Sunday, November 21, 2010

Brightest Day #14 - Teasing Awesome

Whenever I get a new issue of Brightest Day, it's rarely a disappointment. Some books you just expect excellence in the same way you expect douche-bags to attend a Kanye West concert. For the past few months, Brightest Day has been doing for DC what Madonna did for bat-shit religious sects like the Karbala. It took a tried and trued product of awesome and made it even better and even a little sexier (most men would still nail Madonna even if they won't admit it). The last few issues have been inching the overall story closer to a ball-busting, brain splattering conclusion. Boston Brand is getting closer in his search for the guardian to the White Lantern. The Hawks are battling it out on Hawkworld. J'onn J'ozz is trying to resist being pussy whiped by the other last Green martian. Firestorm has to contain his Black Lantern counterpart from setting off another big bang. And somewhere along the way, Aquaman is coming between Black Manta and his illegitimate son.

That's a lot of shit to deal with in one series, even if it is biweekly. For the most part, Geoff Johns has managed it with the same mastery that Donald Trump masters shitty hair styles. So when the last issue ended with a hint that Batman would be showing up, he upped the ante to levels that would make even Trump's over-sized balls shrivel. Each issue is getting more focused, giving screen time to only one or two sub-plots. This come at the unfortunate price of leaving other plots dangling worse than Hugh Hefner's scrotum. However, Geoff Johns has made it a price worth paying. The last issue focused on the Hawks and only spent a few pages setting up the story for Boston Brand, which picks up in Brightest Day #14. Just like the last issue, it remains pretty focused and the promise of Batman showing up should cause a certain level of tingling in the brain, heart, and lower extremities of DC fanboys (if that tingling turns to burning, please consult a doctor immediately).

The issue starts of literally right after the last panel of the last issue. Boston Brand sees the bat signal and that proverbial light bulb flashes over his head. Like bat shit creation scientists, he assumes on the spot that this is the guy who will act as guardian to the White Lantern. It's not a bad choice. Anyone who has been following the Batman comics lately knows that he's been feeding worms for a while, but he eventually got bored and kicked the grim reaper in the balls. Now he's alive again and back to making criminals shit themselves again. That's all the convincing Boston needs to re-take his Deadman form (which may come as a surprise to some people because he hasn't really demonstrated he could still do that) and seeks him out.

He leaps through the city like an acrobat on crystal meth, Along the way he comes across a crime involving guys in snow gear without any snow. This is another somewhat random occurrence you don't usually see in a Geoff Johns comic. Seriously, he just happens to pass by these guys? One could argue that the ring is guiding him, but that isn't made clear. It's the most random Johns has been this entire series. It may not be jarring to those used to reading half-rate stories written by underpaid writers who can't come up with witty dialogue unless their blood alcohol is no lower than .04, but given this is a Geoff Johns comic it does come as a shock to the system.

It does help that the fight is nicely done even if it is on a small scale. This is the first time Boston has ever got to kick ass in his new non-corpse body. It's the strongest he's been to this point. For so much of this series he's just been pissing and moaning about how it sucks to be running errands for the White Lantern. This makes him slightly less sissy and it's always fun to see poorly dress criminals get their asses kicked.

Dead or alive, even Boston should have been able to figure out who was behind this half-hearted crime. Yet he still managed to allow Mr. Freeze to sneak up on him. While he may not be a sissy for being a decent hero again, he still qualifies as a dumb-ass for not using more than two neurons to work out some strategy. It does play to his advantage though because when Batman does show up, he takes down Mr. Freeze with no fewer than two moves. It shows just how far ahead of Boston that Batman is in the kicking-ass-after-being-dead department.

This ends the fight against Mr. Freeze. He basically takes a nap for the rest of the issue while Boston confronts Batman. Dove shows up as well, having just missed the fight and essentially playing the role of the obligatory hot chick that's supposed to accompany guys like Boston on their journey. All card carrying members of the National Organization for Women should direct their outrage to DC and not me. I'm just the messenger here. There's no elaborate setup here with the ring. Boston basically just tells basically that he's the ultimate champion for this ring and he wants to get this shit off his back. It's about as poetic as it sounds.

Batman questions his assumption as he's prone to thinking rationally, something very few people in comics or in real life tend to do. But Boston won't hear it. He uses the old flattery approach, basically saying that Batman is the most awesome human being in DC comics and is the only one worthy of this power. By comparison, he's like a Miss California trying to give a lecture on the big bang theory to Stephen Hawkings. He can't get the ring off his finger fast enough. He's like Larry King at a divorce hearing. And as soon as the ring reaches Batman, he becomes a White Lantern and looks 128372948292 times more badass.

Now this is what's been building for several issues now. Batman becoming a White Latern is more juicy than Jenna Jameson's pussy at a Chip'n Dales. Finally, the White Lantern has a guardian! Finally, the other plots surrounding Brightest Day can start coming together! And the ongoing stories involving Batman's return (which recently concluded) are given a novel twist. It's such an awesome premise. At would be.

I'm sorry to report that this euphoria lasts about as long as Charlie Sheen's patience with a call-girl. While in his White Lantern getup, Batman basically becomes a mouth-piece for the white ring. What he says is very un-Batmanlike. He calls Boston out, telling him that he was chosen to guide the White Ring because when he was dead he had some backbone. He doesn't have it anymore it seems. He saw his task as a chore and when he chose Batman, he chose poorly. So that means Batman isn't the proper guardian, thereby aborting all those potential stories before they were born. The crazy pro-life crowd would be making pipe bombs if they read this. If that weren't enough, one of Mr. Freeze's goons rubs salt in the wound by coming back to life and shooting Boston. So it's basically a giant-sized screw-up.

So Boston goes down and as expected, his life flashes before his eyes...again. Remember, he did die at one point so he's walked this road before. There's a nice little shot of his childhood. An old memory of his teen years that showed how he started to become a bit of a douche-bag by essentially worrying more about a cheeseburger than a pretty girl sitting next to him. Unless that's the best damn cheeseburger on the planet, that's just mean. He then flashes forward to his full-fledged douche-bag persona in his adult years. This is when he was working in the circus as his old Deadman persona. He's not ordering burgers this time, but he's essentially the Kanye West of circus acts. All the while Boston's spirit has to watch this and ponder how he was so much nicer when he was dead. That's got to fuck with him.

Given this level of douche-baggery, it isn't completely disappointing to relieve the moment when he got shot (the first time that is). And in front of a live crowd no less. By whatever spiritual awakening happens here, Boston has a change of heart. Somehow seeing himself get killed (again) reminded him that being an asshole in life isn't a good thing. Since he's learning slower than Paris Hilton in a calculus class, he begs for a second chance. It's a little melodramatic and predictable, but it gets the point across.

Boston gets his second chance. He wakes back up in the alley with Batman. The White Ring heals the gunshot wound and knocks the shooter out for good measure. Now you know you've got a long way to go when a ring kicks more ass than you do. It also leaves Batman, showing that he's not the one Boston was looking for. The ring goes right back to him and gives him a few life lessons in the process. None are all that provocative, but the part about there being more to life than a good cheeseburger really speaks to the soul.

Not much else happens. Batman leaves. There's no hint or mention of the other plots with the Hawks, Aquaman, or Firestorm going on (never mind the fact he's got the resurrected Black Lanterns on his ass). The title of the next issue does mention the Martian Manhunter, but there's no solid transition or scene to speak of. Boston just throws in a nice kiss with Dove, which feels about as meaningful as a kiss between Courtney Love and Pamela Anderson (minus the porno and herpes context). It's a random way to end an issue for a series that has prided itself on not being so random. Even if Dove is very doable, she's not doable enough to justify such a bland gesture. It doesn't strike at the heart or the balls for anyone with an appreciation for comic book romance. To say they're no Clark and Lois would be an understatement so vast it could be used as a new euphemism for anal sex.

Brightest Day #14 is quite an anomaly. It's the first issue of the Brightest Day series to truly disappoint. It's probably the weakest feeling I've had reading this series so far. My mind isn't blown and my heart rate is still steady. It's like taking a bong hit only to realize you're smoking your mothers flowers instead of pot. The whole tease about Batman being the guardian that Boston was seeking had so much potential. In a ways I can see what Geoff Johns was trying to do here. He set up the expectations so that even the characters in the book felt they had found what they were looking for when in reality they hadn't completed their journey yet. It's very existential and it's not the way most comic writers would do a scene like this. They would go the easy way and try to use Batman more. Johns doesn't usually like to take the easy way, but this is one case where the easy way is more awesome.

The best way I could sum up my issue with this plot is that it was subtle for the sake of being subtle. It moved things forward by not moving them at all. That's not to say there wasn't anything good in this book. There was plenty. Batman showing up definitely adds to Brightest Day's repertoire of awesome.The easy flow from the previous issue from this issue worked very nicely as well. It was also nice to see how Boston Brand went through so many transitions from life to death to life again. The White Lantern also showed some personality here, strange as that may seem. It's trying to guide Boston, but it isn't always listening. It seems to have a mind of it's own and it's definitely got some character. If it had big tits it would already have it's own fan club. However, this is not enough to make up for the shortcomings in this story.

It pains me to say this, but Brightest Day #14 is a disappointment. The past 14 issues (including issue 0 for those of you who lost count already), this series has been masterfully crafted. Geoff Johns always delivered quality stories because he was a surgeon in his craft. He took care of the big things and the little things. In this he did take care of the big things in that he moved the story with the White Lantern forward. However, for once he negated the little things. He did not add in the details to make it work. The overall product is bland. It's not bland in the sense that Ben Stein's voice is bland or that juice you let sit next to a radiator for six weeks is bland (and potentially life-threatening). It's just bland.

In scoring this book I can't give it too low a score because it isn't terrible. It doesn't destroy the overall Brightest Day series. It certainly doesn't make me want to pick up the next issue any less, but it does end a streak of mind-blowing, heart bursting, scrotum swelling awesome. So for a final score, I give Brightest Day #14 a 3 out of 5. It's respectable, but for a Brightest Day comic it can do so much better. Geoff Johns is more than deserving of a mulligan here. If he blows me away with the next issue again, all will be forgiven. Nuff said!

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