Saturday, June 5, 2010

Review: Brightest Day #3

Brightest Day #3

Writers: Geoff Johns & Peter J. Tomasi
Artists: Various
Inkers: Various
Released: May 3, 2010

Brightest Day #3 is a middling issue. It is not offensively bad nor insulting, nor poorly done. There is nothing shameful about it, nor embarrassing to the gaggle of writers and artists who worked on it. It just happens to not be very good. This is a strange instance in any art form, when something achieves status as indifferent. It's a book on a shelf, that takes up space, or a canvas on a wall in a gallery that people pass but don't really notice; it's there but it doesn't have to be. You could replace it with a block of wood or a stapled up wad of newsprint, and it would serve the same function. It exists. That's it.

When nothing of real consequence happens to the characters involved, that tends to make the overall message of the work seem empty, and that's what happens here. It's a lot of set-up and prologue and repetitive exposition, and then it's over, and you sit there, holding this comic in your hands, with the realization that you read nothing at all.

This issue follows the same template as the three issues prior; there is one scene devoted to each of the characters who were resurrected at the end of Blackest Night. Fair and balanced this approach may be, but it also is extremely limiting, as it affords no real amount of space to develop any one story line with any meat at all. The scene with Martian Manhunter is dry exposition as he talks to himself, repeating to us bits of story from previous issues. It's two pages in which the highlight is him sticking his hand into a dog's head to "see" what the dog saw at a crime scene. This is followed by him flying off with ominous words about something that will happen, because nothing happens here, see, it's all going to happen soon. Promise.

The Aquaman scene is equally repetitive, in which we see the King of the Seas summon up a dead whale. Now, if the point of this story beat is to show us that he is summoning up dead sea creatures instead of living ones, well, that has already been demonstrated for us in a previous issue. It's already been talked about, so this story beat needs more to it to validate it taking up real estate. Sadly, there is nothing else, just Aquaman recounting, once again, how he was shunned by his people in Atlantis. This scene is four pages, two of which are dominated by very large single drawings. Again, this is valuable space taken up for no reason other than for unnecessarily repetitive exposition. (Not to mention how, now that her husband is back, it seems Mera, who was rendered so powerful and strong in Blackest Night, has been reduced back to being 'dutiful wife', there simply to hold her morose husband and prop up his ego. Barf!).

Every scene plays out in this same way and what this produces is a work that feels like it's made up of interludes. Which would be fine for one issue, maybe, if it were not for the fact that Brightest Day #2 also suffered from this same malady. So that's two issues, at least, where nothing substantial happens and characters with superpowers and amazing histories are seen just moping around feeling sorry for themselves while they speak obvious dialogue about things that may, eventually, happen. Four issues in and I no longer care about these characters, who were miraculously brought back from the dead, given new chances at life and love. It's the reverse of Blackest Night; it's about life and rebirth, yet it's completely lifeless, drained of all it's blood.

It's possible the main problem with Brightest Day is that the main characters it follows around are all B-level and lower, none of whom have commanded their own books in quite some time. The absence of one of the big five (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, and Green Lantern) leaves this all feeling like a theater piece written for the understudies to get some reps in, and that's a shame. This would be a golden opportunity to showcase the supporting players in meaningful and strong stories that would allow them to ascend back to the top shelf in the DCU. One of the greatest triumphs of Blackest Night was the emergence of Mera as a wonderfully full and three-dimensional character. The weekly series 52 was mostly populated by supporting players, and it thrived, giving us strong and memorable stories of Booster Gold, Rene Montoya, Adam Strange and Steel. So it can't be just that there is no Superman or Wonder Woman for why this series is falling so flat so soon.

The shocking aspect of this is that the two writers responsible are ones who should understand this most of all. Johns was a main writer on 52 and the mastermind of Blackest Night, and Tomasi's run on Green Lantern Corps was a triumph of the power of story to uplift a book of a motley crew of supporting characters to critical acclaim and top sales. They are fanboys turned writers with editorial credits as long as your arm, both of whom understand the DCU better than your grandma, if your grandma was a Monitor. They both know it doesn't take a household name to make the marquee in order for a book to be good. It takes a great story. The terrible thing to ponder after reading this issue, is that maybe they just don't have one. Sad, because Aquaman deserves better, as do the Hawks and Martian Manhunter. Maybe they were better off dead?