 3.5 out of 5. It still kicks enough ass to make the next issue worth getting, but it isn't holding true to the lofty standards it has made for itself. There's still plenty of quality to go around and there's definitely room to make up for it in future issues. I'm still knee deep in the awesome shit that is Brightest Day so don't think this issue warrants dropping the title. It would take a hell of a lot more than that to overcome the sheer awesome that Brightest Day has to offer.

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