Okay, technically I this is my second Brightest Day post in the month of May, following this earlier one, but it rhymes, and I had a rough week, and I’m tired, and shut your face.
I’m sorry, I… I didn’t mean that. It’s the last week of the semester and I’m worn down and… I like your face. Really?
Let’s review some comics, okay?
The other bi-weekly series that we’re going to follow for the next year kicked off two weeks ago with this first issue. Maxwell Lord was an entrepreneur with a metahuman talent, the ability to control people’s minds, but the power was a weak one and even a small strain caused him to break into nosebleeds. Instead of becoming a hero himself, he settled for organizing the “International” incarnation of the Justice League in the 80s and 90s. But in the opening days of what would become Infinite Crisis, Max revealed that he was in fact manipulating the heroes in concert with Checkmate, and murdered the Blue Beetle. Wonder Woman was forced to put him down to stop him from using Superman as a weapon, and the fallout nearly destroyed her career. But in the wake of the Blackest Night, Max has come back to life, and in this issue he’s pulling the biggest scam of all time — using his power to make the world forget he ever existed.
Keith Giffen, who wrote the original Max stories back in the JLI era, is the plotter and breakdown artist for this series, helping give it a strong continuity. This isn’t the “Bwa-ha-ha” League he wrote back then, however. He’s giving us a more serious story, with real stakes for our heroes. His co-writer, Judd Winick, has often been hit and miss for me. His humor books (like The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius) are great, but his superhero work often fizzles out. I’m hoping that having him work in concert with Giffen, we’ll prevent that sort of thing from happening here.
As this is a biweekly book, there isn’t much chance of a “regular” art team. Aaron Lopresti does the chores on issue one, and he does a solid job. Working from Giffen’s breakdowns, he tells a solid story that I enjoyed quite a bit.
As it’s been three Wednesdays since I talked about Brightest Day, another issue of this biweekly has already hit the stands. Let’s talk about it, shall we?
In the second issue, Max has cut loose with his power and succeeded in not just making nearly the entire planet forget him, but place some sort of post-hypnotic suggestion that makes people reject the truth when confronted with it. Only four people remember the truth, four members of Max’s former League who were in contact with his blood when he pulled his stunt. Booster Gold is already considered a joke to many of the heroes of the DC Universe, so his word is taken with a grain of salt, but now Max is taking steps to discredit and ruin Fire, Ice, and Captain Atom as well. With no one to turn to except each other, they set out to prove the truth and bring Max to justice.
The plot really kicks into gear this month, as the aftermath of Max’s global windwipe starts to come together. The writers have done a good job of filling in the gaps, even to the point of figuring out who Max would attribute each of his crimes to in order to make people forget him more readily. The things he allows people to believe about Ted Kord’s death are perhaps more insidious than anything else he’s done, and it kind of makes you hope that Booster Gold is the one who lays the smack-down on him when the time comes. I’m also glad that the writers gave us a more scientific explanation (well… comic book science) for why these four and no one else remember Max. I was afraid it would be more emotional, that these four somehow felt more strongly than anyone else, but an answer like that would really be a disservice to Guy Gardner, the Martian Manhunter, Power Girl, and other members of those JLI teams.
Two issues in, I really think the writers have given us a solid start. I just hope there’s enough meat to the story to last a whole 26 issues.
With the former Titans team pretty much disbanded and its members scattered to the four winds, the assassin called Deathstroke takes the name for his new team of mercenary villains. Their first target? Someone known to the heroes of the DCU all too well.
Plenty has been written about this issue already, so I won’t belabor the point, but there is one positive thing I can say about it. I promised that I wasn’t going to go out of my way to get every Brightest Day related title, but until I read this issue I was afraid that might happen anyway. Now, the chances of me following this story into the ongoing Titans comic are slim to none. First of all, the hero that’s killed in this issue is done so almost in a perfunctory way. I feel like he was discredited, killed just to show how “badass” the villains are. Death in comics, especially in a post-Blackest Day world, should mean something. When Ted Kord died, for example, it was very clearly the opening shot in a war. I don’t get the sense that there are going to be any serious repercussions for what Deathstroke’s team does in this issue.
What’s more, the team doesn’t really make any sense. Deathstroke has never needed a team before, and the only reason this book is called Titans is because no one seems to know what to do with the franchise. There are only two characters in this book I’m interested in reading on a regular basis, Tattooed Man and Osiris, but neither of them are villains. Neither of them belong on a team full of murderers. There’s an attempt to explain what Deathstroke has over them, but it doesn’t make their inclusion seem any less forced.
I was really happy to see Osiris among the living at the end of the Blackest Night, but my happiness was short-lived. I won’t be following his future adventures in this book.
The birds are back! Barely a year after the title was canceled in the restructuring of the Batman universe, Gail Simone and Ed Benes return to the title they made great. Oracle decides to get the band back together for a new mission, calling up Black Canary, Huntress, and Lady Blackhawk to once again help her protect the heroes of the DC Universe from threats they can’t face on their own. While she’s rounding up her friends, however, the recently-resurrected Hawk is having some issues re-acclimating to life among the living. It seems he and his partner, Dove, may have to find a home among the Birds to figure out where to fly.
This new dynamic offers some really interesting story possibilities that I’m sure Simone will have the guts to address, and I don’t just mean the fact that Hawk is the first male member of this traditionally all-female team. Before he died, Hawk walked around for some time in villain’s clothes, and he killed a lot of people, including several founding members of the Justice Society of America. I can’t imagine the folks at JSA headquarters are going to be wild about him joining the “911 operators of the DC Universe,” as Simone often refers to this squad. This is something that almost has to be addressed. But I have every faith in Simone’s ability to do it.
Benes’ art hasn’t lost a step. He’s still got great, energetic, dynamic pencils and fantastic fight scenes. Coloring has progressed even more since his first run with these characters, and it’s not hyperbole to say this book looks better than ever.
I was really bummed when this title was canceled, but I couldn’t be happier to have it back, and back in the best of hands.
In part two of “The Dastardly Death of the Rogues,” Barry Allen is on the run from a group that mimics his worst enemies, but claim to be from the far future. This group, the “Renegades,” is in our time to arrest Barry because he’s going to murder one of their members 84 days in the future. Barry is none too keen on the idea of being arrested, of course, especially for something he hasn’t done (yet), and the Flash is soon on the run. Meanwhile, the present-day Rogues approach their recently-returned member, Captain Boomerang. Boomerang is none too happy with his old friends, though, as they seem intent on making him “prove himself” before they let him back into the club.
It’s not really clear how much of his time as a Black Lantern Captain Boomerang remembers. Does he remember killing his own son? Does he remember that his teammates basically gave him the boy as a snack? Does he even really want to reunite with the old team? One of the things that made Geoff Johns‘ first tenure on the Flash so memorable was the way he redefined the villains. It looks very much like he’s poised to do the same here.
Something that’s different than when he wrote the adventures of Wally West, though, is the way he’s bringing in more of the goofy comic book science and tech. Things like the Renegades are a very Silver Age-ish concept, and he’s executing them nicely in the present day with a more modern edge. Add in some great art by Francis J. Manapul and you’ve got another book I’m really happy with.
While some of the returnees have splintered off into the other titles we’ve been discussing, here in Brightest Day the focus really seems to be on some of the other characters. Firestorm is in a quandry, with Jason Rusch and Ronnie Raymond fused together in the Firestorm matrix. The situation is even more uncomfortable because Ronnie doesn’t remember, as a Black Lantern, killing Jason’s girlfriend. Jason, however, remembers it all too well. Also this week, the Martian Manhunter is seeking out the daughter of the scientist who brought him to Earth in the first place, and the Hawks are hunting down their oldest enemy. Firestorm is probably the most interesting part of this book to me, though, with Deadman coming in a close second. Still being jerked around by the White Lantern ring, Deadman gets a fantastic last-page cliffhanger.
The main mystery of Brightest Day seems to be split between this title and Green Lantern, with this book delving into those who returned from the dead and why. I’ve heard a few people understandably perturbed by the lack of Lantern content in this book, but I don’t think that’s what this is about. It reminds me much more of 52, the weekly series Johns co-wrote a few years ago, in that it follows a group of characters in the wake of a major event and examines how it changes their lives and, as a result, their world. Taken on its own merits, I think this story is succeeding quite well.
While I don’t expect a biweekly book to have a regular art team, it bothers me a bit when there are so many different artists on a single issue. Guys like Ivan Reis, Patrick Gleason, Adian Syaf, Scott Clark and Joe Prado are all fine artists, but their styles are too different from one another to transition without a jolt. Hopefully future issues will be able to have a little more consistency.
This issue is part two of the two-part prelude to the five-part Justice Society of America crossover, “The Dark Things.” (They really should have just called it a seven-part crossover.) Jade, a Blackest Night returnee, comes back to earth inside a crystal. This “Starheart” is the mystical artifact that powers her father, the Golden Age Green Lantern, but now Alan Scott’s power is going haywire. The Justice League, Justice Society, and a few friends get together to try to prevent a disaster, but Power Girl seems to have gone mad. There’s only one person Batman can find with the juice to face her — Supergirl.
We know Supergirl is joining the team full-time soon, and this issue works very nicely as an introduction to her membership. She’s called up to deal with a specific threat (a nutcase Power Girl), but she’s already working well with the rest of the group. Robinson seems to want to build a JLA that’s built around all of the main “families” of the DC Universe without actually having the usual members. That’s an interesting idea, and as such, Supergirl is a very good candidate to represent the House of El.
The end of this book is an interesting cliffhanger, if not an earth-shattering one. Future solicits have already spoiled the end of this book (I hate when that happens) and I doesn’t seem like the sort of thing that’s likely to be permanent anyway. Still, it’s a pretty good superhero team-up, and it seems to be helping the League on a much-needed march towards stability.
The other main mystery in this series is that of the White Lantern itself. Fallen to Earth, we see as Hal Jordan, Carol Ferris and Sinestro (the “New Guardians” of the Green, Violet, and Yellow Lantern Corps, respectively) step up and try to lift the Lantern. It becomes clear, though, that the Lantern isn’t there for just anyone. It’s waiting for someone… or something.
Geoff Johns throws in two different B-plots in this issue, and each of them is intriguing. Atrocitus, “New Guardian” of the Red Lanterns, is prowling the subways of New York in search of something, while the entity that captured Parallax a few months ago makes a play for another of the entities that power the seven Corps. The mystery of the entities is one thing that Blackest Night didn’t dig into very deeply, and I’m really glad to see that storyline is being fed here. The whole “Sword in the Stone” analogy for the White Lantern seems a little on the nose, but that may be a red herring (or green or yellow or whatever the case may be). Atrocitus is becoming more and more interesting as a character, and I’m very curious to hear the long-awaited story of Dex-Starr.
I’ve said it over and over, but one of the best things to come out of the Blackest Night are the new characters in the new corps. I want to see more of those guys, and that’s what Johns is giving to me. It doesn’t appear that’s going to change any time soon, and I’m very happy about that.
Closing off our look at the recent Brightest Day releases, we have Tony Bedard‘s debut as the new writer of Green Lantern Corps. As Guy Gardner leaves for a mysterious new mission of his own (which no doubt will be the focus of the upcoming Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors series) John Stewart comes to Oa to help with the rebuilding of the planet after the war. As he and Kyle Rayner help the rest of the Corps with reconstruction, the former Guardian called Ganthet approaches his brothers and sisters with a fateful decision — he is renouncing his status as a Guardian for any Corps, and instead will become the new permanently-stationed Green Lantern of the planet Oa.
The idea of Ganthet stepping down and becoming a “grunt” is an interesting one, and to the best of my knowledge it’s something that’s never been done before. Between that and the trade-off of Guy for John, Bedard has immediately created a very different feel for this book than it had under Peter Tomasi. As good as Tomasi’s run was, this new approach has a lot of promise of its own. John has really been forced out of the spotlight in recent years, ostensibly sharing the main Green Lantern title with Hal, but really getting very little screen time. Putting him in this book is already giving him a higher profile, without sacrificing any of the focus on Kyle Rayner or the rest of the cast. We also get a new mystery surrounding the Alpha Lanterns, characters that seemed to be out of a purpose not long ago. Bedard has re-purposed them and is turning them into something different, ominous, and fun to read about.
It’s a new era for this title, but it’s still a very strong part of Brightest Day.