Friday, May 13, 2011

BRIGHTEST DAY #24

“Brightest Day”

Writers: Geoff Johns & Peter J. Tomasi
Artists: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Patrick Gleason, Ardian Syaf, Scott Clark, Norm Rapmund, Vicente Cifuentes, Oclair Albert, Tom Nguyen, Mick Gray, Mark Irwin & David Beaty
Editors: Eddie Berganza

Synopsis

As the transformed elementals battle the Black Lantern Swamp Thing, Captain Boomerang throws his boomerang at Dove, but it is intercepted by Boston Brand.  As Brand dies, the White Lantern power ring resurrects Alec Holland, the Earth’s chosen champion.  Holland and the Green merge to form the new Swamp Thing, who promptly destroys the Dark Avatar.  Swamp Thing then restores the Green on the entire planet, ending the current crisis.  Aquaman, J’onn J’onzz, Hawkman and Firestorm are returned to their normal forms, but Hawkgirl remains an air elemental.  Brand assumes that he will move on to the afterlife, but the Entity informs him that he will once again aid those in need as a wandering spirit.  In the days the follow, the heroes adjust to their changed lives, while Swamp Thing begins his crusade against those who would harm the Earth.  John Constantine, however, isn’t pleased with this turn of events…

Notes

Cover:  Note that the variant edition cover to this issue is homage to Blackest Night #1, depicting a swarm of Black Lantern power rings emerging from Nekron’s head.

Page 1:  Boston Brand, Hawk and Dove last appeared in Brightest Day #23.

“That’s Earth’s new champion?”  My thoughts exactly.

Alec Holland’s death and his seeming transformation into Swamp Thing were first seen in Swamp Thing (first series) #1.

“But Alec Holland was dead.  It was not Alec Holland.”  The revelation that Swamp Thing was not a transformed Alec Holland but was, in fact, an elemental being possessing Holland’s memories first came to light in The Saga of the Swamp Thing #21.

Page 2:  Black Lantern Swamp Thing last appeared in Brightest Day #23.

Page 3:  Firestorm, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, J’onn J’onzz and Aquaman last appeared, in their elemental forms, in Brightest Day #23.

Page 4:  “Are you aware you have stopped worrying about yourself, Boston Brand?”  Just call the guy a selfish bastard and be done with already, would you?

Captain Boomerang last appeared in Brightest Day #23.

“When Nekron came to Earth you were dead.”  Nekron materialized on Earth in Blackest Night #4.

“You were the only one whose life force was absolutely pure, if under-appreciated.  You were my sanctuary and this forest the Green’s.”  This explains why Boston Brand was resurrected in the first place. 

Page 5:  “Swamp Thing thought he was Alec Holland…now he thinks he’s Nekron.”  Hence his decisions to look and act like a Black Lantern.  Didn’t anyone tell him that was so last year?

“To truly eradicate the vestiges of Nekron, we need not only Swamp Thing to believe he is Alec Holland – he must truly become Alec Holland.”  So, in essence, Geoff Johns is retconning the Alan Moore retcon from almost thirty years ago, bringing Swamp Thing closer to what Len Wein originally created. 

Page 6:  “My power is evading violence, Boston.”  Keep this in mind.  It’s gonna be important really soon.

“Alec Holland needs to join the land of the living, but for that someone must die.”  Don’t say “someone,” Entity, say “Boston Brand,” because that’s what you mean.

Think about it – Brand can’t remove the White Ring from his hand.  And, as you will see on Page 9, that White Ring is the thing that restores Alec Holland to life.  So why would the ring leave Brand, other than because he was dead?  Any takers?

Page 7:  Note that Captain Boomerang’s black energy boomerang sliced right through Hawk’s hand. 

However, also note that Hawk did try to catch the boomerang.  I’m going to rant about this later.

“Digger Harkness of Earth.  Mission accomplished.  Life restored.”  As seen in Brightest Day #7, Captain Boomerang’s mission was to “Throw the boomerang at her.” 

I honestly have no idea why the Entity of the White Light refers to Captain Boomerang as “Digger.”  As revealed in Suicide Squad (first series) #44, the American press nicknamed Captain Boomerang “Digger” because he was from Australia.  (“Digger” is a slang term referring to Australian or New Zealand soldiers.)

However, the Entity doesn’t seem to be all that consistent with calling people by their full names.  It calls Hawk “Hank Hall” instead of “Henry Hall,” and Jade “Jennie-Lynn Hayden” as opposed to “Jennifer-Lynn Hayden,” but Ronnie Raymond is “Ronald.”  What gives?

I’m still irked by the fact that, in Blackest Night #8, it told “Kendra Saunders of Earth” to rise when it was really “Shiera Hall.”  I’m all for surprises, but Kendra was probably a wee bit confused when she realized that she was still dead.

Page 8:  So…did Boston really think that he caught that boomerang?  He didn’t notice it sliding into his chest?

“I am sorry.  I cannot fix his life.  Not this time.”  Is this how the Entity views life?  That death is something that needs “fixing”?  Something about this line just irks me.  It feels wrong, but I just can’t put my finger on what it is.

Page 10:  Man, Alec Holland looks so freaking confused right about now…

Page 11:  Poor Alec.  Not back for ten seconds and he’s already being transformed into the world’s savior.  Some guys just never get any peace, I tell ya…

Pages 12-13:  So, this is the new Swamp Thing, eh? 

“This is…my world.”  Well, I guess we have no say in any of this, now do we?

Pages 14-15:  Green Swamp Thing smash Black Swamp Thing!!!!!

(Sorry, I couldn’t resist…)

Page 16:  “A new saga begins, Alec Holland.”  A reference to Swampy’s second series, The Saga of the Swamp Thing.

Page 17:  “You are human no more.”  Give the guy a break, will ya?  Up until a minute ago he was a rotting corpse; he might need some time to adjust, you know?

Page 18:  Note how Swamp Thing uses a wooden stake to kill the undead version of himself. 

Page 20:  “But your time on this world is not done.”  Was this the Entity’s plan for Boston all along?  Resurrect him so that he appreciates life, and then let him die so that he will continue to aid the world in the afterlife?

“I don’t want to be invisible anymore.”  It could be that he was “invisible” as a ghost before because he failed to make any true connections in life.  Now that he has learned to appreciate life, perhaps those with whom he was close can still connect with him?

“I cannot.”  Cannot or will not?  Does the Entity have the power to choose who gets to move onto the afterlife and who does not?  Does it know that Boston had a greater plan ahead of him as…Deadman?

“It’s just not fair!”  You’re right.  It’s not.  Move on.

Page 21:  “I can hear you!”  Is this because of Dove’s connection to the White Light, or because, as I mentioned above, that she formed a strong connection to Boston while he was alive?

“The corruption…is over.”  That’s what I like about Swamp Thing; in the wake of heartache and anguish, he’s all business. 

Page 22:  A quartet of heroes return from their brief stint as elementals.  Hawkman last appeared in Brightest Day #18, Aquaman in Brightest Day #20, J’onn J’onzz in Brightest Day #21, and Firestorm in Brightest Day #23.

Hmmm, I could swear that someone is missing…

Page 23:  “…it would seem that your mental and physical states…have returned to normal.”  Meaning that Aquaman’s hand has been restored; Black Manta sliced off his right hand in Brightest Day #19.

“There does always seem to be…a price to pay.”  Man, someone’s a real downer…

Page 24:  “…but she is all around you…”  Hawkgirl seems to be trapped in her air elemental form.  Is this part of the Entity’s plan?  In Brightest Day #18, it told Carter and Shiera that they must live life apart so that they might live it stronger, but they refused; is this, then, their punishment?  Is the Entity forcing them to live apart from one another now, so that they appreciate life more?

Look, no offense Entity, but these two have spent thousand of years trying to find one another.  They spent the past few years passing one another like ships in the night.  Let these two crazy kids spend some tome together, for gosh sake. 

Page 25:  “Eternal spring…has arrived…”  Since the Blackest Night took place sometime around the Easter holiday, and the events of Brightest Day transpired over the course of a few weeks at most, then this issue would be taking place sometime in the middle of spring.

“It all comes back.”  Like a boomerang?  Oh, wait, there’s Captain Boomerang now…

Is this a meta-textual commentary on how comic book characters always seem to come back to life?

Pages 26-27:  Whoa.  Nice view. 

“He’s restoring the Green of the entire planet.”  Which is a good thin J’onn, considering that you spent most of this series killing off plant life wherever you went…

Page 28:  “…the Green needs protection…and I will eradicate anyone and anything that…puts it in jeopardy…”  Sounds like Swampy has a new mission statement, hmmm?

Page 29:  “You have all done well.  Except for you, Hank Hall.”  Oh, man, here it comes…

“You failed your mission.”  First of all, why did Dove need saving in the first place?  As she said on Page 6, her power is to “evade violence.”  That boomerang couldn’t have hit her in the first place.

“Your life is still not your own.  I cannot free you from the influence of war.”  Okay, first off, I guess in the new, post-Infinite Crisis DC Universe, Hawk and Dove are no long powered by the Lords of Chaos and Order; rather, they are now avatars of war and peace.  But would freeing Hawk from the “influence of war” cause him to lose his powers?

And you will note that Hawk did try to save Dove; the boomerang sliced right through his hand.  Was he supposed to “catch the boomerang” in his chest like Boston Brand did?  And, if he did, was his life supposed to be the one lost so that Alec Holland could live?

With his life still not returned, what does this mean for Hawk?  What is the difference between those whose lives are returned and those whose are not?  Is this something that will be followed up when we see Hawk in the future?

I think that this is a really annoying little plot line, annoying because it seems like it has been shunted to one panel without any full explanation. 

“Maxwell Lord unknowingly played a part in protecting the world from a superhuman war.”  In Justice League: Generation Lost #13, Maxwell Lord caused the death of Magog, thereby preventing a superhuman war similar to the one depicted in Kingdom Come.  But I don’t think that there was anything “unknowingly” about it; in Brightest Day #7, Lord was told “Magog will plunge this world into war.  Stop the war before it starts.”  Seems pretty clear to me. 

“Jade balanced the darkness within her brother which would have empowered the corrupted Swamp Thing and made him nearly unstoppable.”  As seen in Justice League of America (second series) #48.

“And Osiris helped his sister Isis, the goddess of nature, return.”  This took place in Titans #32.  And I really thought that Isis was going to be the new champion of the White Light.  Oh, well, can’t win them all…

What about Professor Zoom?  While I’m happy that he freed Barry Allen from the Speed Force and all, what purpose did that serve the Entity’s grand scheme?  Was it because Allen was instrumental in defeating Darkseid in Final Crisis or Nekron in Blackest Night?  Or because bow ties were coming back in style and needed someone other than Jimmy Olsen to champion their cause?

Page 30:  “So what do we do now?”  Good question.  Maybe get yourself a regular series, or join a team or something like that…

Page 31:  Mera last appeared in Brightest Day #23.

“They lost one another.  We almost did too.”  Yeah. Like Aquaman and Mera haven’t gone through their fair share of break-ups over the years.  Glad to see that they’re staying together for a little while. 

“This technology…the weapons Xebel was outfitted with.  I recognize it.  It’s Atlantean.”  Which makes a certain amount of sense; Xebel was an Atlantean penal colony.  Or, perhaps, Aquaman means that it looks like recent Atlantean technology, which would indicate that Atlantis was somehow connected with the Xebel attack, which would be bad…

I liked the Aquaman-Mera storyline the most out of all the Brightest Day plots, mainly because it made Aquaman competent and bad-ass again without turning him into a total asshole.  His best depiction in recent years was probably in the Jim Kreuger/Alex Ross Justice mini-series, in which Aquaman was a strong, confident leader despite talking to fish.  He can definitely stand alongside the upper echelon of the DC Universe, and it’s been far too long that anyone has taken him seriously as a character.  Brightest Day has reestablished his supporting cast and foes and given him something of a purpose that sets him apart from the rest of the heroes on Earth. 

Page 32:  Melissa Erdel last appeared in Brightest Day #2.

“I removed this from your head.”  Why didn’t J’onn do that when he first visited Melissa back in Brightest Day #2?  Was he too preoccupied with other things at the time?

“You and your father gave me one.”  J’onn’s story wasn’t as epic as Aquaman’s, but it didn’t need to be.  As much as I love J’onn, he’s not going to be an A-list hero, at least to the general reading public.  I remember a time in the 1990’s when there were several Martian Manhunter stories that all mined the same ground; they were all these simple tales wherein J’onn lamented the loss of his family and Mars, he was apart from society, he learned something about being human, etc etc.  It was like no one knew what to do with him. 

My biggest concern with Brightest Day was that the writers were just going to go over the same territory all over again, about how he lost Mars, how he doesn’t fit in on Earth.  I am glad to see that J’onn has chosen the living Earth over dead Mars and has accepted his role as its defender. 

Page 33:  Joy.  Hawkman’s angry…again.  Who would’ve thunk it?

No, really.  I mean it.  I liked the introduction of Hawkworld to the Hawkman mythos, and the other-dimensional world’s connections to his past and his foes.  It was all cool stuff.  And I enjoyed Shiera being back, although I will admit that I loved Kendra as a character, and was a little disappointed hat she wasn’t restored to life.  But the chance for Carter and Shiera to move past the curse of Hath-Set was fascinating…

But she’s now an air elemental for the foreseeable future, and I’m sure that she’ll be restored to life at some point, but I question the logic within the story.  And, by this, I mean that when Brightest Day first debuted, the implication was that just because these twelve characters were restored to life doesn’t mean that they will stay that way and succeed.  It seems like Hawkgirl was one of the “sacrifices,” along with Hawk, to show that this story doesn’t necessarily have a happy ending.  While I applaud the attempt at drama, the fact that she wasn’t restored to her human form along with the others just seems forced, that’s all. 

And really, like we couldn’t have an angry Hawkman with a living Hawkgirl by his side?  Please…

Page 34:  “Some of it reads like it was written in a secret language or something.”  I feel like Jason really wants to say, “No, Ronnie, you’re just stupid and you don’t understand science, that’s all…”

“As near as I can guess, when we were blasted by the Anti-Monitor the matrix was…damaged.”  The Anti-Monitor blasted Firestorm in Brightest Day #22.

“According to the Professor’s diagnostic program…in less than ninety days we’re going to detonate.”  Hmmm.  Sounds like you might want to get working on that, hmmm?

I’ve always liked Firestorm, but Firestorm without Ronnie always seemed wrong.  I’ve enjoyed the new status quo, with Ronnie and Jason being merged together and sharing duties as a hero.  I’m not sure if Firestorm could really sustain an ongoing series in today’s market; perhaps a stint with the JLA is on order.

Page 35:  “The oil spill was cleaned up by Aquaman, wasn’t it?”  Aquaman and Mera attempted to deal with an oil spill in Brightest Day #5, but they were interrupted by Siren and her Xebel terrorists.  The Entity of the White Light cleaned up the spill and restored the dead sea creatures to life in Brightest Day #7.

Page 36:  Poor environmentally-irresponsible businessmen.  This just teaches you not to mess with…

Bum-Bum-Bum!

Swamp Thing!

I’m starting to get a little punchy…

Page 37:  “Swamp Thing returns?”  No, you’re thinking of The Return of Swamp Thing, the 1989 sequel to Swamp Thing.  Not as good as the original, but it did have Heather Locklear in it, so it couldn’t have been all that bad.

(I’m kidding.  Really.  It was crap.  Fun, mindless, campy crap, but crap nonetheless.  I recall seeing it as a kid and thinking it was horrible even then.)

Page 38:  John Constantine, first appeared in The Saga of the Swamp Thing #37.  A magical adept with vast arcane knowledge. 

It would seem, from interviews given by DC Comics, that this is a younger John Constantine than the one that currently stars in Vertigo’s Hellblazer series.  With the publication of Hellblazer #63, John Constantine technically became part of the Vertigo “universe, and thus separate form the DC Universe proper.  However, he has, over the years, made some cameos and guest appearances in the DC Universe, most recently at Oliver Queen’s bachelor party as seen in Justice League of America Wedding Special #1.