Brightest Day #23 - 'Rise And Fall' - Johns, Tomasi, Reis and Prado
Story - Brightest Day is a series I've found it hard to wrap my head around. I've been picking it up more due to feeling I have to in order to keep up with the never-ending spiral of madness that is the DCU, rather than actual enjoyment. It's been scatter-shot in focus, following a bunch of characters, some of whom I like (Aquaman, Firestorm, Martian Manhunter) and others I really don't (Hawkman and Hawkgirl), with stuff happening for no real reason, except that the White Lantern says so. This has made for a rather unsatisfying story, nothing happens organically, it's all down to whatever a magic lantern says. I kept reading it hoping it would all make sense come the end.
Well, now we've reached the end, and if anything it's gotten even worse. First of all, this particular issue picks up from a position I don't remember the last issue ending on. The world is ending, but we'd previously been given no indication this was happening, or that this would happen. It's almost like that 'the world ending' has become Johns' default mode, and he can't do anything smaller. He's gotten too epic and therefore the end of the world has become mundane, which really, is bad writing, how can the apocalypse be boring? When it happens every bloody month. We get the usual shots of heroes saving people we get in every Johns event comic. It was Blackest Night/Infinite Crisis/Sinestro Corps War all over again.
And then there's the real meat of the story. For some reason a Black Lantern Swamp Thing is the big bad villain, and all the main heroes of the series have to come to that stupid Forest in Green Arrow's city to fight him. Except the White Lantern killed them all. But then he resurrects them as Elementals or something. Why didn't he do this in the first place? What was the point of the previous 22 issues? All the stuff those heroes 'had to do' to fulfil the Lantern's prophecy was just pointless wasn't it? This could have been done in 2 issues.
And then we have the stuff with Captain Boomerang and Dove, I fail to see how any of that has anything to do with fighting Swamp Thing. Someone else has said that this whole book has been like Geoff Johns (and Pete Tomasi) have given up on actually writing, and just inserted themselves as the White Lantern, moving every piece around to get to their planned end, and that's exactly right. I can only hope that they actually are going to reveal the White Lantern is Johns. I liked it previously when Johns used meta-fiction when writing Superboy Prime. It would be just the kind of fun, cool idea that would never happen though. I'm sure the answer is going to be bullshit.
I've not even got onto this issue's use of Swamp Thing and his return to the DCU after decades of being a part of Vertigo. He doesn't really do much in this issue, and so I feel any analysis of the character's new status-quo is better reserved for when he actually does something or has his own book. I'm sure there has been plenty of hand-wringing from Vertigo purists, but it's worth noting that the best Swamp Thing stories were all in the DCU anyway. We shall see.
Overall, this issue actually pissed me off, it made my investment in the previous 22 (plus a zero issue!) chapters of this series seem like a waste of time and money. We've been following these characters stumbling about, going through the motions, all due to the promise that it was all part of a plan, but the plan was bullshit. I'm normally more of a Journey than a Destination guy when it comes to storytelling (For example, I don't feel a disappointing finale to LOST or BSG or Y: The Last Man negates the previous however many hours of enjoyment I've got) but with Brightest Day, the journey was pointless in the extreme. Johns is very hit and miss, and Brightest Day is most definitely a miss.
But there's still one more issue to go, maybe that will turn things around! (It won't).
Art - At least it was nice to look at. Ivan Reis is perhaps the artist who represents the DCU best in the last 5 years or so, he's drawn pretty much every major character, and drawn them well. If there is a DC John Romita Jnr, he could very well be it. He may not be flashy, but he gets the job done. And hey, Swamp Thing looked cool I guess. Reis, has if anything, been let down by the writers here.
Best Line - I always struggle with this when it's a Johns comic, he cannot write a memorable line to save his life. It's probably 'His name is Alec Holland' or something like that.