Saturday, May 14, 2011

Meandering Forth In An Unfocused Way: Brightest Day Vol. 2!

The Good: Artwork, Moments of character development
The Bad: Light on character development, Plot is plodding along on many fronts.
The Basics: A surprisingly weak middle act, Brightest Day - Volume 2 is too fractured to be easy to recommend, making it possible even for fans to skip ahead.

After the glory that was DC's incredible crossover event, Blackest Night, the comic book company set off to top itself with the next big event. That was Brightest Day and now that the saga is over, I've finally managed to get my hands on the middle section. Right before Christmas, Brightest Day - Volume 1 (reviewed here!) was released in hardcover. Last week, Brightest Day - Volume2 was published and having just finished it, I have to say, I am not all that impressed.

Truth be told, I have a little advantage. Working at a comic book shop, I have recently read some of the last issues of Brightest Day, including its conclusion, so I know where the book is going. But at the point in the story that Brightest Day - Volume Two is at, the story is continuing on many, unrelated, fronts which makes it more a labor to read than anything worth loving. I write this as one who was a huge fan of the Blackest Night Saga and it disappoints me considering how good the first volume of Brightest Day was.

The fundamental problem with Brightest Day - Volume 2 is that at the end of Volume 1, the mission of the twelve resurrected individuals was revealed. Each one was given a mission from the White Lantern and when that happened, the story ought to have fractured off into the various stories with some sense of order. Maxwell Lord, for example, disappears entirely from the main Brightest Day narrative in Brightest Day - Volume Two as his story is explored in Justice League: Generation Lost. Also entirely absent from this book are Jade and Osiris. so, on the plus side, while this story is annoyingly split up, it could have been much, much worse. On the negative side, with all of the build-up in the first volume which explored the whole field of the resurrected characters, Brightest Day - Volume Two seems more myopic. Moreover, there is no real character development in Brightest Day - Volume Two and the lack of character development in any work is always a serious issue.

Because the book is far less what the characters learn and how they develop, Brightest Day - Volume Two is more plot-driven and focused on what happens to the handful of resurrected characters. In this book, the stories are remarkably straightforward and outside of Boston Brand, none of them seem terribly focused. Boston Brand, the former Deadman, fortunately is focused. He is searching for his own successor, a hero who the White Lantern Battery has informed him will be able to take the White Ring off his finger and will rise as Earth's protector. With Dove, Brand begins the search for Earth's new hero. Sadly, even Brand's story is weirdly truncated. In addition to a pointless trip to visit Batman (newly returned from his journeys through time) wherein Brand once again learns the meaning of life, there is a rushed romantic subplot between Brand and Dove.

At the same time as Boston Brand is wandering around trying to find the hero who will take the White Ring and save Earth, Aquaman finds himself dealing with the repercussions of Mera's admitted betrayal. His chance for an emotional understanding is minimized, however, when Black Manta teams up with Siren's forces. Their target is Jackson, a young man with strange water-related powers. When Black Manta attacks Jackson, the boy's father drives him to the sea, admitting that he is an orphan. There, Aquaman reveals some of the youth's backstory and enlists the boy in helping him to stop those who threaten the oceans.

Having learned of the existence of another green Martian, J'onn J'onzz returns from Mars to a telepathic black hole; the forest that has sprouted up in Star City. There, he discovers Green Arrow defending the forest and he is promptly evicted when his presence begins killing all of the vegetation there. Fleeing to Mars, J'onn encounters the other green Martian who ensnares him with a vision of a Mars reborn through J'onn's own power. J'onn must not only choose between Earth and Mars, but the present and future for how he wants to live!

Meanwhile, in Hawkworld, Hawkman is given a history lesson and he and Hawkwoman fall into the clutches of Hath-Set and his mate, who happens to be Hawkwoman's mother. Tormented while Hawkman raises an army to try to stop the Queen of the Nth City, Hawkwoman learns of her plan to dominate using portals. Powered by both heroes, the villain makes her escape to an unlikely place!

While all of these conflicts are going on, Firestorm is trapped in his lab having what amounts to a multiple personality issue. Unfortunately, Jason and Ronnie - the two Firestorms fused together - quickly discover that their matrix becomes unstable when they fight, forcing them to be civil with one another and keep a level head. This is made worse when the Black Lantern Firestorm resurrects and takes both the professor and Jason's dad hostage. Transforming matter, the creature Deathstorm (as the Black Lantern renames itself) begins to create its own Black Lantern army, one which Firestorm must figure out how to stop.

As is pretty obvious, writers Geoff Johns and Peter J. Tomasi have an ambitious task to weave all of these stories and unfortunately, the event feels like what it is: a bunch of parallel storylines that do not quite gel. More than that, having the benefit of knowing where the story is going, it is unfortunate to admit that when the stories do come together, it is inorganic. In other words, these tangent stories do not, ultimately, make the resolution to Brightest Day either make more sense or seem more compelling. As a result, Brightest Day - Volume Two feels like an extravagance of sorts and a story that is far less vital or immediate than the Blackest Night Saga was.

The artwork is fine; the characters are recognizable. However, in some places, the figures look more animated than possessing of a depth they deserve.

Unfortunately, while the artwork is generally good, it often ruins the story for those "in the know" of events in the DC Universe. Primary among these is the Martian Manhunter plot. J'onn J'onzz is trapped within his own mind by a telepathic assault. Well before this is made apparent, it is obvious to those readers who follow other DC works because of things like how Wonder Woman appears. Wonder Woman has had a costume change - while Martian Manhunter was dead! - as part of her own altered-reality storyline. That Manhunter sees her in her classic outfit pretty much clues in those who follow the rest of the DC Universe to the aberrant nature of his vision.

In the end, Brightest Day - Volume Two is average-at-best. The story is hardly timeless in this collection of chapters and the artwork is not superlative. Given that the book is low on character development, it is hard not to argue waiting for the eventual trade paperback, as opposed to picking up the hardcover version out now.

For the volumes that preceded this as Blackest Night, please check out my reviews of:
Blackest Night
Blackest Night: Green Lantern
Blackest Night: Green Lantern Corps
Blackest Night: Rise Of The Black Lanterns
Blackest Night: Tales Of The Corps
Blackest Night: Black Lantern Corps - Volume One
Blackest Night: Black Lantern Corps - Volume Two


For other graphic novel or book reviews, be sure to check out my index page by clicking here!

© 2011 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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