Sunday, January 23, 2011

Brightest Day #18 - Heartbreakingly Awesome

As anyone who got too drunk at a party to think straight knows, when you shake up a beer can to build up pressure it's bound to get messy when you try and open it. Depending on how drunk you are, this will either embarrass you or you'll get a cheap laugh and wait until the pictures hit Facebook to be embarrassed. Brightest Day has been like that in a sense, minus the whole getting sprayed with beer before passing out on your best friend's kitchen table and using an uneaten cake as a pillow. The past few issues have pushed the series back towards what made it saw awesome to begin with. It's also been building a number of plots that have been unfolding erratically through many books, shaking that proverbial can to the point where the can may explode Mythbusters style without the assistance of C4.

The central source of the entire Brightest Day saga is the White Lantern. This decorative piece of decor has been the driving force behind the stories that have been unfolding in Brightest Day. It hasn't always been clear how it affects each plot. At times the damn thing is so esoteric it might as well be an opposing viewpoint of teenage sexuality in a Stephanie Meyer novel. However, Geoff Johns has made it a point to remind readers that this thing is the pimp and all the other characters are the hos in the grand scheme of things.

The last issue marked an important development for the White Lantern. Rather than lay around and look pretty, the damn thing started charging like an Energizer Bunny commercial. Boston Brand, who is still trying to get used to the whole living concept again, was re-connecting with his past. He paid his 94-year-old grandfather a visit and had a Hallmark worthy moment that gave pussy boners to anyone who read it. Then towards the end while giving his grandpappy a ride on his motorcycle (not innuendo for a Catholic Priest mind you), the white ring that hasn't left his hand since the first issue started charging. He didn't plug it in or anything. It just started charging. I'm pretty sure if something starts charging itself when it isn't plugged in, then it's either signs of a haunting or someone was lucky enough to get their hands on Apples latest gizmo to charge their i-toys.

Brightest Day #18 opens up with a somewhat random scene. Captain Cold and Digger are beating the shit out of each other. We can only assume they're drunk, someone lost a bet, or the internet is down and they've lost their pipe-line of free viagra ads and porn. It's not completely meaningless though. It's a reminder that there were a lot of characters that came back to life after Blackest Night. Not all of them have had a plot in Brightest Day, but they are still somehow connected to the White Lantern in the same way Hippies are connected with LSD.

The White Lantern is the topic of conversation for more than just pissed off villains. Picking up directly from the final page of the last issue, Deadman is still with his Grandfather and looking at his fancy new ring as it keeps charging. He calls Dove, the hot chick he managed to get into bed a few issues ago, and gave her a quick rundown of what happened. It's sort of an indirect way of summarizing the last issue, but as Boston is talking other plots of Brightest Day are cited. Mera shows up, who has been MIA since Aquaman told her to piss off when her family tried to kill him. The Black Lantern Firestorm shows up, who still has the White Lantern as a result of Ronnie and Jason's bickering from the Firestorm arc. All is connected to the White Lantern and Deadman laments that he has that feeling that all men get when their girlfriends drag them to Twilight movies. The next few hours are going to suck and someone is going to die.

Then we get a glimpse of the plot going on with the Hawks. And this time, it isn't just some random scene to remind readers that it hasn't been resolved yet. In the last issue, Hawkman and Hawkgirl teamed up with the Star Sapphires to stop Hawkgirl's mother from fucking the entire realm of Zamaron with her hawk army. It may very well be the single worst instance of a girl introducing her boyfriend to her mother in the history of the universe. That and Hawkgirl's mother pretty much sealed her nomination for worst mother of the year next to Britney Spears and the Octomom.

What happened in the last issue is Mama Hawk fought her way to the lantern that powers the Star Sapphires. Once there she found this enchanted predator which is kind of like a Unicorn if it fucked the aliens from Independence Day. That beast is an entity of Love (likely one that draws it's powers from Hugh Grant movies) and now it's playing magic needle to Hawkmama's Lance Armstrong. That means Hawkgirl not only has to fight her own mother. She has to fight her mother while she's doped up on some magic superbeing. There isn't enough therapy in the universe to work through that shit.

Mama Hawk shows she knows how to wield the power of love better than Hugh Hefner at a shelter for blonds with daddy issues. She not only uses her powers to encase the Star Sapphires in...a sapphire (okay, so having cosmic powers doesn't boost creativity). She uses it to beat down Hawkman, likely fulfilling the fantasy of every mother whose daughter brought home a guy who reeked of booze, STDs, and police records. She reminds Hawkman that when they killed Hath Set in an earlier issue, they broke the curse that had him and Hawkgirl getting reincarnated again and again. So if they die this time, they don't get reincarnated. It's like being on the last level of Contra with no lives left with only one sliver of energy left. You know your fucked, but you keep playing.

Mama Hawk forgot one tidbit though. Since that curse is broken, that means she only has one life left as well. Sure, she has the power of a lantern going for her. But seriously, when has that ever been able to hold off the grim reaper? To make it even more humiliating, her own daughter is the one that delivered the death blow. It's the ultimate temper tantrum that if utilized in real life, could earn any teenage girl a new convertible and unlimited dates with Lawrence Taylor.

When Mama Hawk is hit, the whole scheme starts to unravel. Remember the portal she used to get to Zamaron? You know, the one made up of all the bones of Hawkman's and Hawkgirl's past lives? Well, it turns out even dead people don't like being made into a gateway to a realm that's driven by the same force that drives Robert Pattinson's acting career. So once control over the lantern and Mama Hawk is broken, those dead bones are free to take out their frustrations over being dead on her.

As a result, Mama Hawk is more screwed than an underage Japanese school girl in a den of tentacle monsters. The army of dead hawks pull her back into the Sapphire Lantern where she'll likely be forced to relive ever zombie movie ever made. She begs her daughter to help her, but even Dr. Phil couldn't mend the rift with this family anymore. You just don't come back after cursing your daughter to endless cycles of birth, death, and heartbreak and using the dead bones of her ancestors to make a fancy door. It may make mother's day a real drag, but at least Hawkgirl will save money on cards from now on.

While Hawkman and Hawkgirl and relishing in Mama Hawk's suffering, they get a message from the White Lantern. To this point their story has had next to no connection with the White Lantern aside from some momentary flash on Hawkworld. Now the White Lantern is sending them a message and it isn't you've got mail. It says they're mission, whatever the hell it was, is accomplished. You would think seeing Mama Hawk getting carried away kicking and screaming by the bones of dead ancestors sent enough of a message.

They're both understandably confused and so are the Star Sapphires. But since there's nothing left in Zamaron to destroy, Star Sapphire agrees to send Hawkman and Hawkgirl home. For her, the power of their love was enough to defeat Mama Hawk. It sends a message to every teenage girl and boy in the world. If your love is strong enough, it will kill your parents. Great message, DC!

While they're mission is ending, the focus moves back to Deadman and Dove. Dove had to cut class, using the old my-boyfriend-is-having-a-problem-with-his-magic-ring excuse. She heads over to meet up with Boston, who is still with his grandfather. Unfortunately, she must have stayed to flirt with her professor because by the time she gets there the ring is fully charged. Once charged, Deadman becomes glowing Deadman and the ring does the equivalent of throwing Boston into the trunk of his car and then taking him on a joyride through downtown Detroit.

While he's as confused as a baby in a titty bar, Hawkman and Hawkgirl are transported back to the same museum they started out in. It's where they were when Blackest Night began. It's where they were when Brightest Day began. So now that they're back, what do they do? Well they're in love and just killed Hawkgirl's mother so they do what anybody would do. They start to get down and dirty on the floor, ready to get it on in a way that earn them a guest spot in HBO's next season of True Blood.

It's beautiful and tender, the kind of love that isn't pornographic enough for comics, movies, and TV shows to use out of fear that it might actually trigger some emotion from the audience. Anyone who has been following comics in the past 10 years knows that the only idea comic companies can manage for couples in love is to either break them up, taint their love, or make a deal with the devil. Ask Spider-Man and Mary Jane or Cyclops and Jean Grey just how well love stories in comics turn out.

Before they can show any tits or ass, Deadman shows up to cock-block them. He's still just along for the ride. The White Lantern is controlling everything. They're looking at him like he's a creepy pervert hiding in a closet trying to get a peak. Then he points the white ring at them and sends them a message the essentially boils down to "This is ain't no Asian Massage Parlor. So no happy endings, motherfucker."

Then it happens. Hawkman and Hawkgirl resist the will of the White Lantern, which is a lot less understanding than even Mama Hawk. If they won't listen and live their lives separately, then they won't live at all. They essentially have to choose between life or love. Since love is so hopelessly irrational, they choose love. So the White Lantern, like Larry King's prenups, screws them over and reduces them to dust.

That's right. The White Lantern is not only being the asshole this time. It didn't even have the decency to let Hawkman and Hawkgirl squeeze in a quickie before it killed them. Worst of all, Deadman couldn't do shit about it. He's still locked in the trunk of that proverbial car, yet he was still able to see as that car ran two people over who just escaped from the wrath of Hawkgirl's mother and just wanted to get a little humping done before fate caught up to them. The White Lantern wouldn't even grant them that. It's a powerful ending. It's like Dorthy dying at the end of the Wizard of Oz. There's nothing uplifting about it. Hawkman and Hawkgirl succeeded. Then the White Lantern killed them. It's by far one of the most powerful moments in Brightest Day thus yet. If your heart is hardened by decades of MacDonalds and MTV and you didn't shed a tear when Deadman reunited with his grandfather in the last issue, you sure as hell felt something here. If you didn't, then go back to your Satantic rituals and sacrifice a goat because this shit is deep. Rather than being a source of salvation, the White Lantern is becoming somewhat of a douche and it's a douche Boston no longer has control over.

In terms of endings, this is by far the best yet in the Brightest Day series. Few issues or comics for that matter hit you in all those fuzzy feeling areas that several decades of bad TV has conditioned us to suppress. Unless your the mayor of Philadelphia and agree with the whole wussification of America stance, you'll feel the impact of this story. It essentially brings a dramatic end to one of the major stories that Brightest Day has been developing since the beginning. Since the end of this series is in sight, some of these plots are going to come to en end. The Hawks was just one of those plots and while it's not exactly fitting, it's pretty damn profound.

For some it may seem underhanded. Hawkman and Hawkgirl go through all the trouble of revealing the curse that has plagued them since before Brightest Day began, only to be snuffed out in the end. It goes back to that whole anti-Disney shit where there's no happily ever after. It may rub some people the wrong way because the dosage for Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil only goes so high. However, a happy ending wouldn't have had the same impact that this one did. Hawkman and Hawkgirl having to choose between life and love is a powerful moment. Not everybody is going to like their choice, especially after their struggle against Mama Hawk was written so well. But like it or not, the impact is undeniable and was masterfully done.

Now I'm of the mind that killing characters is never a good thing. It's not clear if the White Lantern killed Hawkman and Hawkgirl, but it has definitely done something to tear them apart. It's the first time the White Lantern has really made a serious impact on the many plots that Brightest Day has been juggling. By touching on the other plots with Firestorm and Mera, there's a greater sense of unity with this issue. It's the kind of unity that hippies sing about and that Coke Cola does commercials about. Aside from conflicting feelings with the end, it's a perfectly developed comic from every angle.

I really can't find much else to complain about and I'm the kind of guy who stands in line to complain in the airport about luggage I haven't lost yet. That alone should show just how awesome Brightest Day #18 is. I can give it no less than a 5 out of 5. If anyone out there even has the slightest appreciation for DC comics or comics in general, you'll pick this issue up and learn to feel again. Fuck all those MTV ads and macho movie messages! This shit will make you feel in all the right ways! Nuff said.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! This issue caught me by surprise. Very depressing. Very funny comments though. You have become my new brightest day commentary.