Brightest Day #24
Writers: Geoff Johns & Peter J. Tomasi
Pencils: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Patrick Gleason, Adrian Syaf & Scott Clark
Inks: Norm Rapmund, Vicente Cifuentes, Oclair Albert, Tom Nguyen, Mick Gray, Mark Irwin & David Beaty
Colors: Peter Steigerwald
Letters: Rob Clark Jr.
Cover artists: Gary Frank & Rod Reis (regular)/Ivan Reis, Joe Prado & Rod Reis (variant)
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99 US
There’s no denying that from a sales and publishing perspective, Brightest Day has been a success from start to finish. It remained at the top of the direct-market sales charters despite the fact that it featured only B- and C-list super-hero characters. It’s a testament to how the publisher has developed its Green Lantern/Blackest Night-related brand, but also I think to the marketplace’s demand for a quicker publishing pace for a super-hero comic. The biweekly schedule clearly appealed to many, as 52‘s weekly schedule did a few years ago as well. Clearly, the readers demand some level of quality from the storytelling, though, as Countdown to Infinite Crisis failed to capitalize on that weekly schedule. So while DC has done well with this biweekly schedule, from a creative standpoint, Brightest Day has been something of a mixed bag, and that holds true with this final issue as well.
The powerful elemental form of the Swamp Thing has been taken over by the embodiment of death, and it’s intent on destroying the planet and every living thing on it. It’s up to the resurrected heroes gathered by the White Lantern to restore the Swamp Thing, and the way to do that is to imbue it once again with the soul of dead scientist Alex Holland. Deadman, Dove and the others are willing to do whatever it takes, but little do they know that in order to save the world and to return the Swamp Thing to its proper state, they’ll have to sacrifice much of what they’ve gained since coming back from the dead.
All of the art teams that have contributed over the course of this series return here, but for the most part, it’s Ivan Reis’s and Joe Prado’s styles that dominate the visuals. That helps to bring a general sense of consistency to the book, with the more divergent styles — such as Gleason’s and Clark’s — popping up only in the aftermath of the main story. One thing is clear: these artists were clearly big fans of the classic Bissette/Totleben interpretations of Swamp Thing. They do right by the classic Alan Moore horror comics of the 1980s; despite the fact that this story is firmly entrenched in the super-hero genre and that there’s lots of action featuring the green monster in the centre of it all, there’s a creepy look to the character here that’s also true to its supernatural connection to the natural world.
The plot is like a bizarre Rube Goldberg machine made out of parts of the DC Universe that had been lying around idle for some time. Still, it’s fun to watch the goofy pieces of the machine connect and trigger one another in a seemingly random series of incidents and choices. The Swamp Thing riff seems to come from out of nowhere, but in retrospect, the environmental message that arises in this final chapter can be found earlier in this’ title’s run. J’Onn J’Onzz dreams of restoring life to his dead planet. Aquaman contends with an oil spill. Firestorm strives to avert a nuclear meltdown on a cosmic level. Hawkman puts a stop of the abuse of animals (albeit sentient, humanoid animals). Still, if the Swamp Thing reveal was planned from the start, it’s a shame there wasn’t a stronger thematic thread running through the series. Some real foreshadowing would have added to the buildup and drama.
Offering a special, almost double-sized issue for the series conclusion seems like a fitting end to DC’s top title and event brand of the past year. Here’s the problem, though: it doesn’t read like a double-sized issue. This comic reads so quickly, and it’s thanks to the plethora of splashes and double-page splashes. There are two double-page splashes in a row in this comic, both featuring gigantic Swamp Things kicking ass. Sure, the splashes reinforce the immensity of the plot, of the supposedly world-altering nature of the story. But I felt as though I was cheated a bit, as though the creators were padding this book out to justify the higher page count and the higher price.
Predictably, several of the characters are given new status quos, new directions, presumably as launching pads for new titles. Firestorm’s new situation, unfortunately, was quite disappointing, because it just repeats the conflict he faced earlier in this title already. Yes, Firestorm’s going to blow up… again. And Johns and Tomasi’s decision to simply hit the reset button on Deadman seemed like a lost opportunity. I realized these characters are marketable properties that DC wants to keep static, but from a storytelling perspective, it’s unfortunate that this particular character’s interpretation from before Blackest Night is indistinguishable from his status at the end of Brightest Day.
I was surprised to find what is essentially a tribute to Alan Moore’s work on Swamp Thing from the 1980s in this event title’s conclusion. The writers’ weave a lot of the elemental character’s backstory into the script here, and a lot of the elements they touch upon here comes right out of Moore’s classic stories. The decision to return Swamp Thing to the DC Universe after so long as an icon of DC’s Vertigo imprint might not sit well with some, but as someone who’s read a lot of those old Moore stories, it worked OK for me. After all, Moore’s stories were firmly entrenched in the DC Universe. While some might worry that the DC Universe might dumb down the character, I’d like to think that bringing him back into the fold might inspire some writers to pen more challenging stories using DC super-hero characters like Moore did decades ago.
Overall, I enjoyed Brightest Day as a whole, but it was far from the cohesive, directed story that it could have been. It doesn’t seem as though the various roles that the twelve resurrected heroes and villains were to play were really hashed out all that clearly from the start, and as a result, it felt as though the writers were scrambling to jam some of those pieces into the puzzle they ended up putting together in the end. 5/10
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