Thursday, September 16, 2010

Brightest Day #10 - Baby Daddy Drama Awesome

The past two issues of Brightest Day have been 1800s style gold rush for awesome. Not only have they been delivering consistent and quality awesome, they've been among the top-sellers in the comic world and at a paltry $2.99 no less. At a time when most other books are charging a dollar extra for stories that aren't worth the shit they're used to wipe the asses of the editors with, Brightest Day stands out as a template for how all awesome books should be done. It tells a quality and compelling story and doesn't overcharge for it. It's like getting a blowjob from two playboy models just for emptying the dishwasher.

Brightest Day #8 and #9 marked some huge developments in the story that has been unfolding since the dust settled on Blackest Night. It departed from the earlier style of unfolding many stories and focused more on just a few plots in one book. This all came after Boston Brand (who used to be Deadman) used the White Lantern power to connect with every other character that had been brought back in Blackest Night. It was a nice development and one that really changed the tone of the story. In the past two issues some plots have taken more precedent than others. The story of the Hawks, the Martian Manhunter, Boston and Dove, and Aquaman have been getting plenty of attention. However, there are some stories that weren't touched on. Brightest Day #10 picks up on that and since the bar is so high, it has a lot to live up to.

The first pages of this issue as well as many other pages throughout the book cover what's happening with Firestorm. In Blackest Night, Ronnie (the old Firestorm) was brought back from the dead and merged with the new Firestorm, Jason. This sounds all hunky doory until you factor in how in doing so, Ronnie killed Jason's girlfriend and since the Firestorm Matrix involves the two of them merging that makes for more than just the ultimate odd couple. It's like sharing organs with a guy who butchered and raped you mother. Awkward would be a gross understatement.

Awkward aside Professor Stein, who isn't a hormonal college student and knows how this matrix shit works, is trying to do some tests. He offers some insight that shows how writer Geoff Johns must have been on a conference call with Stephen Hawkings. He reveals his theory about the Firestorm matrix and how it was an experiment to determine what that initial spark was that triggered the Big Bang (the bang not the kick-ass TV show). Well it turns out that spark wasn't just a theory. He captured that spark. That spark is the Firestorm matrix. Now this sounds awesome, but if you never slept through a cosmology class you would understand that if the Firestorm Matrix embodied the spark that triggered the Big Bang, then the mere fact they're walking around makes them a ticking time bomb for another Big Bang. It is essentially the kind of bomb that give terrorists wet dreams.

If the physics lesson is already boring you to tears, don't get your panties lodged up your asshole. There's some more traditional action just ahead. The other major plot in this book revolves around one that just began to unfold in the previous issue. In Brightest Day #9 it was revealed that Black Manta had a son and that son is the key to stopping Mera's people (who are bent on serving Aquaman's head on a platter) from destroying the surface world. This on top of Mera revealing that she was originally sent to kill Aquaman after she boned him is a lot to process. So rather than ignore that seemingly important shit, Aquaman leaves Mera behind and goes after Manta's son. That may not be the smartest thing, leaving behind a woman who claims to love you and tried to kill you. Then again, superheroes are known more for their heroics and not their capacity for common freakin' sense.

Now as for Manta's son, he did make an appearance in the previous issue. But not much was revealed about him other than he appeared to be living with foster parents in the same tradition as Superman. The kid, whose name is Jackson for all those sick of me just calling him Manta's son, is taken on a little trip with his adopted father. Again, more Superman parallels are drawn as he brings him to a cottage where they first found him. Then his dad drops the bomb no kid wants to hear. He's not their son. He's adopted. Aside from divorce and losing your job, that has to rank right up there in terms of shit that will ruin your day.

The story is the kind of thing you see on the Hallmark channel every day after 10 PM. A woman came from the sea with a baby in her arms, wanting to spare him the war between the sea and the surface. Naturally, Jackson's adopted parents conveniently forgot to tell him this. So when the truth does come out, it's more than just a shock to the system. Jackson proves to be the sensitive type and starts bursting into tears. Then his father shows him some of the goodies his real mother left and it triggers some interesting fireworks.

That would be more than enough to make a bad day even worse. Then while he's still trying to make sense of it all, his real father shows up and isn't offering to take him to a baseball game either. Keep in mind, his real father is Black Manta. He's about as affectionate as a porcupine on meth.

It turns into a classic car chase. Before his real dad can try and give him a hug (with a spear no less), Jackson and his other dad run for it. This forces Jackson into an impromtu driving lesson. Seeing as how the guy barely looks old enough to have hair on his junk, it's not a very good time to take a driving test. The chase is no Mission Impossible. It ends quickly with Jackson driving the car right into the ocean. That usually is where the good guys smoke a cigar and the bad guys start pouting, but here it actually works to Black Manta's advantage. So I guess Geoff Johns owes an apology to all those hoping for a normal car chase.

Thankfully, Jackson grows a bit more hair this time and some of that aqua mojo of his comes to his aid. It's not shown in detail, but somehow he's able to break out of the sinking car with his other dad in hand and shoot up through the sea to deliver an uppercut to Black Manta. Now maybe I'm being picky here, but that sounds like something I would want to fucking see! Yet it happened off panel! I know it's done for dramatic reasons, but even if the uppercut is awesome and it could have been so much more awesome and made Jackson look like more than a whiny punk.

Since Manta, like most nosy parents, doesn't take no for an answer he tries to give his son a bit of discipline. Apparently, he doesn't know much about teenagers because anyone who has ever watched MTV (before it became that fucked up Reality TV channel) knows that when you try to discipline a teenager they fight back. Jackson is no different and since this is his real dad and he hasn't even apologized for missing out on all the birthday checks he never sent, he's got extra incentive to fight back. Black Manta keeps trying to play the asshole parent card, but again Jackson's aqua mojo comes to his rescue. Apparently, he put a bit too much potency in his seed when he knocked up Jackson's mother. It probably made for a wedding night that could only be equaled in madness by the craziest slash fiction the internet could shit out.

Since Mr. Father-of-the-Year can't seem to bring his son in line, he ends up having to call upon his mother support. This alone makes Black Manta one of the biggest pussy among villains because when you have to get backup from your baby mama in order to deal with a rebellious son, you might as well cut off your balls and mutilate your dick because you've lost the privileged of wielding man parts. It does help somewhat that Siren is hot and definitely qualifies as a MILF. This doesn't seem to bother Jackson even though he is a teenage boy. He keeps trying to make up for all the whining he did earlier, which to his credit has been pretty decent. He's certainly less of a pussy than Black Manta at this point.

Even if his balls are starting to descend, there's no doubt he's a wee bit over matched here. Even if they have been somewhat emasculated, Black Manta and Siren are villains. That does count for something even if they seem to suck at it. So if he's going to not be humiliated by his own parents, he needs more than just his aqua powers. He gets that extra something in the form of Aquaman himself. Despite not having a hot redhead by his side anymore, he shows up to confront Black Manta and Siren. He looks pretty darn badass in the process, thus setting the stage for a fight that involves more than a half-hearted car chase.

As appealing a fight that may be, it's another one of those battles that's to be saved for the next issue. It's another agonizing cliffhanger, but anyone who has been following Brightest Day since the beginning should come to expect that shit. If you complain about it, you're reading the wrong book! This scene alone gives readers all the reason they need to pick up the next issue, but there is another plot that's going on so it's not over yet.

Remember, this issue started with Firestorm. Jason and Ronald were not getting along because of the whole Ronald killing Jason's girlfriend thing. Yet Professor Stein is telling them they still have to get along. That's like forcing an Israeli and Palestinian to hold hands and skip over rainbows. Well there's actually a good reason to get along that doesn't involve a geopolitical analogy. If Jason and Ronald keep arguing, the Firestorm Matrix will destabilize and create another Big Bang. It's the equivalent of crossing the streams in Ghostbusters. You do it and all of existence gets wiped out.

Well it turns out that's not something Stein should have said out loud because in addition to Ronald and Jason, there was another certain someone lodged inside the Matrix. He showed his ugly face a few times in the past. Now he's showing it again. During Blackest Night, Firestorm embraced his role as the Black Lantern and that role did not seem to die even after the Black Lanterns were defeated. Both Ronald and Jason had been saying there's another presence in the Matrix and finally that presence revealed itself, now with the knowledge that it has the power to create another Big Bang. It's like giving an anti-matter bomb to Bin Laden. It leaves Ronald and Jason utterly powerless and Professor Stein looking like the biggest douche in the world.

This sets the stage for yet another struggle on top of the one unfolding with Aquaman. However, the promise of another Big Bang seems a wee bit more serious than some issues with biological parents. It shows that the shadows of Blackest Night are still hanging around and that's just fine. For as awesome as Blackest Night was and as awesome as Brightest Day is turning out to be, it makes perfect sense to mix the two. This raises the stakes and sets the stage for more conflicts. It doesn't really show how these conflicts link together. Even after Brightest Day #8 provided some connections through the White Lantern, this book isn't all that clear as to how that still applies. In fact, it doesn't even offer a hint. So if you end up a little confused by the end, it's not the weed this time.

This issue is awesome just as all the issues of Brightest Day have been thus far. That was never in doubt. But does the awesome measure up to what the first two issues established? Well like the previous two issues, this book focused mainly on two plots rather than touching on all of the other plots. That worked well, but unlike the previous two issues there wasn't much connecting them. Boston Brand didn't show up to connect what was happening with Firestorm as he did with Aquaman. So it isn't really clear why the Firestorm story is in there if for no other reason to not keep ignoring it. Even if it did turn into a new conflict, it seems like something completely unrelated. No one is saying it's easy making all these connections, but Geoff Johns is a good enough writer to pull it off and in this issue he did fall short.

Now saying this issue doesn't measure up to it's predecessors is like saying a bar of gold isn't as shiny as the other two. It's still worth a shit ton more than lesser books. Brightest Day still sets itself apart as being one of the strongest DC titles on the market right now and the lower price is just icing laced with ecstasy on the top. Even so, I can't give this issue a perfect score like the others because it doesn't offer the same connections as the previous issues. Yet it's still a very quality book so for a final score, I give Brightest Day #10 a 4.5 out of 5. Geoff Johns is still the master of DC awesome. Brightest Day still kicks the ass of nearly every other book and it offers so many reasons to keep reading. What more could you want? Nuff said.

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