Sunday, July 25, 2010

Brightest Day #6 - Multiple Angles of Awesome

If I haven't made it clear that I love Brightest Day by now, then my only remaining resource is to tattoo my entire body, forcibly take over the emergency broadcast system, fake an abduction of Lady Gaga, and use the opportunity to say plainly and simply that this series is awesome. I hope not to resort to such extreme measures because this book has continued to show the kind of quality that can only come from the mind of Geoff Johns and it's held strong through each successive book so far. With Brightest Day #6, the bar keeps getting set pretty high and Johns keeps making valiant efforts to match that bar. He hasn't overextended himself yet, but he keeps flirting with the possibility more than Larry King after a divorce. He is human so he can falter. But does he do it with this issue or does he still stack up?

Before that question can be answered, let's take a look at what Brightest Day has been up to. It's been one of those DC books that ties together multiple plots with multiple characters. This is the comic equivalent of doing calculus homework while trying to understand the first two seasons of Lost. Very few minds could manage this without going into convulsions. The plots aren't your typical heroic beat-em-ups either. They involve a murder mystery with J'onn J'ozz, a secret revelation from Mera and Aquaman, a journey to a strange new world with Hawkman and Hawkgirl, some college drama that would make John Belushi proud with Firestorm, and Boston Brand trying to get used to the whole being alive thing again. They make for some compelling stories and they can be difficult to follow at times. Geoff Johns has been masterful at balancing them out properly. However, with the last few issues he's been more focused on particular plots. This issue continues that trend, but not in the way you might expect.

The very first few pages start with J'onn J'ozz and his investigation. Now this is one of the plots that wasn't even mentioned on the last issue. It seemed to take a backseat to the unfolding action with Aquaman and the Hawks. Here our favorite Martian gets some action of his own and by action I mean some grizzly murders that would give Jeffrey Dahlmer a six foot erection.

The big reveal is that a martian is at work here. This revelation wasn't exactly the most surprising. It's one of the few that make sense of the murder that took place a few issues ago with the family who was in the middle of a Guitar Hero tournament (a new level of cruelty if ever there was one). J'onn still hasn't followed the clues to this conclusion. It still seems pretty obvious to the reader so it should seem obvious to J'onn. However, it's not quite clear what his reasoning is. He's no Batman when it comes to detective skills. But he's no Inspector Gadget either. He is competent and he does seem to be on the right track. Usually when you find a trail of death, it does lead you to someone who has too much free time on their hands and poor impulse control.

J'onn follows the trail of clues while another plot that was touched on in the previous issue picks up. Boston Brand, who has been struggling mightily to make friends with Hawk and Dove, has been trying to figure out just what the hell this White Lantern ring actually does. It certainly doesn't function like the Green Lantern's ring or the Red Lanterns or the Yellow Lanterns or any lanterns. When he came to Hawk and Dove for help, what did they do to help? They took him to a graveyard to see if this white lantern power could bring back some of their dead loved ones. It's not so much helping the guy as it is a slight flirtation with necrophilia. They try to get Dove's sister back to the world of the living. The result is less than preferable. She kinda turns into an enraged zombie and by kinda I mean kinda pissed off.

More necrophilia hints are dropped as this zombified version of Dove's sister tries to tear Boston apart and not in a sexy sort of way. But the White Ring shows that it does have some firepower and it does take her out, returning her to the hungry worms where she belongs. This is good for Boston, but do Hawk and Dove show any sympathy? Hell no! They get pissed off and start yelling at the ring as if it's a dog that just took a shit on a Persian rug. The ring reacts with some bizarre messages. It keeps saying to "Eat a cheeseburger." As if this ancient power somehow understands that the power of the MacDonalds is too strong even for the lantern corps. It's kind of anti-climactic as to how Boston reacts, but then again the guy hasn't eaten since he came back to life. It's an odd twist, yet somewhat appropriate. It feels like a lousy way to cut a zombie fight short.

So the Brand plot ended with a bit of a whimper. A bizarre whimper, but a whimper none-the-less. It seems like a good time to get to something a bit more down to Earth (relatively speaking of course since this is the DC Universe). We revisit the Firestorm plot with Jason and Ronald, where Ronald was last seen passed out and hung over at a frat party. Can't get much more down to Earth than that! Even if it does bring back some unpleasant college memories for some. Jason has been somewhat of a douche-bag to Ronald for a while and for good reason. The guy lost his girlfriend during Blackest Night and he blames Ronald. Yet the problem is he's the other part of the Firestorm matrix. It's kind of hard to give him the silent treatment.

He's so bitter that Jason turns down an offer to 'study' with an attractive girl from the 'chemistry club.' It reeks of code for 'let's fool around in ways that would get us banned from every Catholic school in the country.' But Jason turns her down. That's right, a college guy is turning down a potential to get laid. What is the world coming to?! The sad thing is that's not the strangest thing that happens with this scene. That would go to the unexpected sight of a crane turning into bubble gum. No, I'm not high this time. That's really what happened. Sensing something done gone horribly wrong, Jason wakes up a hung over Ronald so they can play hero with Firestar. This is the kind of thing where a silent treatment really needs to take a back seat.

It should be a pretty standard rescue for someone as powerful as Firestar. There's just one problem. Ronald is hung over. That adds a whole new challenge to the hero business. Show me a hero that can save the world while hung over and I'll show you a villain who is too incompetent to wipe his own ass. Since it's bubble gum cranes it seems easy enough. They save the guy whose falling from it, impress some ladies, and head back to the dorm for some justice style poon. But instead, Ronald's hangover is so bad he actually ends up puking on the guy they rescued. Even though he's alive, it's a lot harder to be grateful when a hero spews black chunks all over you. That's a new kind of low even if it is hilarious on some levels.

As if Jason didn't have enough reasons to be pissed at Ronald, he puts in some overtime to bust Ronnie's balls. Anybody who has talked to someone with a hangover before know that's like pouring sulfuric acid onto an infected wound on their scrotum. Ronald responds as most drunks would, being too damn woozy to even stay upright. But it's not all a mere lesson in college binge drinking for the kids. Ronald reveals that there appear to be other forces at work. He doesn't offer specifics and there's no ominous clues in the art. He just says someone else is present. That could make for an awesome twist, but the damn scene ended right there! That's right. After a comedy of errors, the story of Firestorm just gets pushed back to another issue. It's a disappointing way to end what was just becoming an exciting scene. Geoff Johns should know better than that.

Despite the disappointment, the story goes from one revelation to furthering another that emerged in the previous book. It seems strange that the final pages of Brightest Day #5 are being picked up near the end of this book, but at least it's being addressed. Mera revealed to Aquaman on the final page of that issue that she was sent to kill him. Clearly, she's got some 'splaining to do and no amount of make-up sex is going to make Arthur forget.

Mera goes onto talk about where she came from. Apparently, she's not exactly a proud bloodline. She comes from an underwater penal colony called Xebel and even though that sounds like a bad porno, it's a rough place to grow up. Hell, it's in the Bermuda freakin' Triangle. Mera's father, who happened to be king of this empire of deviants, trained her to be his ultimate weapon. That way when they did find a way out she could hunt down Arthur and taste the sweet nectar of revenge.

Unfortunately, the mission turned into a Disney movie. She fell in love with the guy. It may sound cheesy, but it's still kind of sweet. If anybody has even the slightest heart and isn't a total douche-bag, they'll see some merit to that twist. Comics aren't too cool for love stories. Except this love story almost soured when Black Matna killed her and Arthur's son. That act wasn't so much fodder for couple's therapy. It was an act of revenge from Mera's people. Not surprisingly, the one who attacked the oil rig in the last issue, Siren, turned out to be Mera's little sister. It seems like grounds for more revelations, but like the Firestorm plot it gets cut off. We don't see any hint of where that leads. It's like having a beginning and a middle, but when the end comes along the writer goes 'psyche!' It doesn't just end this scene on a downer, it makes this whole moment with Mera and Arthur a protracted conversation and there's only so much awesome that can be taken from that. It's not nearly up to the standards Geoff Johns has set for Brightest Day.

So that's 0 for 3 in terms of plot resolution. Is it possible that this issue of Brightest Day could falter in a way none has thus far? Well there is one more plot left to uncover and it's actually the same plot the book started with. J'onn J'ozz is still following the clues to the murders and he enlists the help of Oracle, Barbara Gordon, to investigate the murders. He has her hack through some networks as she's so good at doing to get some pictures and official documentation on the murders. They're pretty graphic, even for someone who used to be Batgirl. It's just the clue that J'onn needs because he finally is able to make a connection and it's about freakin' time.

There's no cut-off here. J'onn quickly flies full speed to some remote structure the Tanami Desert in Australia, which is probably the closest place on Earth that resembles the Martian surface. There, J'onn makes a shocking discovery that throws a serious curveball to his investigation. While trying to enlist the help of Miss Martian, he makes a terrifying discovery. Apparently, the killer got to her too and it looks about as pretty as a flaming stream of piss hitting a pile of shit. If you're going to end a comic in an awesome way, this is definitely the way to do so.

The plot with J'onn was a great way to tie the book together. It kept Brightest Day #6 from slipping into mediocrity, an unthinkable status for any Geoff John comic. It doesn't make the whole book perfect like the last few issues have been. Each plot in this book could have had some much more powerful revelations that left a bigger impact. But that didn't happen. Instead, there were just these hints about what the revelations were. It's like teasing with teasing, annoying as hell and insulting to a readers tastes. It still moved the plot forward, but didn't do so with the same impact as the previous issues.

There is still plenty of awesome here to make the next issue worth picking up. Brightest Day is still one of the best titles DC has been churning out since the end of Blackest Night. Any DC fan would be wise to pick this up. But factoring in the ridged standards Geoff Johns has set, I can only give this book a 3.5 out of 5. On it's own it could have a higher score, but in the context of the previous books it's necessary to bring it down a little. There is still plenty of potential for this book to pick up and continue the tradition of awesome that has so defined Brightest Day. This book slows down the train of awesome, but it doesn't stop it. That can only be a good for the awesomeness of the DC Universe.

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