Here we go…
Let me just begin by saying that I think Brightest Day # 1 is a decent comic. Not good but not terrible either. I liked the Jordan/Ferris/Sinestro team up. The set up explaining what would possibly bring these characters together post-blackest night is actually pretty effective. My only squabble here is that I hope that this storyline merely serves as a prologue for Deadman now that it seems he will be a real character and not some narrative device. The Green Lantern characters have 3 books being published right now; I really hope they don’t take up to much space in this book as it already feels a bit crowded. I liked the brief Martian Manhunter storyline though I am a little disappointed that his mission to terraform Mars is apparently being postponed. I also liked Mera’s portrayal (she’s not Aquman in a skirt). I even liked the twist on Aquaman’s power. Ah but Aquaman is also where everything starts to go to hell.
Before I get into that mess let me just preface it by saying that I’ve been trying to not give too much credence to some of the racial criticism leveled at Blackest Night. Yeah I get why a White force saving the universe from an overwhelming Black presence might tick some people off. Sure. But the day/night opposition doesn’t really need to be read as overlapping on racial categories of white/black. Its a little weird but lets move on. Oh how I wish I could! In Aquaman’s first real story post Blackest Night we find him fighting Black Somali pirates that have kidnapped 15 children (all white). One of the pirates explicitly states his intent to rape one of the children right before Aquaman and Mera burst from the ocean to save the day. The racially uncomfortable overtones don’t end there unfortunately. After hearing that Aquaman has returned, a black worker (for a fish market. If you are wondering, it is as contrived as it sounds) goes into a murderous frenzy for no apparent reason and kills all the people in the store and then sets the building on fire (I imagine this last bit of overkill is supposed to cement how bad-ass this character is?). Oh, and to cap it all off this leads into the Firestorm story which, besides suffering from being the most boring of the bunch, serves to remind us that the once prominent black superhero is now a second string character in his own story.
Piracy! Yes, great. That is a wonderful way to make Aquaman relevant. The world, now more than ever, is entrenched in a global economy that relies almost completely on shipping for international goods transportation. Pirates can, and do, wreck major havoc. About 13 billion dollars is lost to piracy every year. How do you mess up such a good premise? The pirates should be attacking oil ships, doing actual infrastructure damage not kidnapping defenseless white children. Instead of actually making the stakes high the writers rely on the emotional impact of the threat child rape to fill the gaps of the story and even if we don’t consider the weird racial overtones that’s still just cheap writing (I mean what European tour ships sails around Somalia?).
Newsarama favorably compared this book to 52. That tickled me. To be fair though I went to my comic book stash and reread 52 # 1. Brightest Day definitely doesn’t hold up. Sure, it has its superficial similarities. They both take place in the aftermath of a global crisis and they both do so by covering the lives of a handful of characters. However, that’s where the similarities end.The biggest difference is that 52 is actually really well written cohesive story. Brightest Day reads terribly fragmented.
It reads like some one cut and pasted segments from individual Green Lantern/ Aquaman/Martian Manhunter / Hawkman / Firestorm/ Atom comic books and made a fan-fic zine. Ironically this is probably its biggest attraction for some fans, myself included. I love characters like Aquaman and Martian Manhunter (B list characters that really deserve to be on the a-team.) and I am really happy that Johns is trying to popularize them. However that in itself does not make a good comic book.
Not only was there an underlying cohesion to 52 that just isn’t there in Brightest Day, 52 was also incredibly dense. This story continues the decompressed writing trend in comics which I so loathe. I literally read this book in 5 minutes. What this book is in desperate need of is a good editor. Sadly John’s popularity, as well as his promotion, means that he can play with all the toys he wants how ever he wants. Which is unfortunate because there is some pretty cool stuff here just waiting to be polished.
Final Verdict: D+