Thursday, September 1, 2011

Brightest Day Aftermath #3 - A Legacy of Awesome

Twas the night before the DC relaunch and all the crack house, not a creature was stirring except strung out comic fan with half a bottle of whiskey and worn out crack pipe. There are only so many drugs in the world that can make you forget that DC Comics is about to undergo the biggest shift since Power Girl's boobs. If there are such drugs I've yet to take enough of them. It's hard to contemplate what will come of DC and comics and general as the new 52 hits the shelves. Some are already eager to leave the old DCU behind. But before this amazing world is relegated to the quarter bin of history, there is one series that I must complete before I'm too hung over to give a proper send off.

Brightest Day has been one of DC's shining gems. I reviewed every issue and at the end of each review I had a six-foot boner with fresh joint on the end of it. Reviewing Brightest Day Aftermath: The Search for Swamp thing has been different. It hasn't been on the same scale or scope as Brightest Day. Like cheap blow from Brazil, it offers only a mild rush. That's not to say it's worth ignoring. There is a story to be told here. John Constantine is back in the DC universe, stinking it up with his cigarette smoke and snooty British accent. He's off to resolve a little issue regarding Swamp Thing and his alter ego, Alec Holland. It hasn't been on nearly the same level as the original Brightest Day. The last issue was a bit of a let-down. But with one issue left, I feel obligated to cap off my Brightest Day review log. Then I can dive head first with only mild brain damage into the new DCU.

In the last issue of Brightest Day Aftermath, Constantine enlisted help from Superman to track down Alec Holland. In between cartons of cigarettes, it was revealed that Swamp Thing and Alec Holland weren't exactly in sync and that was dangerous on new fewer than 28402948502982 different levels. Why is this? Well Swamp Thing currently thinks Alec Holland is driving it. And if it finds out that's not the case, well that tends to fuck up an overly powerful monster. A monster that needs a human driver and for some reason John Constantine is at the top of the list. Now anyone who knows John Constantine from the comics knows putting him in the driver's seat of a monster like Swamp Thing is like making Robert Downy Jr. the head of a Bankok pharmacy. Nothing good can come of it and if that weren't enough, Lexcorp has somehow found Alec Holland and is fucking with him in a way that only Lex Luthor can. So that leaves John Constantine relying on DC's finest to put a stop to it.

First, Constantine had to find Holland and the Lexcorp assholes that took a break from blowing the head of Goldman Sachs to fuck up the world. For this, he got help from Madame Xanadu. Aside from staring at her cleavage, she helped Constantine go on a spirit quest that didn't involve ingesting a fuckton of magic mushrooms. Here he gets help from our old Brightest Day pal Deadman, who at the end of Brightest Day ended up dead...again. But he still is nice enough to lend a hand. He's the one that informed Constantine that Alec Holland isn't playing poker with Einstein, Jimmy Hendrix, and Jesus in the afterlife. He's alive, well, and running with a rough crowd in Lexcorp's many secret labs. Seriously, with all the labs Lexcorp has to fuck with people you would think BP would have bought them out by now.

Back in the swamp we revisit Alec Holland and his Lexcorpt captors. The masked Lexcorp scientist, who looks like Dick Cheney fucked him up after getting fired from Halliburton, finally confronts Alec. Since Swamp Thing is an elemental and Lex Luthor just can't resist god-like power of any kind, they recreated Swamp Thing with some trademark DC technobabble. But in order to make it work and not kill everything that looks at it cross-eyed, they need to map Alec's consciousness to the creature. Because remember the creature thinks it's Alec Holland. Alec of course has a problem with that, but seriously when has moral outrage ever stopped Lexcorp?

While Alec is most likely getting the Lexcorp equivalent of a rectal probe, Constantine is in the swamp trying to get to Holland. Now I'm a little high right now so it didn't dawn on me until I was sober that there was some shitty transition along the way. Not only does Lexcorp's mysterious mad scientist not break out the waterboarding to convince Alec, but Constantine goes from Xandu's sweet bosom to the swamp. Now if you didn't read the last two issues, you could have assumed it was a flashback of sorts. But it's really hard to tell. In fact, without a few hits of LSD you probably wouldn't notice it. It's something that has been a nuisance since Brightest Day Aftermath began. It just hasn't flowed as nicely as it's predecessor.

Lousy transitions aside, Constantine's visit into the swamp is short lived. Like all Lexcorp facilities, trespassers are dealt with in the same way James Dobson and Pat Robertson would deal with homosexuals. They hit him over the head with the butt of the gun and threaten to fuck him up in ways that no amount of cigarettes can help.

Unfortunately for Lexcorp's hired guns, Batman shows up. And as anyone knows, he dines on the bones and souls of hired thugs for breakfast in between eating cake off of Catwoman's ass. He saves Constantine from a world of hurt, but he doesn't take much satisfaction in doing so. Who would? Constantine was a dick when he last crossed paths with Batman, but then again he's a dick to everyone. When Constantine says he needs to kill Alec Holland, Batman has a problem with that. For some reason he just can't get around the idea of killing a man to save John Constantine's ass. He's weird like that.

Well Batman doesn't have to enjoy it. He doesn't get to argue with Constantine all that much either because while he's lighting another cigarette, that quaint little lab where Lexcorp is committing their latest crimes against humanity erupts. Their bastardized version of Swamp Thing has been let loose and it's a big ass problem. Again, we don't get to see how that scientist convinced Alec Holland to lend his mind to this creature. We can only assume it involved threats of castration or being locked in a room with Andy Dick. Either way, Swamp Thing is on the loose and they're kind of fucked.

This isn't something Batman can just beat the shit out of like a hired gun. This is an elemental swamp creature that saved the world during Brightest Day. He can't exactly stop it by throwing money at it like most rich men would do. However, Superman stands a fighting chance. Even though he didn't care much for Constantine in the last issue, he does care when guys from Lexcorp fuck up the environment. Now this had the potential to be a really epic battle against Superman and Swamp Thing. Sadly, it's nothing of the sort. There's no two-page spread or anything. It quickly becomes a story where magic becomes a bland ass way to resolve a plot.

Again, the transitions suck. At some point Constantine transports Superman to some crazy mystical dimension where they can get to the very core of Swamp Thing sort of like how Dr. Phil gets paid millions of dollars to do so on a per-screened TV show. There's not a whole lot of action here. Superman just restrains Swamp Thing without much of a fight and then John Constantine casts a spell that's about as amazing as watching ants run around in circles. It's a pretty underhanded way to end the conflict even if it does end it effectively.

From here we get a few more scenes to tie up loose ends. They go into the lab and beat the shit out of the scientist that used Alec Holland. He ends up being some kind of mummy knock-off. I'm sure that's just Lex Luthor's way of hiring cheap labor. Then Constantine confronts Alec about the whole having to kill him to stop Swamp Thing ordeal. Once again, it's glossed over. There isn't a fight or even much of a debate. Alec Holland wants to live again and John Constantine just shrugs his shoulders and accepts it. Yeah, it's as interesting as it sounds. But he's still insists on being a dick about it.

So he and Alec Holland part ways. Superman and Batman leave with only slight damage to their lungs from Constantine's second hand smoke. It's not the happiest of endings. There's still a hint that Swamp Thing still has a hard-on for Constantine. But not much else comes of it. Alec goes on his merry way while Constantine goes back to filling his lung with tobacco smoke. Overall, it's as happy an ending you can get with John Constantine and you still feel the urge to binge drink. That says a lot about what a miserable asshole he is.

So in the end, John Constantine is still a selfish prick. But seriously, was that ever supposed to change? This was a story about Swamp Thing and for the most part, it was told and completed. Is it worth reading? Does it live up to standard set by Brightest Day? Well yes and no. For one, it's a decent story. But decent by Brightest Day standards is like a 10-6 season for the New England Patriots. For some teams it's great. But for their standards it's a bit of a let-down. This was a story that you could skip and it really wouldn't change how Brightest Day one bit. It doesn't come off as a necessary part of the story. It's just...there.

This issue did succeed in tying up many of the plots surrounding Constantine, Alec Holland, and Swamp Thing. It got other heroes like Batman, Superman, and Madam Xanadu involved in a believable way. However, the battle against Swamp Thing was underwhelming. For a story that has "Search for Swamp Thing" in the title, Swamp Thing really didn't seem to play much of a role. There was plenty of struggle, but not much fighting in between. It lacked the impact that Brightest Day set up. A few cheesy bits of dialog here and there didn't help, but John Constantine's wit along with fairly coherent narrative made for a solid finish.

I'm still a bit torn by the end of this story. It was a slight improvement over the last issue, but it still underwhelming in way too many ways. The first two issues built up a conflict and the third issue resolved that conflict with a whimper and not a bang. You may find yourself yawning through the end and no one would blame you. Maybe it's just because this series has been glossed over by Flashpoint and the new 52. But Brightest Day Aftermath remains only a slightly above average title. As a final score, I give it a 3 out of 5. It's not bad by most standards, but it had the potential to be so much more. It's a shame. Then again, I don't think DC gives one tenth a damn because it's ready to start from scratch and establish a new kind of awesome. No matter what the new 52 may bring, the legacy left by Brightest Day shall live. Nuff said!

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