Sunday, April 10, 2011
Brightest Day #23 - Penultimate Awesome
Well after a week of digesting Ultimate X where I my passion for comics was ravaged like a slap of deer at Ted Nugant's house, I'm finally in a week where I don't have to worry about damaging my brain or losing control over my bowels. That's because this week the next issue of Brightest Day came out. That's right, the book that's like a three-way between Scarlett Johannsen and Natalie Portman in your brain is back! Not only is it back, it's the next to last issue! This series has been unfolding for over a year, telling a wide range of stories that cover a number of well-known DC characters like Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, and Firestorm. It came out biweekly and was rarely delayed. It's basically the complete antithesis of Ultimate X. Sorry Art Adams, but delays and replacement characters just don't cut it!
Everything has been coming together in the home stretch for Brightest Day. It's actually more akin to the two-minute warning in football because the last issue basically stopped juggling so many different plots and basically zeroed in on the one story that binds them all together. And that story is the White Lantern. As each successive plot has come to a close, the White Lantern has shown up and basically capped it off the same way North Korea caps off alleged treason. Aquaman, the Hawks, and the Martian Manhunter were all seemingly killed by the White Lantern after they finished their respective journey. The guy who has been the unwitting trigger finger of these killings has been Boston Brand, who for much of the book has been trying to get used to the whole being alive thing again. At some point it has to be pretty jarring when he realizes he has to eat, sleep, and take a shit. By that comparison being a corpse is a lot easier. At the same time he's been resisting the White Lantern because it's basically about as cooperative and understanding as an entire stadium of 6-year-olds with ADHD who had their Ritalin swapped out with crystal meth.
Brightest Day began with a mystery. That mystery has been all about the White Lantern. It keeps going on about a new protector the same way Donald Trump keeps going on about how Barack Obama was a Kenyan agent sent to overtake America and kill anybody who had a shitty comb-over. For a while it seemed like that protector was Boston Brand. Then for an issue it seemed to be Batman. At one point it seemed to be someone connected to Aquaman, such as the bastard son of Black Manta who couldn't keep his penis out certain affairs. Well none of these ended up being the protector. The White Lantern essentially took Boston on a trip downtown, but not before driving around Stone Henge and the Great Wall of China first. Now this issue promises (no bullshit for once) to reveal the protector.
It starts off like a monologue from Glenn Beck in that it shows how fucked the world is. Usually, the heroes of the DC Universe have to save the Earth from an outside threat. Well now the tables have turned in that the Earth is lashing out. Like Ned Flanders it had been happily hiding it's rage for years and now it's yelling "This is fuck-diddly up!" So it's unleashing Earthquakes, fires, floods, and Barbara Streisand concerts. It's forced every hero on the planet into overtime, but it leaves you wondering what the fuck are they trying to save now? The planet is off her meds and no one has a shot of ketamin to calm her down.
Boston Brand knows about this. The White Lantern told him that there was a powerful evil within the planet Earth that was basically going to turn it into a homicidal super-douche on par with Kim Jong Ill. The only way to stop it was to find the new protector for the White Lantern. So picking up from the events of the previous issue, Boston confronts Ronnie and Jason as Firestorm. Remember, they're the ones who have the White Lantern. They spent most of the previous issue getting it back from the Anti-monitor and a much lamer corps of the Black Lanterns.
Despite all their efforts, the White Lantern still comes off as a hell of a douche. It basically says it sat by and twiddled whatever it has as thumbs while Professor Stein died. It needed to see Ronnie and Jason witness this death so they would embrace being Firestorm again. It's a dick move, no one argues that. However, the White Lantern is at least trying to justify it's douche-baggery. The planet is having a bad case of PMS and it needs to move this shit along before there's no one left to be an asshole with.
This has led them to the Star City forest, which has major significance in that it's the one place where a pissed off Earth can't trash. The White Lantern does another dick move by not letting anyone else in to escape the carnage, but again it's not just jerking around. It explains to Firestorm that it needs the necessary life forces to defend Earth or stop whatever is fucking her up like a shot of tequila mixed with wood varnish. To add extra motivation for Deadman, the Lantern does what may be yet another dick move. It pulls Dove into this clusterfuck while she and Hawk are trying to protect people from the world they've so often protected. Confused? I think mindfucking has always been one of DC's most stringent policies.
Keep in mind, Dove is the girl Boston was banging before the White Lantern made him it's unwitting trigger-man. Now it's not clear why she's brought into the picture. It just says her presence is required. Perhaps the promise of pussy is the White Lantern's new way of keeping Boston Brand in line. You have to admit, that's pretty cruel. He tries to explain what's going on and warns them that he may or may not have killed Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Aquaman, and the Martian Manhunter. Just as OJ Simpson may or may not have brutally murdered his ex-wife. But before he can even say much, that whole dark evil that the White Lantern has been droning on about finally shows up. Suddenly, it doesn't seem like the biggest douche in the series anymore.
The evil that has turned the Earth into a kitchen run by Gordan Ramsey has taken a new form. It's a form that definitely has elements of the Black Lanterns from Blackest Night, only at least fifteen times more badass. This dark avatar as they call it, looks pretty damn pissed and is in position to give the White Lantern the same treatment that PETA gives Oscar Meyer.
What this creature wants is pretty simple. It craves death the same way Snookie craves a shot of tequila at P. Diddy party. So that leaves Boston, Firestorm, Hawk, and Dove in a pretty rough position. At the same time Digger Harkness, who was one of the villains brought back in Blackest Night, is brought into the scene for reasons that aren't entirely clear. This is a guy who usually wouldn't piss out a fire if it meant saving a bus of newborn babies. However, he has shown up in Brightest Day before, so his presence isn't coming out of nowhere like a steroid allegation from Barry Bonds.
While this is going on, Deadman is basically giving Firestorm the same look he gave all those other heroes before he turned them into dust for the new OxyClean guy to snort. It's pretty obvious where this is going. Firestorm gets the business end of the White Lantern's firepower. And no, that's not a joke about prison bitches. Yet like with the Martian Manhunter, the result is somewhat different. While it does look like Ronnie is being cooked like a Turduken at John Madden's house, he's not keeling over like Pamela Anderson in a sausage factory.
This time the White Lantern pulls out all the stops and like a party at Charlie Sheen's house, goes completely overboard. It doesn't actually kill Firestorm. In fact, it turns out it may not have killed anybody. It just made them more awesome. So awesome that I may have to take back every douche-bag joke I ever said about the White Lantern. Because once Firestorm becomes as fiery as his name implies, he's joined by a bunch of other elemental forces that have a striking resemblance to a few certain characters. By certain I mean the very characters that the White Lantern supposedly offed. Hawkman and Hawkgirl are wind, J'onn J'ozz is Earth, and Aquaman is water to round out Firestorm's fire. Throw in heart and you may have a Captain Planet reference, but without the lame hippie crap. There aren't many jokes I could tell about this shit. It's simply awesome beyond description.
So you have the four elements of life and a dark evil trying to suck the life out of them the same way Twilight sucks the life out of vampire movies. What's going to happen when these forces meet? They're going to kick some serious ass, that's what! Deadman's conscious is now clear and he can go back to banging Dove in between wolfing down cheeseburgers. First this crazy creature that looks like something that died under one of Snoop Dogg's pot farms has to be addressed. Even with a more awesome form of Aquaman, Firestorm, the Martian Manhunter, and the Hawks that's easier said than done. But it still looks pretty damn awesome.
While these newly reborn heroes test out their new awesomeness, Deadman has to work with Hawk and Dove to protect has to protect something that the forest has been guarding. As it turns out, the savior that the White Lantern has been bitching about has been buried in this forest the whole time. That dark creature was on it's way to destroy it because typically when you go on a rampage, you want to fuck up whatever may be in a position to stop you. That's what Deadman has to protect. The real savior that's going to end this shit once and for all is a corpse buried like a discarded candy wrapper. This sounds like a questionable way to end the book until you find out said corpses name. It's Alec Holland. For all you non-comic types, that's the name of Swamp Thing. That's right. The savior of the planet and the new guardian is fucking Swamp Thing. If you said you saw that coming, you're not only full of shit. You're lying through your shit-stained teeth!
So here we are, one issue left of Brightest Day. The loose ends are starting to come together! This issue finally started pulling back the veil from the White Lantern and revealed some of the biggest mysteries that have dominated this series from the beginning. You would think that a series that has been over two dozen issues in length would start dragging by now, but with so many epic plots and brain-melting battles it still feels like it just began a few weeks ago. Now we find out that those heroes we thought were dead didn't exactly die. They simply took on a new (far more awesome) form. That form is the key to stopping the planet from basically destroying itself in an amazing twist of irony. Also, we finally learn the name of the shmuck that's going to put a stop to it all! It's Swamp Thing! It's a twist without sounding like a twist. It's setting the stage for a finish that will leave your brain in pieces and your dick as hard as polished steel.
There's no cute way of saying it. Brightest Day has been awesome beyond words. It could have easily fizzled at any one point. With only one issue left, it's saved the biggest fight for last. It isn't just a mindless brawl to get everybody in the same arena. This battle ties together everyone else who has been involved in Brightest Day. It does so in a way that feels so right yet it's still so intense that you can't really predict how it's going to pan out. If there is any shortcoming at all it's that Geoff Johns left one too many loose ends to tie up in the final issue. Why are Hawk and Dove on the scene? Why was Digger brought in?
Since it is the next-to-last issue you can't expect all those issues to be tied up. Otherwise, why buy the last issue at all? I don't consider these really shortcomings, but if there's too many that could mean the final issue may falter when so many others that came before it have been so strong. The cynical part of me that's still jaded from reading Ultimate Marvel and ripoff characters worries that Brightest Day has set the bar too high for the last issue. However, this series has repeatedly delivered in a ways few comics have so I'm willing to give Geoff Johns and Brightest Day the benefit of the doubt here.
So loose ends aside, Brightest Day #23 still gets a perfect 5 out of 5. It has set an epic stage for the final battle in this incredible series. I came into Brightest Day not expecting it to even come close to the awesome that Blackest Night delivered. I was so wrong that I'm willing to whip myself to atone. Brightest Day is every bit as awesome as Blackest Night and deserves every bit of praise you can give a comic book. If you're a DC fan or a comic fan in general, what the fuck are you doing reading this blog? Go out and get this series! It's comics at it's finest. Nuff said!