Saturday, August 6, 2011
Brightest Day Aftermath #2: Dragging Awesome
I know it's been a while since I reviewed a DC book. To tell the truth, I've been avoiding it because I'm waiting for DC to drop the infamous R-bomb. R being reboot. I'd rather not waste my fine repertoire of poop jokes and knocks on Donald Trump's hair on stories that are just going to get rebooted and retconned. Now don't get me wrong. I still love DC as much as any guy with an X-men fansite can love it. I know that didn't come out right, but bear with me. There's a method to my drunken madness and it doesn't' involve copious medications with more than 13 syllables (mostly).
I still miss the days where every couple of weeks, I would dedicate a full review to worshiping at the altar of Brightest Day. It was a series that I didn't expect to get hooked on. Just as crack addicts don't expect to be sucking dicks and knocking over 7-11s at 2 am for another hit. But Brightest Day was just that amazingly good. It was like a biweekly multiple nerdgasm fest. So when it ended and continued with the aftermath in Brightest Day Aftermath: The Search for Swamp Thing I was more than willing to give it a chance. However, I've had to taper my expectations. This isn't the same crack hit that Brightest Day was. That story is over. This is the aftermath and for the most part, after reviewing the first issue I was left feeling like Cher when she heard her daughter had a sex change.
I won't say that Brightest Day Aftermath has been a disappointment, but it has been a significant downgrade from the epic scale of awesome that Brightest Day delivered on a way so consistent that Bill Belichek tried to secretly video tape it. The story follows John Constantine and his nicotine-fueled adventures into the DC universe. He's been a little under the weather lately and this time it isn't lung cancer. The return of Swamp Thing in Brightest Day triggered a reaction that only those petrified of bee stings can appreciate. He believes the Swamp Thing that emerged in Brightest Day wasn't Alec Holland. It only thinks it's Alec Holland and when it finds out it isn't, some very swampy shit will hit the fan. He tried enlisting Batman's help, who in turn cashed in a favor (possibly sexual) with Zatanna. They couldn't help him so he was left at square freakin' one, which was part of what made the issue a bit of a let-down.
Brightest Day Aftermath #2 starts off by showing Constantine seeking his next source of help. Now the transition here is pretty damn shaky. In the last issue he was talking to Batman and Zatanna. In this issue he's on a plane for Metropolis. There are some nice inner musings, but it feels random. It's as if he could have gone to Metropolis first and the last issue didn't matter. These are the kinds of transitions that Brightest Day used to avoid. So it's a little off-putting and it makes the story a bit more incoherent. Not the to the point of the third season of Lost, but still incoherent. So when Constantine's condition flares up, making his landing more bumpy than a night out with Charlie Sheen. It shows that Swamp Thing really loves fucking with Constantine and doesn't care who he threatens in the process.
Well guess who does care? Superman. He tends to notice with an angry swamp creature is fucking with a plane full of innocent people. It's not much of a problem for Superman. Him saving a crowded plane is such an old gimmick that it could do Cialis commercials if it wanted to. For Brightest Day, it's not all that innovative. Then Superman confronts Constantine and we're met with a genuine clash of personalities. Superman is a guy who uses his powers to do good when it needs to be done. Constantine is a foul-mouthed degenerate who only does good when it's convenient for him. He would rather smoke a cigarette first. So when Superman confronts him about this, it's a pretty interesting moment. Then when Constantine shows Superman his 'condition' he's a bit more understanding.
Now it takes a bowling ball filled scrotum to talk down to Superman. Constantine isn't that bold, but an arrogant son-of-a-bitch. He's the only guy who has the stones to be an asshole to Superman and use a magic spell to prevent him from giving him a righteous spanking and not the kind you pay two hookers in Amsterdam to do. Superman sees that Constantine is the one drawing the swamp attack. He's a clear threat to anyone around him so it's only natural that he would want to get him away from crowded areas. But Constantine isn't having it. He uses a little magic to keep Superman at bay and since this is fucking Superman we're talking about, that's saying something.
Now there's a lot to be said about the differences in personalities I mentioned earlier. DC has all sorts of colorful characters, but none like John Constantine. He didn't develop in DC Universe proper. He's done his own thing in his own comics and as such, his attitude is very different and by different I mean he's an ass. But he's an ass in a way that is certifiably awesome. This kind of personality really clashes with the major heroes of DC and one thing this book does well is demonstrating how nicely those clashes truly are. Even if the action and the progression is sloppy as hell, it's nice to see some real contrast between the two characters.
While Constantine is pissing off the Man of Steel, Alec Holland is confused as hell. In the last issue, he showed up in the swamp minus Swamp Thing. Now this sort of fucks things up because as Constantine explained, Swamp Thing only thinks it's Alec Holland. If it finds out that Holland is alive, it'll be like those shitty action movies where someone finds out they have an evil clone and they lose their fucking mind. For Swamp Thing, that's a problem. But Alec Holland doesn't know that. When he emerges, he's greeted by a total stranger in a haz-mat suit. That's usually a bad sign you had a really fucked up night and drank some shit that a hobo with an eye patch gave you in exchange for clean toilet paper. Holland, being in no condition to think clearly, follows the guy into his old lab. Then the guy reveals he works for Lexcorp. He might as well say he's a lobbyist for Halliburton on a special assignment on behalf of News Corp. So yeah, it's a problem.
Constantine knows this shit is going to blow up in his face so he takes some time to explain the situation to Superman and is still a total dick about it in the process. He says Batman couldn't help him find Swamp Thing. Superman points out that the World's Greatest Detective is somewhat smarter than that. He sent Constantine to Metropolis because he knew that Constantine would bring the kind of bullshit that only Superman could confront. Despite being such a dick, Superman does help him. He says he knows where to find Swamp Thing and he doesn't need to be a fucking detective to figure it out. He just grabs Constantine and flies up him over the city. Rather than thank him, he just asks if he can smoke. So even when Superman is helping, he's still a dick. But he still makes it look pretty damn cool.
Once again, it's a little incoherent. If finding Swamp Thing was as easy as a trip to the Star City forest then why the fuck did he go to Batman in the first place? Is Constantine really that fucking dense or did he just want to rope the heroes into helping him? Either way, it comes off as a bit too convenient. He could have just gone to Superman in the first place and we would have been spared a whole issue. But I digress.
Once in the forest where the biggest battle of Brightest Day took place, it gets even more contrived. Constantine just stands around and casts another spell. There's not much mystery or build-up. It's just simple magic to bring out the next plot. The Brightest Day series that I remember was a bit more tactful and subtle. I feel the need to point this out because Brightest Day is in the fucking title of the book and with shit like this, it's not living up to the name.
Even if it is contrived, there's still always room for action in this series. Once Constantine does his little spell, Swamp Thing shows up and as expected it's pissed. For a guy who basically belittled Superman, I would say that Swamp Thing is well within it's right to do so. He grabs Constantine and starts choking him in a way you could make a whole new masturbation joke out of. Choking your Constantine. You heard it here first, folks! But keep in mind he has Superman with him and being such a nice guy (the anti-Constantine if you will) he's kind enough to beat back Swamp Thing. Now granted, it's over really quickly and it's not all that epic. But still, it's a nice burp of action in a book that has been pretty random to this point.
Once all is said and done, Superman is understandably irritated. Even he doesn't appreciate having to fight swamp monsters for ungrateful assholes like Constantine. But once again, Constantine maintains his policy of being a total dick. He reminds Superman that as long as Alec Holland is out there and alive then this won't be the only time he stains his cape with swamp stains. The implications would certainly not sit will with anyone of even a moderately high moral compass. It means in order to contain Swamp Thing, Alec Holland has to die. That's the big difference between Superman and Constantine. Not only is Constantine a dick, he's willing to feed a man to a swamp monster.
Speaking of Alec Holland, remember that lab he's in? Well that mysterious masked man is still fucking with him. He convinces Alec that he's got some weird infection that you can't get without bare-backing a hooker in Brazil. Holland is still confused and trying to remember. The mystery scientist who we know is as credible as Jack Abramoff since he works for Lexcorp helps refresh his memory a bit. It involves showing him some of his old work and reminding him that he was once a powerful, monstrous swamp creature. Constantine may be an asshole, but this guy takes it to another level. He essentially assures that Holland is screwed and Constantine may end up being right, which is an epic fail for all that's good and decent in the DC universe.
At this point, it's worth repeating how much I miss Brightest Day. I know I've said it a lot and maybe all the pot in my system has fucked up my short-term memory, but I do miss it. I miss the large, interconnecting stories among many different characters. It was a story that really gave readers a firm grasp of the DC Universe. So to read that series and then Brightest Day Aftermath, the difference is like the gap between a blow job and a kick in the nuts. It's not terrible, but it's pretty underwhelming. It lacks the elements of what made Brightest Day so awesome and this issue threw away even more of those elements, almost like they were used tissues at the bushes of Megan Fox's bathroom window.
The lack of coherence between this issue and the previous issue is the biggest weakness. Constantine goes from Gotham to Metropolis in a way that really doesn't flow well with the story. In fact, certain elements of the previous issue could easily be thrown out and not much would change with this issue. That's not to say there weren't some nice moments. I'm glad Alec Holland got a chance to show up. He's finally starting to get involved in the story, but it was a lukewarm introduction at best. Anyone who really doesn't know much about the guy (which may be a significant number even for those without access to wikipedia) will probably be loss and not all that interested. Constantine's attitude is still gritty. His interactions with Superman were easily the best parts of the issue, but those interactions didn't lead to much. It really seems as though this mini-series isn't leading to much at all and with the reboot coming up fast, it may be completely overshadowed in the end.
So while I'm usually very enthusiastic for any DC book with a Brightest Day title, the second issue of Aftermath has really dampened my spirits. It isn't hitting me upside the head with awesome. It's very tame, like a dog that has been both neutered and lobotomized. The lack of coherence makes it difficult to follow. The underwhelming action makes it difficult to get excited about without a bottle of Red Bull and a line of blow. There are still some entertaining elements. Constantine is still a fun, crude pig of a Brit that makes you want to spit on anything related to British Royalty. But that's not enough to make this issue as awesome as it's predecessor set it up to be. That's why I give Brightest Day Aftermath #2 a 2.5 out of 5. Brightest Day still has a warm, fuzzy place in my heart. But the Aftermath just seems unnecessary. With the reboot coming up, it might be best for some readers to go on a few bender and wake up a few weeks from now to see what comes of it. Nuff said!