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    BATTLE REVIEW: The End Of The Brightest Day Saga

    By | April 28th, 2011
    Posted in Reviews | % Comments

    Traditionally on Multiversity, Battle Reviews were those in which two of our members sat down and hashed out their thoughts on a title. However, seeing as those days are behind us, I am repurposing the title with a new intention. You see, today marks the end of two year long stories that sought to have a tremendous impact on the DCU: Justice League: Generation Lost, and Brightest Day. And boy, have these two titles split the fans.

    Now, I as a reviewer have made it no great secret that I thoroughly enjoy one while consistently deride the other. We fans are nothing if not opinionated, and those opinions are often very hardwired and hard to change. However, just as we’re coming off a duo of articles about Comic Book Addiction, I’d be remiss not to note that I stuck with Brightest Day through 25 issues, despite my lack of enthusiasm. Generation Lost was an altogether pleasant experience on the other hand, even if I can’t help but note that one of the big “secrets” of the book left me wanting more.

    So – two titles. Two finales. Two opinions. Only one can stand as the DC Event of the Year. Can Brightest Day, the underdog, tie up it’s story well enough to take home the gold? Or will Booster Gold and the Justice League International become DC’s new title to beat?

    Find out after the cut. As a note, spoilers are discussed.

    I think it’s only appropriate to start this review off with a conversation I had before even looking at Brightest Day #24 with a fellow MC Writer:

    Josh: Reading Brightest Day. Let’s see how this train wreck ends.

    Matt: I’m sure like most train wrecks end.

    Josh: With John Constantine returning to the DCU?

    Matt: A dead body or two, a lot of disoriented people, and a whole lot of people who want reimbursement.

    Like I said earlier: my deridement of this title is no big secret. I’ve been vocal everywhere imaginable – Twitter, Tumblr, this site, etcetera. I even went so far as to make a rather abraisive claim in my last review when I said, “$71.76 later we were given next to nothing in return.” I think this, without too much of an obvious slant, explains the disappointment I felt to see that after 24 issues, all we were essentially given was the return of Swamp Thing. I was particularly disappointed because I felt that after spending 23 issues watching these 5 out of 12 characters grow, our time had been essentially for naught because the book – which was always going to be a tool of some kind – wasn’t going to essentially change anything from where it started. It’s with that that the goal of the final issue was to really prove, to me, that this wasn’t truth.

    I can’t honestly tell you it did that.

    Brightest Day #24 “explains” a lot of things. It seeks to try and explain why Swamp Thing is an important character to bring back, reciting his origin and many of the things Alan Moore did to the character when he wrote the title. It also goes on to explain the rather dubious machinations of the White Lantern, which is apparently a character by itself now. It wraps up Nekron’s role current anti-climactic role in the DCU, and it sets up future stories to be told with characters both new and old. What it doesn’t do, however, is tell a story really worth telling. Brightest Day did not need to exist in the way that it did, because in all reality we were given 5 mini-series that ended up having very little pay-off. The idea here was supposed to be pure character development, as well as introducing the characters to an audience that might not recognize them, to some sort of circular end that reinforces the lessons learned, but ultimately most of these characters are only in minorly different places than they started.

    Let’s break it down a bit (here be spoilers):

    • Hawkman and Hawkgirl: After just randomly getting rid of Kendra in Blackest Night, the Hawks’ story ends with Shiera simply disappearing into the ether, leaving Karter once again alone and angry – thus reversing all the work done on the character throughout the story.
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    • Aquaman: Aquaman is given back his hand, and is left on a beach to ponder the mutiny of his people, with all the work done to introduce Aqualad as a character being left to a single line of dialogue of why he isn’t in the finale.
    • Firestorm: the two boys finally get along, only to learn that they are a ticking time bomb – again.
    • Max Lord: Max disappears, taking over Checkmate and using it to hide himself from the superhero community (which is seen in another book).
    • Martian Manhunter: Martian Manhunter’s whole odyssey with D’kay means essentially nothing, because everything he had to learn he learned from Swamp Thing’s love of the planet
    • Hawk: Hawk has failed his mission. There are no repercussions.
    • Jade: Jade helped her family (which is seen in another book), and it has had little to no effect here other than a one-liner and inherent disappointment to any fan who didn’t read Justice League of America, and probably to those that did.
    • Captain Boomerang: Captain Boomerang threw his boomerang, gets punched by Hawk and that’s about it.
    • Osiris: Osiris got back Isis, and it has had little to no effect on him as a character (which is seen in another book).
    • Deadman: Deadman dies again, and he is not happy about it, nor is he given an explanation why he is reverted back to spirit form after he grew more than any other character in the series.
    • Reverse Flash: We’ll get to this soon.

    You’d think that after all the time we had in this book, there would be a bit more to it than … well, this.

    I think my biggest disappointment is the following image from Brightest Day #0, though:

    Brightest Day #24 has a scene in which the White Lantern explains why it chose to bring back the 12 people that it did, and what purpose they served to the master plan. However, when you look at the explanations – of only which three are really addressed, we’re still left with a lot of things that were supposed to happen that never did. The image above is perhaps one of the most basic literary tools used in comics – we see the future in bits and pieces, and we are supposed to anticipate these moments so that when they do happen we can look back at the final product and acknowledge the plan that was there all along. Analysis of the above image leaves a lot to be desired, however. When did Karter and Shiera fight each other? Why is Captain Boomerang still alive? Did Dove fall in love with Hawk and not Deadman, and I just missed something? And when did Blue Beetle and Max Lord agree on anything in the entire course of Justice League: Generation Lost? I’ve been told not to take things literally in the past, but even with this it’s hard to create assumptions of what these teases are supposed to mean, considering none of them seem to mean anything.
    And can someone please, for the love of everything, explain to me just why Reverse Flash was brought back? Let’s pretend that I will accept the obvious last-second BS answers for why Jade, Osiris, and Max Lord were brought back. What on Swamp Thing’s Green Earth was Eobard Thawne’s purpose, other than to give Johns a tool to do Flashpoint with?
    So here’s what gets me about Brightest Day. I can fully acknowledge that, right from the bat, Brightest Day was going to be a title where the creators would be able to prep characters for future ongoings, and perhaps a mini or two. In that regard, Brightest Day is a success. Hawkman and Aquaman are ready for their ongoings, and I’m sure that Firestorm and Martian Manhunter will be given some kind of role to play in the future DCU. However, what Brightest Day represents is a complete and total lack of pay-off. This isn’t to say that anything was “promised” to the reader when the book began, but there were certainly expectations created by the otherwise unnecessary “0” issue. What was the point of the issue if not to tease what would we be seeing throughout the series? Yet 6 of the characters went on to other books, and the 6 we were left with were not really utilized in any format that makes them special to this story. Brightest Day began the story in a simple way and – pure and simple – it failed to maintain it’s story in a reasonably linear fashion so that the ending had any particular meaning to anyone but Swamp Thing fans.
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    Speaking of the Swamp Thing, I think one of the important things about the book to analyze is the return of said Thing. Alan Moore’s story was, to say the least (as someone who hasn’t actually read it), a multilayered tale that was not strictly a superhero comic and instead tried to re-imagine a character that could have been “just a superhero” as something more – more important, more intriguing, and more meaningful. Right off the bat, the Swamp Thing of Brightest Day ends up punching the crap out of another Swamp Thing from Blackest Night, killing the character that Moore made famous and replacing it with the character Moore strived to shy away from. Alec Holland wasn’t the important person in Swamp Thing – Swamp Thing was the important “person” in Swamp Thing, because Swamp Thing wasn’t Alec Holland. Swamp Thing was instead a creature who thought it was Alec Holland and in turn lived it’s life accordingly as a creature for the Earth and an avatar of nature. Now that avatar of nature has been killed and Alec Holland – who the book admits “remember’s nothing after his death” – has come back to … what? Pick up where Swamp Thing left off? With memories he doesn’t have? Swamp Thing’s main role in this book is to punch a giant version of itself, fix all of the environmental problems with the Earth, and then kill some executives of a “nameless” oil company that Aquaman had to deal with. While the eco-commentary ultimately does feel ostensibly appropriate, the book takes a rather sharp, preachy turn quite quickly, thus confusing it’s tone and purpose and just leaving us with a mess – albeit a bloody one.
    Brightest Day wanted to be so much more. It wanted to be as important as 52, another character driven story with an admittedly off ending; it wanted to be as mythic as Blackest Night, a story with years of build up and very little pay off; and it wanted to be as defining to the DCU as Crisis on Infinite Earths was. Brightest Day wanted to be the new age of DC in 24 issues. And instead, what are we actually left with? A book that in it’s final issue feels rushed, confused, and incredibly anti-climactic. As a fan, I feel very little emotional connection to any of the stories told here, and all I am left with is the reminiscent wondering of what could have been from a year ago, when this seemed incredibly exciting. Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi, despite their best efforts, definitely dropped the ball with this title, and although they will continue on without a second’s hesitation, it’ll be hard to really read further with any actual interest for these characters unless they’re in the hands of other creators.
    That’s Brightest Day in a nutshell: a tremendous bevy of artistic talent on any given issue, only to be saddled with a story that couldn’t match any of it. As a Final Verdict, Brightest Day is netting a 3.0, only as a respect to the amount of work the artists put in. The book isn’t bad visually, just in it’s story.
    But that’s only one part of this article. Now comes the fun part, in which I stop trying to rip a comic a new one and talk a bit about Justice League: Generation Lost.

    Generation Lost is a book that admittedly had a much more difficult task ahead of itself. Coming from two creators not as popular as Johns and Tomasi, the title starred a team of characters that were cult classics at best. The Justice League International are from a day gone by at DC, featuring the height of their popularity in the 80’s and early 90’s before getting cancelled in ’96. The book returned in 2003 for a mini-series, but once again faded away into obscurity as the readership let it go by twice without much of a to-do about anything.

    So how is it then that a title like this ended up being so vastly superior?

    Simple: Judd Winick was given the impossible task of going at it completely alone after Giffen left to work on other things, and in the end Winick told a fully insular story from beginning to end that paid off all it promised to and tied up 99.9% of it’s loose ends. In other words, Judd Winick delivered a story that brought a team back, paid tribute to their legacy, and set them up for a brand new series – just as the Brightest Day banner had promised to do.

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    There’s no denying that the Justice League International was the underdog. The cast here was not as “important” as the cast of Brightest Day, but they had the one thing that Brightest Day lacked: true heart, a true goal, and a defined purpose. For the team, there was nothing else to do but work together to defeat Max Lord however they can. The book began tremendously, with Max Lord erasing the minds of everyone but the team of his existence. In the end, the story comes full circle to this point, in a way that doesn’t undermine the entire storyline. This isn’t Karter and Shiera overcoming a thousand-year curse only to have their love snuffed out at the final moment – this is the JLI “losing” and still winning. That’s the key difference in finale pay-off here. Everything we were building up to with this title has a finale or an explanation, and since this is a superhero book it’s full of some prime smashing to boot.

    Most importantly though, the title really does stick to the changes in the characters that it sought to work on. Booster Gold was still generally a laughing stock at the beginning, thus adding an extra trial to the Max Lord mystery since no one would believe him; now he is a recognized hero. Captain Atom, a character who spent the majority of the book as a character full of self doubt, is arguably the biggest triumph of the story who declares victory above all others in a powerful moment of selflessness. And Jaime Reyes, the new Blue Beetle? In a single page he manages to step out of the daunting shadow of Ted Kord and truly live up to a heroic destiny in a scene too good to spoil (as it arguably put the biggest smile on my face). Generation Lost succeeds because it has taken a team that was literally lost to another generation and found a way to make it modern, relevant, and more importantly, entertaining.

    Generation Lost wasn’t perfect. There are a few unanswered questions, and the Wonder Woman thing is questionable and perhaps a tad bit forced/accidentally untimely. Lord remains the most interesting character of the bunch due to his duplicitous ways, and his reasons for wanting to destroy Wonder Woman are understandable (from a villainous perspective, anyway). However, between that and the other alternate timeline presented in the story, it becomes clear that Wonder Woman – during her Odyssey run – should have been left alone, because it just ends up bringing part of the story down from a universal perspective. However, when you look at Generation Lost as a whole product, it’s undeniable that any flaws it may have are ultimately redeemed when held up against it’s sister book, due to the simple fact that Generation Lost didn’t lose itself. It stuck to it’s guns, and Winick has certainly proved to be a creator not to snub your noses at.

    Which leads me to the final point, where I reveal that Justice League: Generation Lost nets a Final Verdict of 9.0. Full of powerful scenes of character triumph (“THIS IS FOR TED KORD!”) that really pays tribute to the legacy of the JLI, as well as a completely satisfactory ending, all I can say is – bring on the new JLI!


    To an extent, both Brightest Day and Justice League: Generation Lost had the same basic goal – take a bunch of characters who aren’t relevant right now and make them so. Brightest Day chose to do so by setting up stories for the long haul and attempting to set up a new mythos for Earth now that the various Lantern colors have, essentially, changed everything previously established about the creation of the DC Universe. Generation Lost chose a more simple route by assembling a group of individuals, developing them into an effective unit, and telling a focused story with them. In the end, it’s Generation Lost’s more streamlined approach that ended up being the more successful use of our time, as the title promises a JLI ongoing from here on out to continue some of the loose threads and hopefully introduce new ones (while hopefully keeping the same tone of the previous series). Generation Lost is assured a reader in it’s new book. For all of Brightest Day’s efforts, I can’t say I’m looking forward to what comes next.

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    So. One last time, for posterity:

    Brightest Day: 3.0

    Justice League – Generation Lost: 9.0

    In the beginning, Justice League: Generation Lost was the title I would “maybe” buy, while Brightest Day was the definite “can’t go wrong” title. I clearly bet on the wrong horse, and that’s why I shouldn’t gamble.

    Matthew Meylikhov

    Once upon a time, Matthew Meylikhov became the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Multiversity Comics, where he was known for his beard and fondness for cats. Then he became only one of those things. Now, if you listen really carefully at night, you may still hear from whispers on the wind a faint voice saying, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine is not as bad as everyone says it issss."