Thursday, September 2, 2010

Brightest Day #9 - Fiery Awesome

The Brightest Day series has succeeded in so many of the ways that others like it fail miserably at. Usually after there's a huge, universe-shaking event the stories that follow it are lackluster at best and abysmal at worst. It's a feeling similar to crack. After you take that first big hit, you get that initial rush that makes your body feel like the tip of your dick (or clit for the ladies) when you're blowing your load on a really good jerkoff. As nice as that first hit is, every hit afterward is comparatively weaker. It gets to a point where even a boulder sized rock of the finest Columbian import won't match that same feeling. Blackest Night was that first hit, but Brightest Day did not decrease in the quality or quantity of the experience. It's like readers are still on the first hit and it feels so damn good (and doesn't require giving hand jobs in back alleys either).

Since the end of Blackest Night, Brightest Day has juggled a number of different stories that stemmed directly from the final curtain of the epic crossover. Now usually when a series juggles so many stories it's one of those times when you pop some pop-corn, get a cold brew, and watch as the writers systematically fuck themselves by trying to do too much and screwing everything up in a way that will make the booze leak out of your nipples. These people deserve a little slack. It's not easy handling so many stories, but by some miracle or pact with Mephisto a writer like Geoff Johns has been able to handle the challenge. Since the first issue, he's kept the plots fairly coherent and engaging as many of the characters that were resurrected in Blackest Night struggle to find their place in the greater DC Universe.

In recent issues some of these plots have been narrowed in terms of focus. Instead of one issue covering three or four stories, they're now focusing on just a few per issue. The last issue spent most of the time focusing on the struggles of Hawkman and Hawkgirl and Hawkworld solving Hawkproblems to prevent a Hawkwar. This issue shifts gears again, focusing on the ongoing plot with J'onn J'ozz. His journey has led him to discover that he may not be the last Martian of his kind and he's now set out to find this Martian, probably hoping it's a babe too because being the last guy of a race leaves limited options in terms of pussy. His story isn't the only one in this book. Aquaman and Mera get their share too after some startling revelations about past allegiances and assassination plots (which probably makes them one of the more typical couples in comics).

However, before J'onn gets to shine and the Atlanteans begin their couples therapy the story opens up with the guy who has been intrinsically tied with the White Lantern and the white run. Boston Brand, who used to be Deadman, is now very much alive and very much at the mercy of the White Lantern. This thing is like an untrained dog that was once owned by Michael Vick. It's not listening to Boston and causing him all sorts of headaches. In the last issue it took him on a mission to find a worthy guardian for the White Ring. In this issue it drops him smack in the middle of the ocean for Aquaman and Mera to pick up him and Dove, who got dragged along for the ride.

After Boston and Dove are rescued, Arthur and Mera take them back to shore and start up a nice bonfire. We can only assume some savory smores were exchanged before there was an explanation as to why Boston happened to land in the middle of the ocean. He doesn't have much to work with though since he's still about as clueless as baby in a topless bar. He just gives them the cliff notes about the guardian for the ring and that seems to be enough. Aquaman is willing to help, but he's got other concerns at the moment as would any guy who recently came back from the dead. Then Mera drops another startling revelation, saying she may actually know who they're looking for now. Seriously, with the kind of secrets this chick has been keeping Aurthur has to wonder just how pussywipped he is with her.

There's another ominous hint as to who this kid may be. He's not another blond-haired, blue-eye archetype that neo-Nazis would approve of. He's a teenager named Jackson who looks like a guy you would by pot from in the Bronx. He seems to have some extraordinary powers. He stands out in the rain and puts on a display as if he's modeling for a Calvin Cline cologne ad. He puts on quite a spectacle until his dad shows up, who not only looks nothing like a pot dealer. He looks like an IRS agent, which is probably worse. He lectures his son about suppressing these powers. It's tantamount to a parent telling his gay son not stare longingly at Justin Timerlake's crotch. But it seems to set the stage for some kind of Aqua-related incident that may have the same destructive potential as 10 IRS agents and 10000 pot dealers.

If you're getting a little seasick at this point, toughen up. For the much of the comic the Martian Manhunter takes over as he continues his search for the last green Martian. In the previous issue his brief encounter with the White Lantern gave him an LSD caliber vision that didn't involve green-eyed leprechauns. It involved him being in a forest and being surrounded by fire. Usually that's the kind of visions guys like Timothy McVaguh have when their in a peaceful night sleep. J'onn being the curious guy that he is decides to follow this vision to an area where his telepathy can't reach. In hindsight that was pretty damn stupid because when he arrives he goes into the kind of convulsions reserved only for meth head schizophrenics. Only Martians look more awesome doing it.

While J'onn is having fits, the other green Martian is enjoying far more peaceful settings. And by peaceful I mean some casual shopping in a supermarket after all the other shoppers have been slaughtered. Granted, we've all had that fantasy of a nice quiet shopping experience without the inconvenience of all those other annoying shoppers clogging up the isles and stealing the last of the chocolate milk from the milk rack. Most of us are too sane and sober to act it out. This last Green Martian seems to prefer quiet and doesn't share J'onn's restraint. It's pretty morbid, but you can't expect anything less in a series like this.

This other Martian has it easy while J'onn is going bat shit in the forest and not due to a bad acid trip. He's essentially hulking out, losing complete control of his body only it's not nearly as messy and doesn't involve an unlucky toilet at a motel. He's basically getting fucked with by the presence of the White Lantern, which can't seem to make up it's mind as to what the hell it wants J'onn to do besides yell out in pain. It's either heavy into S&M or just doesn't know the first thing about coping with Martians. It may or may not be the first lantern power capable of racism.

So J'onn's going nuts and making a big scene. That kind of shit usually attracts attention. For some it's the police who find it odd to see a guy running naked through the woods humping random trees and saying "Tree huggers, suck! Tree fuckers, rule!" For J'onn, it's Green Arrow who joins the party and has to put a stop to his little hissy fit. He doesn't do a very good job though.

Green Arrow is essentially caught in the crossfire. He doesn't do much of anything to stop or mitigate J'onn's episode. He just makes some bewildered comments and tries to make sense of what the hell is going on. At no point does he succeed or make things better. In this sense he's basically the equivalent of wall plaster. It would have been nice to see him actually find a way to help his friend, but I guess he doesn't deal well with Martians either. That doesn't make him racist like the White Lantern, but I'm sure the NAACP will still have him blacklisted.

Through his little outburst (by little I mean fucking up a whole forest), J'onn flashes some more White Lantern bling. It seems to imply that he'll find the answers he's looking for on Mars. This after being told he would find the answers in this forest. Now a wiser man would start to think that this White Lantern is bullshitting them. J'onn seems pretty convinced though. One man's hallucination is another alien's vision I guess.

Through this vision, J'onn connects with the other Green Martian. And just as he (or she, which is fucking hard to tell since Martian women don't have boobs) is passing in front of an Oreo display no less. Coincidence? Not in comics!

Yet it's important to remember that he's still going crazy at this point. He's flashing through all his old identities and making Green Arrow look like a pussy. Thankfully, he doesn't end up being completely useless in this fight. He pulls a Return of the Jedi, taking a play right from the tactics of the adorable Ewoks before J'onn can go chicken walker on his ass. Now at this point it's a little hard to figure out where Green Arrow found the time to set this trap. Did he expect J'onn to come out here and go nuts? If so he would be the better psychic and wouldn't have had to look like such a fool. It's a rare mishap when Geoff Johns is usually so attentive to detail. Even so, it still looks pretty awesome and Star Wars fans should feel that giddy joy from the upper part of their sphincter.

This trick ends up knocking some sense into J'onn. He stops freaking out and doesn't seem to be hung over either. Martians either have really strong livers or are just pussy enough to show it. Green Arrow helps get J'onn out of the forest, which seems to be the source of his fucked-upedness. Even if it was messy, it did give him another clue to follow. Granted, that clue came in the same fucked up way the last one did, but J'onn always has been a glutton for punishment so he follows it anyways. Again, he looks to change locales. In pretty much every issue to this point he's done his share of traveling. He's basically a more extreme version of Lance Armstrong. This time he's not even going to a place he can bike to. He's going back to Mars. Since this is where a lot of his shit seems to come together, it makes sense that this is where he would find his answers. Although it feels like kind of a waste that he had to run around in so many circles to figure this out.

J'onn's struggles on Mars are naturally reserved for another issue. The plot with Aquaman is still unfolding, albeit without him, Mera, or Deadman even showing up. Here is where it gets a bit confusing because Black Manta shows up and he's standing over the grave of Thomas Currey, aka Aqualad. He earns himself some extra douche-bag points by desecrating the grave, but he gets some decent payback in the form of a sudden attack by more water people. It's not unlike the attack Mera and Arthur faced a few issues back, but it's not exactly the same either. And why should it be? Nobody wants to read the same shit twice in a series this awesome.

An intense battle follows, one that's a lot more eventful than the one between Green Arrow and J'onn. But like this battle, it's pretty one sided. Black Manta is surrounded and stands about as much chance as a cripple in the ring with a chainsaw wielding Mike Tyson. He does put up more of a fight though. He may be a bad guy and an overall asshole for essentially shitting on some kid's grave, but he's still pretty bad ass.

However, the fight isn't completely retarded in the sense these guys were just looking for a brawl. There is some purpose behind the conflict and it's a pretty important purpose as well. Remember that kid from earlier who was doing a fucked up version of dancing in the rain? Well it turns out he's Black Manta's son and these mysterious attackers want to find him. Seeing as how Mera and Aquaman imply that they want to find him too, that means this kid is suddenly caught between a shit storm and piss wave. It sets the stage for another major battle, this on top of the one that's being set up on Mars. It's like Don King is promoting the next issues in that there are bigger struggles lying just ahead. It may not be something you would pay $59.99 to see on pay-per-view, but damn it if it isn't awesome!

Brightest Day has kept the ball rolling and gone full speed since the beginning. The last two issues have really started bringing the plots together. This new trend of focusing more intently on just a couple plots has worked very well. It's helped set the stage for some much bigger conflicts while tying in a few of those story elements to the same ongoing struggle with the White Lantern. It strikes just the right balance of connectedness and uniqueness and that's not an easy balance to strike. That's like walking on a fishing line in the middle of a hurricane and Geoff Johns does it better than most people can ever hope to.

This issue was great. That I can say without reservation. However, there is something to be said about an issue that merely sets up the bigger struggles rather than detailing those struggles. The last issue did the same, which is okay. But to do it two issues in a row, just setting shit up for the next big fight, feels like a tease. It's like that hot girl who keeps eying you at the bar and pretends to show her tits. But just before you can see the nipple, she turns away. You want to look away, but she's so damn hot you keep letting yourself get teased. I'm confident Johns will let these big fights unfold. He isn't the kind of writer who leaves this shit dangling. However, he could have been more tactful when it comes to following the themes of the previous issue.

All in all, Brightest Day #9 continues with it's long streak of excellence. It definitely holds attention and draws readers into the next issue, even if it has a few small flaws compared to the last book. Since the bar was set so high with the previous issue, the final score for Brightest Day #9 is a 4.5 out of 5. It's still like saying it's the ugliest crown jewel, but that's how high the standards are for this book. Even a lesser issue is still pretty damn awesome. Nuff said!

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