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.
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. Continued below
- 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:
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.Continued below
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.Continued below
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.