Saturday, March 19, 2011

Brightest Day #22 - Awesome on a Cosmic Level

A new issue of Brightest Day is out and you know what that means! As per my usual ritual when I get the next installment in this book, I strip naked and sacrifice a goat to the comic gods. Then I do my ceremonial dance that involves smoking some unidentified weed that grows in my sister's basement. Once I come to and find out where my clothes our, I come back here and post a full review of the awesome that is Brightest Day. The past few issues have been obscenely awesome to say the least. Their glory shines with the radiance of Natalie Portman's face, Jennifer Lopez's ass, Megan Fox's pussy, and Jenna Jameson's rack. It's become one of the best events in comics and sadly, it's almost over. There are only two issues left. TWO! There are more seasons of the Jersey Shore left, which in and of itself should be more tragic than fifty BP oil spills.

In these waning issues, everything has been coming together. Plots have been resolved, twists have been unraveled, and characters have been turned into worm shit. The White Lantern is basically acting out a Dr. Dre music video and popping caps in the asses of all the heroes it helped save in Blackest Night. The Hawks are gone. Aquaman turned to dust and just as he was about to get it on with a hot redhead! Then J'onn J'ozz met his end in the previous issue. Or did he? That's a small sliver of the awesomeness that Brightest Day has unleashed. There's still a bit of a mystery as to what the hell the White Lantern is doing. Did it just realize that life ain't all it's cracked up to be and feel like it needed to do these heroes a favor? Or is there a bigger plan at work?

At the end of the previous issue, J'onn J'ozz seemed to know something that Boston Brand didn't. If you recall, Boston has essentially been hijacked in a ways only Columbian cab driver could envy. He's basically been a meat puppet for the White Lantern to do it's bidding. In a sense that makes him the same as Snookie after she's had a few drinks...very susceptible to suggestion and easy to fuck with. However, J'onn didn't turn to dust when the White Lantern decided his mission was over and he needed to feed the worms again. He was essentially absorbed back into the ground the same way the Irish absorb alcohol. J'onn seemed to understand what the White Lantern was doing and like a drunk girl crying on your shoulder about how her daddy never loved her, he went with it.

That's another plot brought to an end, leaving very few left with only a few issues to work with. Brightest Day #22 revisits Firestorm, who hasn't shown up much in the last few issues. If you recall (and by recall I mean look at my former reviews or if you're a lazy douche wikipedia the damn thing) the two college-age frat rats that make up the Firestorm matrix, Ronnie and Jason, are up to their ears and shit. Part of it is because Jason is pissed at Ronnie for killing his girlfriend in Blackest Night. That's almost as bad as making a porno tape with her and broadcasting it on pay-per-view. Then Professor Stein, the guy behind the Firestorm matrix, revealed to them that their collective power was so volatile that it could cause another big bang capable of destroying the universe. I will repeat that. The entire safety of the universe was resting upon the shoulders of two college guys who haven't even learned to pay their own electric bill yet. That's like relying on George W. Bush to make a good impression for America. It's bound to end in disaster and possibly a few expensive and bloody wars.

So Ronnie and Jason had to get along. That lasted all but five minutes. They ended up getting into the super-powered equivalent of a bar brawl, which helped trigger the re-creation of the Black Lanterns. They ended up stealing the White Lantern and taking it to the anti-matter universe, but not without abducting Jason's father and Professor Stein. Now Firestorm is tuck in the anti-matter universe as well where he's been chilling while Boston Brand has been on it's killing spree, they've been stumbling around for answers like drunk trying to find his car keys when he realizes he's out of pretzels. In the same way this situation leads to a DWI and a few manslaughter charges, Firestorm ends up crossing paths with the Anti-Monitor. He looks like a golemn fucked Mount Rushmore. He's essentially DC's version of Galactus minus the naked guy in silver who hangs out with him. In other words, he's not quite as gay.

While Ronnie and Jason were sight-seeing, the Anti-Monitor has been busy making new friends in the Black Lanterns. These friends helped him use the White Lantern's life-creating force so he can consume a fresh universe. It's basically like giving a morbidly obese diabetic a magic machine that instantly forms chocolate cakes with a ball of melted butter at the center. Except with the Anti-Monitor, consuming all that shit won't give him a heart-attack and put him into diabetic shock. It'll just make him stronger. It's like steroids minus the shriveled testicles. Fortunately for the universe and Anti-Monitor's balls, the White Lantern fights back. It apparently doesn't like being used the same way Lindsey Lohan uses a line of cocaine.

This gives Ronnie and Jason a chance to set aside their differences and kicks. Unlike 99.999% of all college students in that situation, they're able to set aside an issue regarding a girlfriend and work together. They unload on the Anti-Monitor in a way Peter North would be proud of. The Black Lanterns see this and prepare to fight back with the Black Lantern Firestorm sounding like Keanu Reeves when he's off Ritalin. Ronnie and Jason don't just fly in guns blazing like it's an Iraqi bachelor party. There seems to be a plan with them and it involves forces that most who slept through chemistry class won't understand.

This leads to a creative little moment involving a giant match. No really. Firestorm forms a giant match in the Anti-Matter universe. You can't make this shit up without the appropriate dose of hallucinogenic mushrooms. I don't know what Geoff Johns was taking when he wrote this, but I want to know where I can get some! That giant match creates an explosion that blows up in the Anti-Monitor's face in a way akin MC Hammer's finances. It fucks up the Black Lanterns too, giving Firestorm the window he needs to grab the White Lantern and get away like Britney Spears at a rehab clinic.

The Anti-Monitor doesn't take kindly to his meal ticket being stolen so he and the Black Lanterns fight back. A universe eater may sound like all muscle, but you don't get that kind of power without having some semblance of intelligence. So rather than fight Firestorm, he saves himself a step and does the next best thing. He de-powers them by splitting up the Firestorm matrix. If only people thought that far ahead in real life then maybe we wouldn't have had to fight a second Iraq war.

So now Firestorm has been reduced to two whiney frat boys. The universe couldn't be in worse hands if you put Lawrence Taylor in a windowless room with a cute 15-year-old virgin. Deathstorm adds insult to injury, reminding Ronnie of how he was so heroic when he first died and now he's the equivalent of a kitten trying to avoid a bath. He's doing everything he can to piss Ronnie off, that way he and the rest of the Black Lanterns can feed on his emotions. This doesn't sit well with the Anti-Monitor, who just wants to chow down on some yummy universes. Something is very fucked up when he's the most sympathetic character in a scene. The guy wants to eat. Like a guy after a fresh joint, sometimes you just gotta eat! I'm with you, Anti-Monitor! Kindred spirits buddy!

The Black Lanterns are sick of dicking around. They're hungry too and for all the wrong reasons. Seriously, wouldn't it have been easier to just fuck up Ronnie and Jason's shit without the Anti-Monitor? Why does a universe-eating entity need to be involved? Either way, Deathstorm sets his sights on Jason. He threatens to turn him to dust the same way he did with his girlfriend. Well Ronnie finally feels that hero impulse again. It makes him jump out and protect Jason. This would be a very noble sacrifice, but then Professor Stein has to spoil it. Way to go Ronnie! When your teacher is more heroic than you and you're not even sleeping with him, you're pretty low in the pecking order!

All immature college frat jokes aside, what happens next is a very touching moment. Professor Stein is dying and Ronnie wants to save him. He can't go through the whole Brightest Day ordeal as the least heroic guy in that he bickered with Jason, he's somewhat responsible for killing Jason's girlfriend, he's reluctant to be a hero, and he whines like a baby when Deathstorm pulls the Black Lantern equivalent of the Jedi mind trick. Ironically, Anti-Monitor proves to be more likable again by shooting back at the Black Lanterns, who only seem interested in fucking with him when all he's trying to do is get a good meal. This gives Ronnie and Jason the window they need to be Firestorm again and try to save the professor before he pays Jason's girlfriend a one-way visit. And that's not a joke about hookers for once.

It turns into a solemn scene. As with the previous three issues of Brightest Day, death isn't avoided and this time it isn't by surprise. Professor Stein takes a moment to tell Ronnie that as a booze-hounding college student, he used the Firestorm matrix to be a hero when he could have used it to invade sorority houses and hold their panties for ransom. That says a lot about him even though Ronnie has been about as heroic as stoner who misplaced his weed throughout Brightest Day. He also gives a message to Jason, encouraging him and Ronnie to work together. They can be a better Firestorm (assuming they can overlook the whole Ronnie killing Jason's girlfriend at one point). With this final message, the Professor turns to dust and the Black Lanterns close in to finish the job.

So finally Ronnie is in a position to kick ass. He and Jason ban together and prepare to beat the entire Black Lantern Corps, something that took every hero in the DC Universe in Blackest Night. It would be by far the greatest act of badassery. They would have to walk around with a miniature kart to haul their massive balls around. It would be so fitting. Then once again, the White Lantern shows up to fuck everything up. Before Ronnie can even hulk out, Boston shows up with the lantern and wipes out Deathstorm and his minions in a single bright burst.

Wait...that's it? The Black Lanterns were damn near invincible in Blackest Night and they're taken out in a single page? This is usually the kind of fight that Geoff Johns can't resist stretching out for half an issue! And this is all he does with it? Have the lantern come in and end the fight before Ronnie even has a chance to redeem himself? It really disrupts the powerful moment that Ronnie just had with the Professor. He finally gets an opportunity to kick ass and someone else does it for him. It sort of misses the point and disrupts the rhythm of the story for the first time in many issues. The roller coaster of Brightest Day doesn't stall because of this, it does let out one of those ominous hissing sounds that's never comforting when you're going a hundred miles an hour in a loop while trying to keep your lunch for the last three days in your stomach.

When the light fades, Ronnie and Jason aren't chilling with Jesus, Greg Giraldo, and Michael Jackson. They're back in the same forest on Earth where J'onn J'ozz was absorbed like a sham wow stain. Not only that, the White Lantern took the liberty of tying up all the other loose ends. It returned Jason's father back to his home, presumably making it so he believed he just got drunk and had a bad dream that didn't involve giant bottles trying to spoon him (I can't be the only one that has that dream). It's the least douchy thing the White Lantern has done in the last few issues, but Ronnie isn't satisfied. He wants the White Lantern to bring back the Professor. It refuses. It says it has everything it needs. It's not clear what this entails, but then Deadman appears behind him and asks for the White Lantern. And by ask I mean he demands it because the world depends on it. Unlike the previous issues, Deadman isn't running scared or begging them to run away. He seems to know something now that he didn't know before. Is this because J'onn knew something too? It's really not clear, but it adds to the mystery yet again!

For the answers, we have to wait another freakin' issue! Not only that, it's the next to last issue! That's right. Brightest Day is almost over and somewhere out there, a hundred kittens are drowning over the sorrow of this news. There isn't much left to do. Pretty much every plot has been addressed and there are two issues left to bring it all home. If you've been following this series and that doesn't excite you, call a hospital immediately because either your heart has stopped or you never had one to begin with.

We're on the seven inning stretch! The two minute warning! And whatever the hell people do to get excited at the end of a soccer match! Brightest Day has been such an intense ride. It couldn't be more intense if you laced the pages with cocaine and every issue came with a free hit of meth. The final plot lines are coming together. Firestorm was one of the last remaining characters that the series had been following. His journey came to an end against the Anti-Monitor and the Black Lanterns. It was a battle on a cosmic scale after previous battles had been on personal and planetary scales. Yet the same kind of drama and heart were thrust into the story that makes you want to gush with feeling that your girlfriend always complains you never show. It's like male PMS minus the bloating.

There's a lot to love about this issue. It followed many of the same themes from the previous issues, but bumped up the scale with the Black Lanterns and the Anti-Monitor. It was such a powerful setting that the resolution was very weak by comparison. In the previous issues I didn't have anything to criticize at the end. This time is different. This time I do take issue with how quickly everything was resolved by the White Lantern. It was abrupt and underdeveloped, two words that I almost never use when reviewing a Geoff Johns comic. There was still the heart and emotion that makes Brightest Day such a pleasure, but the depth of the previous two issues just wasn't there. At the very least the issue ends without a dead body on the final page. There's also the promise of more mystery. The White Lantern has been going on this killing spree and now it's out of revived superheroes to kill. So what does that mean? That answer is still not clear and there are two issues left with which to bring it all together.

These minor flaws don't make Brightest Day less awesome as a whole. However, it does keep me from giving another perfect score to this issue. I know I've had a streak of perfect scores going for this comic. I wish it could continue, but the way the White Lantern finished everything within a page is too much for me to overlook. So I give Brightest Day #22 a final score of 4.5 out of 5. That half point is just for that one page. Everything else was flawless. With only two issues left, I may have to adjust my scale to adequately describe the awesome that Brightest Day is employing. I'll find some way to put it into words even if I have to exhaust every boob and ass joke in the English lexicon! Nuff said.

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