Sunday, July 11, 2010

Brightest Day #5 - Concentrated Vitamin Awesome

I get that I've been ranting and bitching about the state of X-men for a while now and thankfully I've had an intervention with the voices in my head. They all sat me down, fed me some downers, and explained to me that it was bullshit to focus entirely on how utterly fucked the comics are with Second Coming and Hope Summers and that there was still plenty of awesome to be had. One of them being Brightest Day. Now granted it took a few more days of intense counseling, a few drinks, and maybe some roofies or two, but I did come around and allow myself to indulge in the awesome that has been so consistent and quality since the beginning (unlike some comics with X in the title). Brightest Day #5 is the latest in a series that has been percolating awesome at the same rate as a faulty BP oil rig. To my relief and to the relief of the voices, that awesome continues.

This book does a slight shift from the previous issues in that it's now focusing on fewer plots. This is good because it allows the story to progress for certain characters than would be possible if the book had to touch on anybody. Not only that, Geoff Johns gets a chance to write some kick-ass action scenes which have been lacking in past issues. It's just the right kick in the nuts readers need to be reminded that this series can spew awesome like a cumshot in a Jenna Jameson porno.

It starts off with the strange plot involving Mera and Arthur. Over the past few issues, he's been having a bit of an identity crises between his live and dead self. Mera seems to be having a similar problem with her growing necrophilia problem, but that doesn't stop them from being heroes. Their latest act is pulled right from Fox News without taking pussies like Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity with them. They set out to stop a burning oil rig that's dumping oil into the oceans. Somewhere, a BP executive is sighing in annoyance at the loss of another PR hit while doing a line of cocaine off a strippers ass. Arthur even has time to go on a rant at how oil had corrupted the world. Now he just sounds like a hippie and makes BP seem like less an asshole and we can't have that.

But like all hippies, they eventually pick a fight. So when a hoard of Atlantean hitmen appear to take out Aquahippie, you don't feel too bad about it. On a burning oil rig in the middle of the ocean, it sets the stage for a pretty kickass fight. It's long overdue too because Arthur has been avoiding Atlantis since Brightest Day began. Any king ought to know that if you stay away from your throne for too long, someone is going to see that as an opportunity to fuck with your power. Damn hippies.

Of course, Geoff Johns doesn't throw an entire fight scene on the page at once. He's going to make the reader earn it by focusing on a plot less Die Hard and more The Sixth Sense. By that I mean we're getting back to the whole reanimating dead people plot because let's face it, just seeing them is boring as fuck. Boston Brand, formerly known as Deadman, is put in an awkward position with Hawk and Dove. Hawk wants him to tap this White Ring that he doesn't know the first thing about using to resurrect his brother. Granted, that's like asking someone to hot wire a nuclear bomb when they don't know an AAA battery from a vibrator, but Boston gives it a shot. However, the ring itself (remember, this thing isn't your grandma's jewelry) doesn't like where this is going.

But to hell with some moody ring! Let's go back to the action, damn it! We've got a battle between the King of Atlantis and some renegade shmucks looking to piss on his side of the pool. Let's enjoy it while we can! It certainly makes for an exciting moment. Aquaman is outnumbered and outgunned on a platform that's already on fire. He still holds his own and the readers are still treated so some more kickass explosions. Then Mera steps in and shows that she's not just some redheaded eye-candy and pulls a nasty little trick with sharks to beat them back and give her and Arthur time to slip away. It all seems so complete, but then Siren (the bitch leading this attack) throws an ominous hint that indicates something else is at work.

Not content for just one helping of action, we revisit the unfolding shit storm that Hawkman and Hawkgirl have found themselves in. After walking through a portal made of the bones of their dead reincarnations (no really, that's not a witty joke), they find themselves on a planet that looks like a cross between Pandora from Avatar and Mars from Total Recall (minus the chick with the three breasts). But they don't just get right to the action. They do take a moment to remember they're still somewhat human despite having wings and shit. Hawkgirl is understandably nauseous after walking through a gateway that made her feel the deaths of all her past selves. You would think that would entitle her to at least a good round of dry heaves.

Sadly, there is no puking to be had. They don't get the chance. Just when it looks like Hawkman and Hawkgirl are sharing another moment, they get attacked by an army of these human/animal half-breeds. Now that would sound strange, but considering how they got to this place it's about as surprising as rain in Seattle. But that doesn't stop it from being awesome as hell. Finally, the Hawks have to set aside their love story and kick a little ass. It may seem like shameless pandering to the tween crowd, but who gives a shit? It's still awesome.

The fight gets bloody and ugly faster than a birthday party with Michael Vick. It's definitely more graphic than the fight with Arthur and the Atlanteans. This one has snarling, angry beasts against two people who have taken more than their share of shit. Add to that, they discover that there are still some elements of the Black Lanterns inside them. So even if they survive, death is going to keep following them. How's that for stacking the deck against them? The battle is pretty intense, but something has to give and that something is Hawkgirl. She gets plucked right from the fight and carried off. What happens to Hawkman you ask? Well he gets slammed into the side of a mountain and that understandably puts a damper in his rescue efforts. But come on! This is his girlfriend from like a hundred lifetimes! A simple mountain should not get in his way.

So with all this bloodshed and violence, the story is left looking for something more subtle. That unfolds in the form of a somewhat predictable result to Boston Brand's attempt to use the White Lantern ring. For any number of reasons, the ring doesn't like being used to bring back someone's dead brother. So the guy stays dead. It's done a shit ton of resurrecting recently so why ask more? But that isn't the only reason. It turns out Boston got a glimpse of the man on the other side. He didn't want to be brought back. So between Boston, the ring, and the dead guy he's outvoted.

Hawk is understandably pissed, but Boston isn't about to stop. He sets his sights on another corpse, this one being Dove's sister. The ring still doesn't like it, but will that be enough? Johns isn't going to answer that question. That's meant to grab the reader by the nuts (or clit if you're a girl) and drag them along for the next issue.

Now this would have been an awesome place to end the book. You've got a setup for yet another resurrection and plenty of fodder from the other plots to make this story as solid as we would expect a Geoff Johns comic could be. But much like every woman that ever boned Larry King, John's isn't satisfied. He has to throw in one last twist.

It comes in the form of a revelation from Mera. She and Arthur have gotten away from the attack, but Arthur is understandably confused. He has no idea who these pricks were or why they attacked him. But Mera seemed to know as was indicated by that little hint dropped by Siren before they left. And Arthur knows she knows. He slept with this girl in the first issue. The man should have some insight. The truth does come out, but it's seriously fucked up. Mera basically admits she's pulling a Julia Roberts to his Gerard Butler. She wasn't originally sent to get his rock off. She was sent to kill him. You couldn't kill the moment faster without PMS and diarrhea.

So that's it. That's what Brightest Day #5 leaves us with. Three focused stories and each are awesome enough to stand on their own as a comic, but put together and you've got a trifecta of awesome that makes for a compelling plot with the perfect blend of action, drama, and startling revelations. It's the kind of high stakes awesome that has been par for the course with Brightest Day. Geoff Johns continues to astonish, proving time and again that he can deliver the goods. There's a lot less setup and a lot more execution in this issue, giving it a very vital feel in the sense that this could mark a turning point in the series.

Now are there some shortcomings? They are few and far between. The battle with the Hawks didn't offer much explanation for who these creatures were that attacked them. It wasn't even clear how they showed up. Did they teleport or something or fly in? There's also the matter of Boston saying he met Hawk's brother on the other side of the pearly gates, but that wasn't shown. It could have made for a nice scene, but it feels kind of bland when he just says he didn't want to be brought back. It feels like a missed opportunity.

Never-the-less, Geoff Johns makes the most of every other opportunity and the end result is a brilliant flash of blinding awesome. Brightest Day #5 gets a perfect 5 out of 5 and I can get along with the voices a little better. Between so much bullshit in the X-men comics, it's refreshing to know that DC is still growing steadily in terms of quality. So even if Second Coming turns to complete shit (which looks to be the case), I have awesome stories like Brightest Day to pick up the slack. Thanks DC! Thanks for not teasing excessively and blowing smoke in my face! Brightest Day kicks ass. Nuff said.

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