Saturday, February 19, 2011

Brightest Day #20 - When Awesome Meets Tragedy

I'm not going to justify it this time. I know I've gotten into the habit of apologizing for reviewing some books before others on a big week. This past week marks the release of some major titles, especially with the X-books. Uncanny X-Force came out and so too did Wolverine and Jubilee #2. Anyone who saw my reviews of the previous issues know I love those books more than a diabetic loves his insulin. But as much as I love X-books, Brightest Day has a special place above them all. For one, it's a limited series. This book won't go on forever and when it ends it'll be more tragic than the Kennedy assassination and Princess Diana's funeral combined. It's in the home stretch and in these final issues, the caliber of awesome has grown to a level that is giving so many nerdgasms that there's been an epidemic of blue balls.

The past two issues of Brightest Day have seen the lines blur between the life and death message left over from Blackest Night. There have been many different stories in this series and they've all been linked by one thing, the White Lantern. It's proverbial line of cocaine that all the superstars overdose on. For most of the series the nature of this beast has been pretty mysterious. It's been using Boston Brand as a guinea pig, taking his Deadman persona and dragging him through reams of proverbial mud. In that mud Boston has had to learn a number of harsh lessons. The latest lesson seems to be that the White Lantern is kind of a douche-bag.

It began a few issues ago with Hawkman and Hawkgirl. They had just defeated Hawkgirl's mother and broken the curse that had doomed them to more reincarnations than Sylvester Stallone's acting career. Then they were about to get down and dirty in ways that fans of the Lifetime channel masturbate to. That's when the White Lantern showed up. It told them that they had to live their lives separately. When they said bullshit, the ring did what it thought to be most logical. It killed them. It was a powerful moment and one that fucked Boston up worse than a weekend with Lindsey Lohan. Then it set it's sights on another hero, Aquaman. He happened to be fighting a war against Mera's people, led by her sister Siren. He and the new Aqualad raced to the surface to save the surface world. The White Lantern is there waiting for them.

Brightest Day #20 picks up from here with the White Lantern watching the battle in the same way a cannibal an autopsy. It's hungry for the outcome and Boston is basically along for the ride, unable to do jack squat like a dog that's been locked in a cage while a house is being robbed. In the last issue Aquaman suffered a serious blow when Black Manta showed up to join the battle. By serious blow I mean Black Manta cut Arther's fucking hand off. Even in a superhero comic, that shit's pretty hardcore. Along the way the White Lantern reveals that it orchestrated this. It opened the Bermuda triangle so that Mera's people could come through. Like a kid who put a mouse in a snake's cage, it's waiting to see what Aquaman does with it.

With one less hand to slam the ham with, Aquaman is in bad shape. It falls upon Jackson, Black Manta's bastard son, to give his dad a good old talking to. This time it doesn't involve a fishing trip (which is saying something because we're dealing with water people). He tries to stand up to his old man like a kid trying to hide his father's vodka stash. Black Manta uses this as a chance to up his douche-bag rating by telling Jackson he means nothing to him and neither did his mother. The only feeling he ever felt for them was the feeling he probably got when the condom broke.

Jackson's overmatched to say the least. Keeping in mind that this kid is new to the game and his balls have only descended so much, his ass is saved by Mera when she shows up with a new friend in Aquagirl. She's a lot like Aqualad, but she's hot and she has boobs. Jackson, being a teenage boy, certainly takes notice as any teenage would. In one panel his eyes are as wide as the day a man discovers internet porn. It's a beautiful thing.

The tide of the battle turns. Mera and Aquaman have a quick reunion, but minus the romance. Remember, she's the one that revealed she had been sent to kill Aquaman earlier in the series. So for once the man was the one that said "I need some space" and it wasn't because someone left the toilet seat up. Femanists feel free to write angry letters to DC, but you have to admit Aquaman does have good reason to pause. However, she's still a hot redhead in a skin-tight outfit. So Aquaman forgives her.

Then with Jackson's help, Aquaman seals the wound where his hand used to be. It'll still be a hell of a time trying to rub one out, but he doesn't need two hands to fight a battle. That's how tough he is. So anybody who says Aquaman is a pussy has no right to make that claim ever again. With only one hand, he leads Mera, Aqualad, and Aqualad with boobs into battle. It's an action-packed moment that DC fans should be drooling over like David Hasselhoff in a liquor store.

Now Aquaman and his buddies aren't stupid. They know they can't fight off an entire army. It would be stupid if just the four of them were able to fight everything off (I'm looking at you Curse of the Mutants). So to get them away from the shore, Mera steps up and shows that she's got some stones as well. She may have betrayed her people and the man she loves, but she's still pretty badass and is ready to prove it. All you mad feminists can stop writing your letters because Mera uses her connection with the sea to literally push it back and take her people with it. If Aquaman doesn't forgive her after this, then he's the douche-bag. So once again the feminists get it their way. Happy now ladies? Will you stop busting our balls for jerking off to your underwear catalogs?

Not to be outdone, Aquaman salvages some of our fragile male ego and goes after Mera's people. They're back at sea, but they're not gone. So to make sure that Mera doesn't get to upstage him again, he summons his own army of sharks and dangerous sea creatures to push them back to the Bermuda triangle. Again, if you think Aquaman is a pussy read this part of the book and you're obligated to shut up about it for the rest of your natural life under penalty of cleaning Dan Dido's septic tank. Between the fish, whales, sharks, and box jellyfish it's painfully clear that Black Manta no longer stands a chance.

It's a powerful moment, but as always the bad guys have to go on their rant of defeat. They know they're going to lose so they're only recourse is to piss and moan like a three-year-old whose mother wouldn't buy him a pack of gum at a grocery store. Mera goes out of her way to spite her sister, who calls her a traitor and shit. But either true love trumps family or Aquaman was just that good in bed. Again, Aquaman haters take notice. To end the battle, Jackson steps up again so he doesn't come off as a total novice/pussy. Using the power of his lineage, he opens the gates of the Bermuda Triangle and forces the invading army back in. It's the kind of security that the boarder police along Mexico can only dream of.

It ends the invasion. Mera gets cursed out by her sister. Black Manta vows to return to his son and perform a little retroactive birth control. It's more whining as they succumb to defeat. You want to feel bad for them, but they've been such world class douche-bags for the entire length of the Aquaman story that it's deeply satisfying to see them defeated. It's not quite as satisfying as the defeat of Mama Hawk a few issues ago, but it should still give fans a hell of a boner minus the side-effects of Viagra.

So now that the battle is over there's only one loose end to tie up. Now that the invading army is gone, Mera and Aquaman share a nice moment. They're still outcasts. Mera is hated by all her people. Jackson's heart rate still isn't going down and the presence of Aquagirl isn't making that any easier. Boobs will do that. However, like Hawkman and Hawkgirl they come together in a way that will make any female comic fans gush like a heavy dose of PMS. They kiss and make-up...literally. If you're not touched by this (even if you're a guy) then you need to drop this comic and go back to choking puppies.

Unfortunately, Aquaman and Mera face the same mishap as the Hawks. Just before they can enjoy their moment and settle into to some super hot underwater sex for which there is not yet a porno genre for, Boston Brand and the White Lantern show up. Boston still has no control and the White Lantern doesn't even give him the decency of an explanation. It just says that Aquaman's mission is complete. Then it kills him, leaving Mera in tears and readers shocked in a way that can only be matched by a few car batteries and some electrodes to the scrotum. It's every bit as powerful as the moment with Hawkman and Hawkgirl. Aquaman went through a hell of a lot, reuniting with Mera and finding Black Manta's son so they could stop the invasion. Then after all that, he's killed again. For anyone who has followed Brightest Day, it hits you like a baseball bat laced with cocaine. It hurts yet it feels so good. If your brain starts melting as a result, don't worry. That's normal.

The end of this issue marks the end of a trio of issues that have set new standards of awesome. For Brightest Day, that's like scaling Mount Everest, building the world's tallest building on top of it, and then climbing it so you can wave your dick at the world from the roof. Geoff Johns keeps hitting so many home runs that Barry Bonds is likely to show up at his house and ask where he gets his shit from. The story surrounding Aquaman took some time to develop and didn't really come into focus until the latter part of the series. However, once it did come together everything fell into place so nicely that it actually enhances to books before it. To say that's rare for a comic book is like saying a unicorn taking a shit in your hard is somewhat unexpected.

I've found very little to criticize with these books. Don't think I'm just singing and dancing naked in my living room, praising Brightest Day the way religious nuts praise images of the Virgin Mary that appear in snack food. I'm trying to find something for Geoff Johns to improve upon, but I can't find anything! Yes, Brightest Day is THAT good. Now you could say that the battle against Mera's people was somewhat rushed and that Mera pushing back the sea was a little contrived. But it helped keep the battle from being too drawn out. It all came together so nicely at the end that to criticize this would be like saying you found small mole on Scarlett Johanssen's ass.

Whatever flaws this book may have had, it's hard to argue that the ending was really powerful. Brightest Day is really stepping up the drama. The White Lantern is now not so pure. It brought back these characters in Blackest Night. Now it's killing them again. It's not doing it in a grotesque Ultimatum style slaughter. It's leaving a profound impact on the characters, the readers, and everything in between. It's not clear if these characters are truly dead or if there's something else the White Lantern is planning. With this series near it's end and the many plots it has going on being tied up, you can feel the finals secrets lying just ahead! For this, Brightest Day is placing itself in the same upper echelons as Blackest Night in the annuls of comic book awesome.

I don't think the score here will surprise anyone. Brightest Day #20 gets a 5 out of 5. I'd give it a higher score if I could, but I'm not going to skew the scale. This book is as awesome as they come for the world of DC. It doesn't matter what kind of comic fan you are, this issue and this series has something for everyone. It'll be a shame when it ends, but that's all the more reason to save this streak of awesome while it lasts. Nuff said!

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