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Grumpy Old Fan | Kiss this Day goodbye, the sweetness and the sorrow

Ivan Reis' small-cast variant cover for Brightest Day #0

Once dead, twelve heroes and villains were resurrected by a white light expelled from deep within the center of the Earth. The reason behind their rebirth remains a mystery. But it will not be a mystery for long. This is the Brightest Day.

So reads the mission statement which began each issue of the year-long, twice-monthly, just-concluded Brightest Day miniseries (written by Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi, drawn by various artists). One might therefore be forgiven for thinking that BD would have used this premise to mold those characters into an imperfect ensemble, in order to explore collectively what “life after death” meant in a superhero context.

Instead, BD farmed out almost half its potential cast to other titles, thereby transforming itself (rather quickly) into a multi-headed Rebirth-style rejuvenation. From there it reintroduced readers to Aquaman, Hawkman and Hawkgirl, Firestorm, J’Onn J’Onzz, and Deadman, and used them in turn to reintroduce … well, you probably know by now, but let’s wait a while to talk about that.

Accordingly, Brightest Day forsook any kind of singular, standalone story for the handful of loosely-connected character-oriented plots mentioned above. In this respect it is a more polished, better-executed version of Countdown (To Final Crisis), the 2007-08 weekly series which spent 51 issues haphazardly trying to unify DC’s superhero books. While Brightest Day isn’t as big a mess, it makes no real attempt (beyond a series of perfunctory panels) to re-integrate the outsourced characters into the miniseries’ narrative. This ends up making those characters seem less important to the White Lantern’s underlying mission, and by extension makes the details of said mission more arbitrary.

In fact, the White Lantern’s omniscient, omnipotent involvement lends the miniseries a forced, artificial air. For all its talk about “living life” and “regaining life,” ultimately our heroes don’t enjoy a lot of free will. They behave as we expect them to and, except for one character failing a particular test, are rewarded (for lack of a better term) appropriately. I’ve watched enough Star Trek to know that, when manipulated by an omnipotent being, we mortals can usually figure out how to get our own way and make the omnipotent being like it, but that’s not the case here.

That’s not to say that Brightest Day felt entirely perfunctory or by-the-numbers. I imagine a reader’s enjoyment of the series will vary with his or her appreciation for the particular character(s) involved. For example, I’ve always liked Aquaman and Firestorm, and not so much the Hawks, and BD did nothing to change that. Nevertheless, while I liked parts of Brightest Day well enough, I have to say it was a disappointment. Brightest Day #24 tries to infuse the rest of the miniseries with deeper meaning, but in the end it came down to process. Twelve heroes and villains were brought back from the dead and moved from one set of Points A to another set of Points B (and probably a future set of Points C, etc.) While a good bit of it was entertaining, it didn’t live up to its potential.

More details, and SPOILERS, below…

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You know, I’m not sure what to think about the “new” Swamp Thing. Essentially, this is not the same character who first appeared in 1972′s Swamp Thing vol. 1 #1, who (among many other things) married Abby, participated in Crisis On Infinite Earths, and became one of Vertigo’s founding fathers. That fine fellow was, to paraphrase “The Anatomy Lesson,” a plant trying its best to be Alec Holland. By contrast, the character (re)introduced in Brightest Day #24 is Alec Holland, who’s been dead ever since Swamp Thing vol. 1 #1, and who apparently gives himself over (back?) to The Green in order to protect the Earth, blah blah blah. What’s more, the Swampy we’ve come to know has since been corrupted by Nekron’s influence — not exactly into a Black Lantern, but close — and he ends up being killed by the real Alec Holland. It reminded me both of the original Superman (Kal-L)’s death during Infinite Crisis, and Ben Reilly (thought to be the real Peter Parker) taking over as Spider-Man.

What’s more, it has the high-minded tone of “this is how things should have been,” which (intentionally or not) tends to diminish, however slightly, the Swamp Thing of Wein, Wrightson, Moore, Bissette, Totleben, et al. I mean, my first thought was boy, Alan Moore’s gonna get mad again, but then I remembered Alan Moore probably couldn’t care less about anything DC does anymore.*

Oh, and now Swamp Thing is out for vengeance against cartoonish corporate polluters, with John Constantine trailing along like a New Wave version of Jack McGee.

Still, it’s nice to have Swamp Thing and Constantine, or versions thereof, back in the DC Universe proper. It goes along with Death’s recent appearances in Action Comics; and was that Madame Xanadu I saw in this week’s Wonder Woman #610? I don’t think a new Swamp Thing series is imminent, either from DC or Vertigo, but hey, at least he can invade Gotham City again, for the first time.

Abrupt as it might have been, Swamp Thing’s portion of Brightest Day was handled pretty elegantly compared to Hawkman and Hawkgirl’s. Their particular plot involved breaking Hath-Set’s curse over Khufu and Chay-Ara, which doomed the two lovers to be reincarnated perpetually, and to have future reincarnations facilitated by Hath-Set killing them. This time, though, the Hawks travel first to the “bridge” planet called Hawkworld, and then to the Star Sapphires’ homeworld Zamaron, to a) discover the link between the eternal lovers and the Sapphires, and b) break the cycle of reincarnation by killing Hath-Set. That last turns out to be fairly simple, as Hawkman snaps his neck when the moment presents itself. However, Hath-Set had a partner, Chay-Ara’s mother, who (to make a long story short) winds up on the wrong end of the Love Entity. Along the way there are a lot of glimpses into the Hawks’ past lives, a lot of talk about staying together forever (in the ‘til-death sense), and of course a lot of fighting.

Up to issue #24, I thought this was a decent way to give the Hawks some closure, because for several years they’d been defined, at least in part, by this reincarnation cycle, and — you’ll pardon the expression — it was getting old. Removing this subplot seemed to be a good way to make the Hawks more accessible, and the two of them together was mellowing Hawkman into a more tolerable character. However, the whole arc relied too heavily both on knowledge of the Hawks’ past lives and on a decent familiarity with current Star Sapphire lore, and worked not so much as a reintroduction, but as a payoff. Furthermore, with Hawkgirl turned into … an air elemental? Wind itself? … by the events of #24, we’re back to Angry Hawkman Is Angry. Surely this situation won’t last long, and I expect it will be resolved either in Justice Society or in some future Hawkman title. Again, if I liked Hawkman more, I’d be more inclined to care.

Also left frustrated by the events of #24 was Deadman — or, more accurately, the revived Boston Brand, who spent much of Brightest Day as the White Lantern’s agent, bouncing from crisis point to crisis point and generally moving the plot along. Boston’s mission was to experience life, mostly through cheeseburgers and sex, and it did yield a nice couple of scenes with his grandfather.** However, it looks like the White Lantern and I read two different sets of Deadman comics, because the WL sees Boston/Deadman as worried only about himself. Boston sacrifices his life to save Dove towards the end of #24, not surprisingly returning him to the familiar Deadman role — and also not surprisingly, Deadman isn’t too happy about getting back to the old grind. Despite all that, though, I had thought Deadman was comfortable with his place in the universe, especially since his killer had been brought to justice, right? Even if the Hook is still out there, you’d think that would excuse a little single-mindedness on Deadman’s part. Boston’s arc was decent enough, but the context the White Lantern brought to it seemed a bit forced.

Similarly, the Firestorm plot — Ronnie, who’s been brought back to life, and Jason, who never died, have to work together — felt like it contradicted a previous story. Early in Jason’s series (around issues #9-#13), Ronnie and Jason worked together as Firestorm without being at each other’s throats. Ronnie then faded away, apparently having lost the connection to Firestorm which was keeping him “alive.” Next time we saw Ronnie was as the Black Lantern Firestorm, who killed Gehenna, which put Ronnie and Jason on less-than-good terms. In short, Brightest Day never mentions that the two had some small interactions before Blackest Night, which strikes me as a significant omission because it could have added some complexity to their relationship. “Former colleagues fighting” is better dramatically than “relative strangers fighting.” As with Hawkman, Brightest Day leaves Firestorm’s plot hanging, only this time with a literal countdown (gah! Surely DC is tired of that word!) to nuclear-man disaster. If it’s not resolved in a new Firestorm series (or miniseries), this seems like a good candidate for a Justice League storyline.

The Martian Manhunter’s plot contrasts his relationships with two women: D’Kay D’Razz, another Green Martian bent on bringing her race back to life; and Melissa Erdel, the aged daughter of the scientist who brought J’Onn (and, we learn, D’Kay) to Earth. D’Kay’s scheme — what? You thought someone named D’Kay wouldn’t have a scheme? — is rather predictable (not to mention twisted and violent), involving a Mars-is-restored fantasy which soon turns grim. By contrast, Melissa’s is touching. Melissa was wounded in an explosion caused by J’Onn’s arrival on Earth, leaving her with a bit of shrapnel in her skull that was slowly destroying her mind. J’Onn has been visiting her in the nursing home, appearing to her as a sort of super-powered vision of her father. In issue #24, though, he removes the shrapnel safely from her head and tells her the truth. Her faculties restored, she explains that she’s always wanted J’Onn’s forgiveness for ripping him away from the life he knew. He tells her “[y]ou didn’t steal my life. You and your father gave me one.” It’s a somewhat pat resolution (if J’Onn could take out the shrapnel just like that, why hadn’t he?), and it is a bit on-the-nose in light of his choosing Earth over Mars, but it’s still kind of sweet.

Finally, I liked the Aquaman plot best not just because it was the most superhero-y, but because it turned out to have the most in common with Brightest Day’s eventual theme. Basically, Aquaman discovers that Mera was originally sent to Atlantis to kill him, as her people’s revenge for being exiled from Atlantis to the penal colony/dimension of Xebel. This is complicated further by Mera’s sister Siren leading an invasion force, assisted by Black Manta, who had fathered a child (Jackson “Aqualad II” Hyde) able to “unlock” the Xebelians’ Bermuda Triangle prison. That’s pretty complicated, but through it all Aquaman comes across pretty well — neither square-jawed nor jaded, but capable and heroic.

His main problem throughout this plot is a constant reminder of his Black Lantern incarnation, manifested symbolically in reflections and physically through his command of only zombified sea creatures. It’s a nice indication of Nekron’s lingering influence on the Earth, presumably cleansed upon Swamp Thing’s return.*** It’s also a creepy, arresting visual which illustrates what’s at stake without letting it get in the way of the action. This plot leaves a thread dangling, but ironically enough for the only characters we know are getting their own series (written by Johns, with art by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado), Aquaman’s story stands pretty well on its own.

Like 52, Brightest Day’s art was handled by a bullpen of pencillers (Reis, Prado, Ardian Syaf, Patrick Gleason, and Scott Clark) and inkers (Oclair Albert, Vicente Sifuentes, Mark Irwin, and David Beaty), each assigned for the most part to a single set of characters. Except for Gleason, these artists’ styles were similar enough that the book looked fairly uniform, and I had no real complaints about their storytelling.

Johns and Tomasi also worked well together, to the point where I had a hard time telling who might have written what. To me, Johns’ dialogue can get a little too hard-edged, and Tomasi’s characters tend to be too verbose; but those tendencies were less evident here. I have an educated guess about who wrote what — Johns on Aquaman and the Hawks; Tomasi on Deadman, J’Onn J’Onzz, and Firestorm — but I wouldn’t be surprised if their collaboration were more complex.

As for the story’s juggling of plots, I will say it read better in big chunks (where the shifts in scene and tone were less noticeable) than it did as biweekly installments. This is a nice way of saying that the series felt somewhat disjointed in single-issue form. Early on, BD’s focus on the Hawks and/or Deadman’s travels failed to hold my attention, and the Firestorm plot (dealing both with Stormy’s mechanics and with those of his Black Lantern counterpart) felt similarly ungrounded. The series picked up steam with the Martian Manhunter and Aquaman plots, and of course as everything came together in the last few issues.

That said, I don’t think Brightest Day would have worked as well if it were split into discrete Rebirth-style miniseries. Perhaps this could have been a kind of Seven Soldiers-style format, say with two oversized BD issues bookending a series of four- or five-issue Aquaman, Hawkman, Firestorm, and Martian Manhunter miniseries. A “Life Restored” moment at the end of each miniseries (and in the outsourced bits as well) would then have fed into the second big BD issue. Actually, I’m a little surprised DC didn’t try something like that, but I imagine logistical concerns (like Johns’ schedule) won out.

However, putting all these characters into the same book did reinforce a sense of underlying mystery and interconnectedness. It would have helped if these characters — most of whom were friends and colleagues — realized those shared connections, even in a setting as kitschy as the two married couples comparing notes over dinner. (In the Satellite Era, the JLAers socialized quite a bit in their off-duty hours.) Regardless, although the connections weren’t played up, they were there; and it simplified matters to have everyone in the same book. It also allowed Boston/Deadman to weave his way through the various arcs, something which a series of miniseries couldn’t have pulled off as smoothly.

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In terms of the bottom line, Brightest Day has had consistently good sales since last April’s issue #0 debuted at the top of ICV2′s chart, and is up there with the Bat-books and Green Lantern as one of DC’s most successful titles of the past year. Not only has it placed consistently in ICV2′s top ten (and often in the top five), it has used the favorable buzz from Blackest Night and Green Lantern to stir interest in its B- and C-list cast. Moreover, despite issue #22′s sales being down to almost half of issue #0′s, its top-ten status seems pretty secure, thanks to overall declines in periodical sales. I’d say that’s good news generally for the upcoming Aquaman series, as well as whatever else comes out of BD.

Unfortunately, in an historical context, Brightest Day’s overall numbers aren’t as impressive. Issue #22 sold 69,824 copies to retailers, which lags behind comparable data from DC’s other year-long, more-than-monthly, event-style miniseries. Countdown #3 (third-from-last in the book’s reverse-numbered order) sold a scarily-similar 69,829 copies to retailers, but its final two issues ticked up to 70,163 and 72,703 copies each. 52’s final three issues were miles ahead of both its successors, selling 97,073, 94,934, and 102,075 copies of issues #50, #51, and #52. Brightest Day’s final numbers won’t determine entirely the success of its spinoffs — I’d imagine Aquaman #1 would do better than 70,000 copies just on the strength of Johns, Reis, and Prado — but as a rule, I have to think that the spinoffs won’t sell as well.

As a story, Brightest Day had its highs and lows. As continuity, though, fans can compartmentalize BD into individual arcs, choosing to remember what they liked over what they didn’t.  Geoff Johns’ real skill may lie in that realm: making comics which are, at a minimum, more good than bad. I say this as someone who’s read a good bit of Johns’ DC work, and who thinks that at this point he’s probably close to the top of his game. Clearly, Brightest Day entertained enough readers to keep it at the top of the charts throughout its year-long run. I think it’ll do well enough to make Aquaman a decent-selling book, at least as long as Johns is associated with it. Whether BD’s coattails are long enough to carry books for BD’s other principals remains to be seen.

It’s probably not news to note that year-long, process-oriented miniseries can attract a significant audience. Nor is it that insightful to call Brightest Day an improvement on Countdown.  For now, though, the White Lanterns at DC must be pleased with Brightest Day. It carried a decent amount of momentum from Blackest Night, it set up at least one new ongoing series, and it repatriated Swamp Thing and John Constantine. Too bad it couldn’t have done these things in one cohesive story.

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* [And then I saw Let’s Be Friends Again’s be-careful-what-you-wish-for take, seasoned with the notion that Johns and Moore are fighting some invisible, arcane duel of wits through the ether, and thought my first impulse might not have been too far off.]

** [I’m pretty sure no sex was involved with the grandfather, although I can’t remember about the cheeseburgers.]

*** [During the course of Brightest Day, in another symbolic “purge of darkness,” Aquaman’s dismemberment is re-enacted and subsequently healed. I don’t think this is meant explicitly as a commentary on the Peter David run, just something else about Aquaman that needed “fixing.” Although, he’s called “Arthur Curry” a lot more than “Orin” in this miniseries....]

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49 Comments

“What’s more, it has the high-minded tone of “this is how things should have been,” which (intentionally or not) tends to diminish, however slightly, the Swamp Thing of Wein, Wrightson, Moore, Bissette, Totleben, et al. ”

That high-monded tone is the same one I get everytime I read some Geoff Johns book since Infinite Crisis. I knew we would get the version of Swamp Thing that Johns used to read as a kid. He has an increidbly arrogant God (of comics) complex, that relays heavily on his child memories. The thing is, I didn`t read the same comics he read, and I don`t get excited by “epic” splash pages, unimaginative one-liners and lame puns, the three cornerstones of his writing.

When he was in Teen Titans or even Stars and Stripes, he was a guy with good ideas and a strong caracterization feeling. Then he got too much power, so to speak, and as I see it, fell from the weight of his own oportunities. I can think of at least two other guys who where IT some years ago, and suffered from the same problem. They are struggling to get a job now, writing at least some C-level character.

Those who feel like me, just have to sit and wait.

(I sound really angry, don`t I? I`m not. Just a little fan-frustrated :P )

Beware Of Geek

April 30, 2011 at 8:18 am

One thing you didn’t bring up that I thought you would…

On the balance, the resurrected villains all have happier endings than the resurrected heroes.

@Nataniel I agree with you about GJ, but the sales numbers seem to indicate that quite a few fans like the same things he did/does. Or at least how he presents them.

I dunno. For my money I enjoyed BD but part of the ending didn’t work for me. The Deadman ending especialy since I liked his character arc. That and the stuff with Swamp Thing wasn’t seeded too well but it works. I guess I was just hoping for a Deadman Alive ongoing. :)

Though Hawkman and Firestorm were supposed to get their own ongoings according to bleeding cool so those subplots should be resolved soon. Overall the series was more good than bad.

And I don’t mind Alec Holland being Swamp Thing. I haven’t read the Alan Moore stories so I can’t honestly say I’m affected. Plus it adds a different dynamic than a plant man trying to be human which we’ve seen for a long time now.

@John G of course they do! And that`s just fine. Rob Liefeld sold ten times what he sells. As did John Byrne, and even Dan Jurgens. See what I mean?

I loved the series! I hope we see Shaiera Hall soon though, as her return was a highlight of Blackest Night.

I was most confused about Hawk. Of the 12 he was the only one not to complete what the White Lantern needed him to do. Is he back to being dead? Las we see him, he’s standing with the heroes when the lantern disappears.

As for the Swamp Thing Alan Moore stuff, I think it’s minor. It wasn’t retconned away that Swamp Thing was an elemental who thought he was Alec Holland…now he is.

@Nataniel I agree with you completely. See the mess he did with Legion of Super-Heroes, trampling the great job Shooter was trying to inject on the main book. But sales indicate people like one line-big punches better.

..

The Geohns is a force of destruction. The sooner he’s GONE, the better. He NEVER makes Continutiy “better”, he just piles bodies until he acheives the desired effect.

Shall I make a LIST? LEt’s just go with” refigerator women, Speedy’s arm, J Jonz murder, oh….WONDER DOG. The most evil plot of all.

Yeah, Wonder Dog kills on panel.

He’s a GENIUS. A SUPER-genius.

..

I enjoyed Brightest Day for the most part. The Martian Manhunter stuff IMO didn’t connect very well but it did wrap up nicely in #24. Likewise Firestorm. I am a GJ fan but I do think he bites off more than he can chew at times – like the Flash ongoing which was always late and had a gimmicky start. But BD delivered heroic superheroes and a good number of plot twists which were not gratuitous.

I am confused about Hawk’s White Lantern mission. At one point he said, “I have a purpose.” But I don’t know what that was, aside from maybe protecting Dove? That’s really the only complaint I have. Well maybe the Boston Brand death too.

Also the art was always at least very good.

Johns kills it!

As far as I know Geoff had nothing to do with Wonder Dog, Speedy’s arm, or refirgerator women.

Geoff wasn’t writing Teen Titans when Wonder Dog murdered.

Geoff wasn’t creative director of the DCU when Speedy went to the dark side.

Geoff’s use of ‘refrigerator Alex’ in Blackest Night was perfect for the story and was done by Ron Marz back ’94ish

Jonn’s murder was a plot point was thread Geoff planned to get J’onn from point a (Final Crisis) to point c (Brightest Day)

@Klrth: How many of those acts were written by Johns? Wonder Dog I know was… Speedy was Robinson, J Jonz was Morrison… Ron Marz did the fridge… I can tell you just don’t like Geoff Johns, but I find that, overall, he’s done a lot of positive things to push the DCU in the right direction…

In regards to Alec Holland/Swamp Thing, what I like about this move is that it doesn’t effect any of the continuity of the previous runs by the likes of Moore and company… This is a Swamp Thing for the DCU, not just forcing in the establish Vertigo version… no Constantine is going to be more wait and see…

Joe.

@Aquafan: thanks for the correction on the Wonderdog thing… I had trouble remembering that one… I think it was McKeever after more thought…

@Nataniel Yes. Geoff Johns has this god complex about comics which i really don’t like. He’s like DC’s Chris Claremont, except that he didn’t really write these things in the first place. I hope he gets depowered in the future. Give him a Forever line for the classic stories, and let the DCU grow a bit instead of just always rebooting. I hope he never moves to Marvel to undo all the progress that has been made on the X-books.

@recently…Wonder Dog killing was written by McKeever

@Aquafan “@recently…Wonder Dog killing was written by McKeever” yup… I was wrong…

klrth get your facts straight and then come out from whatever rock you live under to talk to us

@recently….I wasn’t trying to rub it in your face = )

WHAT?

The headline is a lyric from “WHAT I DID FOR LOVE”??

@Aquafan: I know you weren’t, I just ever want to be one of those internet people who can’t admit they can be wrong…

Joe.

I think the unfortunate part about Brightest Day was that really, the story was meant to relaunch several of the characters in their own series. I liked some of the individual stories better than others.

J’onn’s story just is weird for me because we have Miss Martian who is a white Martian and supposedly evil, but then D’Kay and J’onn’s brother are both evil green Martians. I thought evil greens were a rarity. The Swamp Thing reveal felt like a let down but again, it seems like it’s more justiified for a relaunch of the character, rather than doing something that might have made just a touch more sense, like Don Hall becoming the White Lantern.

PS Love the title of the article.

I agree that Brightest Day would have worked a lot better in a Seven Soldiers of Victory kind of format. It would have erased many of the cohesiveness problems and would have allowed more breathing room for the character’s story arcs.

Two spinoff series.

It was revealed in Justice League: Generation Lost’s last issue that the Justice League International is returning with their own book. JL:GL was focused completely on Max Lord’s mission by the White Lantern, and his subsequent attempt for revenge on Wonder Woman for killing him. The JL:GL cast were unaffected by Max’s initial use of his powers. Unfortunately, Max only shows up in 1 panel in Brightest Day #24.

Aquaman has bad luck with his own series, while JLI was one of the most popular books DC was putting out early in its first run. We’ll see how both books do going forward.

I saw the Swamp Thing coming a mile off, so I wasn’t as up in arms about the late introduction as everybody else seemed to be.

Anyway, looking forward to Aquaman and hopefully JLI.

I lost interest in BD before the halfway mark. The only stories I was really interested in were Martian Manhunter and Hawkman. Both disappointed.

Once upon a time, Johns wrote a cracking good Hawkman title. This BD Hawkman bears little resemblance to that character. First, I thought the reincarnation/Hath-Set problem has been solved a couple of times already. Second, the inclusion of Hawkworld, the Zamorans and Shiera’s mother drew reader’s away from the core of Hawkman which Johns himself had established in the former solo title and JSA. Although, to be honest, I didn’t much care for Shiera’s resurrection at the expense of Kendra Saunders in the first place.

I knew I was going to be in for a rough ride with J’onn early on with the Geoffcons to his origin. The rest of the story was fairly predictable in the main beats. It’s hard to be subtle when your bad Martian is named D’Kay. Not much really changed for J’onn. He defeated D’Kay in a mind battle, and chose Earth over Mars. Big deal.

I felt the ending was kind of out there, but I don’t have an investment in either Swamp Thing or Constantine. Did seem kind of forced, though. The individual arcs never meshed for me, and suffered from a distinct disconnect. That may have been the format, but given the final product, maybe not.

I used to be a big Geoff Johns fan. His first runs of JSA and Flash, along with Hawkman I still consider very good works.
But now, I don’t buy anything with his name on it. It’s like I’ve seen his entire bag of tricks, and he has nothing new to offer. To make a movie analogy, he can write a decent summer blockbuster, but don’t expect anything with more depth than that.

JL: Generation Lost, btw, was fantastic. Go figure.

I’m torn apart between the goal and the ways and means to succeed…

SWAMP THING’ return is a decent new incarnation, adapted for the DCU, a way to come back to the character’ roots (sorry) without whipping what Alan Moore did. I just hope his new adventures will have the same density.

Loved BD’ rooster, especially the spotlight onto DEADMAN (who is also long-time fav) but Johns’ story-telling remains too factual for my tastes : all over the plot, and almost no purpose…I just can’t explain but I can’t believe any of his stories’ installment, I always feel how “un-natural” this is all tying, while Moore, Milligan, Gaiman and Morrison always dropp me into cosmos..

Being a lifelong fan of Swamp Thing and even more so Hellblazer, the end of BD seems like both a cheap way to get attention and a total bastardization of Vertigo characters. It is also exactly what I would expect Geoff Johns to do. I agree with earlier posts that Johns was a great writer before Infinite Crisis, but the wheels fell off after.

I met Geoff Johns once at a signing. It was just as his first issue of Action Comics came out, right after Infinite Crisis. I asked him the same question I ask all superhero writers when I meet them. I asked when he was going to do something for Vertigo or an independant publisher. You know, something with a bit more depth to it, right? He gave me a dirty look and didn’t answer the question. It was like he got annoyed that I would suggest that he should grow as a writer. And you know what? From what I’ve read of his work since then, he really hasn’t grown as a writer at all. To me that’s sad. With his popularity, he could do any project he wanted. Frank Miller moved on to do Sin City. Greg Rucka moved on to do Stumptown. How is it that Johns has no desire to move on or grow? I can’t answer that, but I can certainly see his lack of desire to grow in his work. Eight or ten years ago he was one of my favorite writers. Now I just kind of feel sorry for him, his fans, and the DC universe in general.

Let’s see….

Before Johns, there was

- Kyle Rayner alone as GL
- Superman red and blue
- Aquaman with Harpoon Hand
- all sorts of other randomness, like 90′s Superboy

The fact is, the DCU was in bad shape before 52. The truly bizarre editorial mandates of the 90′s left a hodgepodge mess of new and classic characters with a complex continuity that new readers would never warm up to. Yeah, Damage was going to be the next classic character….NOT.

Brightest Day certainly had its flaws but it has left the DCU in a better place than when it started, and getting there was not half bad. BD actually was pretty good. I agree that Johns’ storytelling is a bit forced – still the story itself was good. Unlike Final Crisis, for example, which was confusing, pointless, and too long/big.

I hope Flashpoint is at least as good as Brightest Day.

@Paul Your list, as any list, is a very, very limited one. I could make a glorious list of beautiful things we had in the 90`s that nobody seem to remember (like, for example, the spirit of change as a motor to the DC Universe). And what can I say, Kyle Ryner -a sensitive, artistic guy with a ring that gives his endless imagination the power to do whatever he wants vs. the guy that makes boxing gloves? that`s a no brainer to me.

I just think that DC comics -a huge creativity wale where everyone`s stories COUNTS- can`t be “in a bad shape”. You just have the talent to work and respect what others are doing and have done before you, or you believe that you are the only guy who “get`s it” and try to shape everything to your ideas.

Without Gran Morrison, Animal Man would have lost his arms in Infinite Crisis too. All that Damage needed was a good writer.

Anyone who puts down PAD’s Aquaman obviously didn’t read it.

Question: when did Swamp Thing die in the first place, necessitating a resurrection in ‘Brightest Day’?

@Nataniel

But in the 90′s the stories weren’t so much respecting what came before as creating novelty to generate sales. The things I listed like red and blue Superman were just gimmicks to sell action figures and “first appearance” issues. Ron Marz himself has said that Kyle Rayner was basically just invented so there would be SOMETHING after the Guardians, the Corps, and the rest were *totally wiped out* for new readers to “come on board”. Kyle is a decent character in spite of that. In the same way, I did like Damage (in Justice Society of America) but he was never going to be an A-list character.

What Brightest Day did was to build something new out of the old – NOT annihilate it, not gimmick it up for 6 year olds’ action figures, not twist a character into knots to satisfy the ego of a hot writer or artist. Brightest Day gave us the readers back a dozen worthwhile characters that had basically fallen by the wayside over the years. Ronnie Raymond, Maxwell Lord, Captain Boomerang, Aquaman – all these characters had become INCONVENIENT to the writers at some point and were dispatched to comics purgatory – misused, underused, and finally killed. You might say Damage is as good a character as Maxwell Lord. I would disagree. Some characters are instantly recognized and remembered long after the book has been put away or even canceled. These kinds of characters are what draw people to comics and GOOD COMICS respect that. Bad comics sell books based on novelty, trendiness, and shock value (OMG there’s a woman in the fridge!! OMG it’s the First Appearance of Blue Superman!!).

So I put BD in the Good category. YMMV.

Those who have read Moore’s Swamp Thing will always have the memories and TPBs to enjoy. Them what hasn’t read Moore’s Swamp Thing — You don’t know what you’re missin! Accept no substitutes!
http://www.tinyurl.com/readswampthing

A lot of the banter on these comments is the never-ending war in superhero shared universes. It’s the eternal struggle between Continuity vs. accessibility to new readers. And its a war that will never end and has no winners. Let me explain.

We, the regular comics readership, debate quite frequently about the ins-and-outs of continuity, what “did happen” or “didn’t happen” in the history of whatever universe we’re reading. And it’s that continuity stretching back decades that is often cited as the reason comic books can’t attract a larger audience. I’d argue against as a full truth-in my mind it’s really more about the direct market system-but that’s a different diatribe.

However, efforts to be more accessible to new readers are then met with criticism that they’re demeaning the importance of continuity and sacrificing yesterday’s history for the sake of today’s entertainment. Continuity seems to be simultaneously the most important and most damaging element of these universes.

What I’m saying is, subconsciously or not, comics readers WANT to remain a ghetto, isolated from the mainstream, free to quibble among themselves, but in reality marginalizing a whole medium. The demands WE make of the companies to always explain minutia of these backstories might in reality, be blocking some great stories from getting told. I’d argue, basically-ease up. Comics need to stay fresh while bending laws of continuity and history when appropriate-and when its appropriate is when it opens the door for new, exciting, and good-selling stories. At all points, changes in continuity have led to some of comics’ greatest stories. Without the Earth-One/Earth-Two split, there would have been no “Flash of Two Worlds” or the JLA/JSA crossovers. Without “Crisis on Infinite Earths”, there’d be no “Batman: Year One”, “GL: Emerald Dawn”, and so many others. Without “One More Day”, there would have never been that huge selling Obama issue….well, maybe.

Point is, the story’s QUALITY should be the most important thing. Not its absolute and total adherence to continuity established long, long ago-and by someone who was probably ignoring stuff that came before, too, and just wanted to write a good story.

Also, quick complaint on this article-editorializing is fine and dandy, but I really don’t care what YOU say Geoff Johns’ plot should have been. Review his work, leave your own story ideas at home.

Accusing 90′s DC comics of trying to sell action figures is utterly absurd. Until that Extreme Justice toy line most of those 90′s newbies never had action figures. And seriously, how many Blackest Night/ Brightest Day action figures have they made? How many splash pages were filled with those same action figures in Geoff Johns comics? As far as I could tell, selling action figures was the entire point of Blackest Night. Every character had two or three wardrobe changes in that book, just to make more action figures. That fold out page in the last issue? Pure toy advertisement.

The reason people still look back fondly on DC in the 90′s is because the stories were moving forward. Silver age characters were getting older, getting killed or turning into bad guys and the younger generation was taking the torch from them. Dad was dead so Junior had to grow up and do the job. It was compelling stuff. And as that was going on, Vertigo was flourising, taking these bland old spandex characters and mixing in fantasy and real time and smarter writing to create something better than superhero comics ever were before, or honestly, since.

I mean, screw up the corporate spandex all you want, but mucking up Vertigo characters is unforgivable.

I guess I can see how you might like this recent stuff if you didn’t start reading until the 2000′s, but for all of us who started before then it feels like they’re trying to force us into reading 40 year old comics. It feels like they’re pandering to my grandfather. I want to read about the Flash, not the Flash’s formerly-dead dad so to speak. Bringing back dad is moving the story backwards and moving a story moving backwards is not good writing. It’s nostalgia at best, pandering garbage at worst.

Barry Allen’s death was interesting. They undid that. Hal Jordan as a bad guy was interesting. They undid that. Swamp Thing turning out to be purely plant? One of the best plot twist in comics history. Now they undid that, too. The Superfriends was a crappy cartoon and I don’t like when my comics copy it. Johns and Didillo obviously disagree with me on that point.

And that’s enough of me being a grumpy old fan for one day. I think I’ll go talk to some humans now.

I enjoyed it for the most part. But I think it could of been condensed down drastically.

The Hawks were the only segments I just didn’t enjoy. Firestorm on the other hand was a surprise favorite of mine – Scott Clark’s art was amazing. Would love to see an ongoing.

I know we are getting ongoings of Aquaman (which I’ll be getting) and Hawkman (which I’ll pass on) – hopefully more announcements are to come!

One thing I wanted to ask – what was Reverse Flash’s mission? – it wasn’t mentioned in issue 24, when just about everyone elses was.

Thanks!

Eric Qel-Droma

April 30, 2011 at 9:28 pm

Blarg: You’re not a grumpy old fan. You’re just right! Kyle Rayner did more as a character in the 90′s than Hal Jordan has EVER done. And don’t get me started on Wally.

DC has done nothing but move backwards with most characters for ten years. No wonder I don’t buy any of their stuff nowadays.

other then alex holand winding up being brought back and had to really become swamp thing and Hawkman now having to be alone with Shiera now stuck as wind after he had to put up with her as Kendra. aculty thought brightest day ending was not real bad love the fire storm plot. of jason and ronnie having to work together as firestorm. as for reverse flash his mission was to get Barry back on track as a hero.again.

Realitätsprüfung

May 1, 2011 at 12:16 am

blarg wrote: “I met Geoff Johns once at a signing. It was just as his first issue of Action Comics came out, right after Infinite Crisis. I asked him the same question I ask all superhero writers when I meet them. I asked when he was going to do something for Vertigo or an independant publisher. You know, something with a bit more depth to it, right? He gave me a dirty look and didn’t answer the question. It was like he got annoyed that I would suggest that he should grow as a writer.”

Uhh…your question was presumptuous and a touch antagonistic; I mean, the fact you think a writer needs to go indie to write something with depth (read: street cred with would-be comic snobs) says more about you than the person you’re talking to. Even going beyond the fact Johns actually *has* written creator-owned books.

Which isn’t to say Johns is a great comics writer; in my book he’s pretty middle of the road in execution. But definitely a top-notch retooler / fixit / idea man, hence his current position at DC.

And he’s certainly retooled a lot of old ideas, but most of the stuff you’re complaining about was – at the end of the day – the same thing: How can we make this work today? The method may be a bit different on the surface, but the deal is the same. Readers from 10 or 20 or 40 years ago aren’t being marketed to; they’re retooling concepts to get them in front of newer readers today, based on marketability and appeal.

Morrison’s All-Star Superman and Johns Green Lantern are both great examples of that. Modernizing older characters/concepts for a fresh audience that doesn’t care about the 90s, or for that matter the 60s or 40s either.

>Readers from 10 or 20 or 40 years ago aren’t being marketed to; they’re retooling concepts to get them in front >of newer readers today, based on marketability and appeal.

That´s a good point. But… if the idea is to bring new characters to new readers… why then the old all-white, two dimensional characters from yesteryear? I think your description of a plan fit best for the introduction of Connor Hawk or Kyle Ryner, or Ryan Choi for that case, than Barry Allen, Hal Jordan, Ray Palmer, and all the Grampas League of America.

I still believe that with a bunch of good writers, you can bring all-new characters with wonderful background to new , younger readers.

I want to make clear that I think the 90`s where also a very crappy time for comics. In those days, the artist were kings, and they really, really care nothing about their scripts (didn`t need to, their comics sold hundreds of thousends copies!). Since the beginning of the 00`s we began a new era of writer-centered universes, that in reality meant that the overgrown artistic egos went from one brunch to the other…

I_Captain Blanco

May 1, 2011 at 7:56 pm

blarg wrote:

“Anyone who puts down PAD’s Aquaman obviously didn’t read it.”

Nope. I read it. Didn’t care for it. The character GJ wrote about in BRIGHTEST DAY was much closer to “my” Aquaman than the one PAD wrote about.

But that’s OK, ’cause there’s no law that says everybody has to agree.

The_Livewire

May 2, 2011 at 8:04 am

I was disappointed in Blackest Night/Brightest day for the body count, and the ending of BD. Like others said, the heroes came out worse off than the villians.

Roger Lockwood

May 2, 2011 at 11:11 am

The individual characters would have made a really great JLA team (Deadman and Hawk & Dove included).

@Real etc…

“Uhh…your question was presumptuous and a touch antagonistic; I mean, the fact you think a writer needs to go indie to write something with depth (read: street cred with would-be comic snobs) says more about you than the person you’re talking to. Even going beyond the fact Johns actually *has* written creator-owned books.”

If my question was so presumptuous and antagonistic, what question would you suggest I ask of a superhero comic writer? What color should Aquaman’s boots be? What is the right length for Batman’s ears? If a person wants to be a writer, it’s usually because they have some story they want to tell. And I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to assume that writing corporately owned superheroes with an editor always looking over your shoulder would be stifling. Not to mention the fact that most DC/ Marvel writers can’t even talk about upcoming superhero projects anyway. I mean, what else is there to talk about while I get my comics signed? The weather? I was still a fan of Johns’ work at the time. I wanted to know where he wanted to go as a writer. And asking what kind of indie or Vertigo comic they’d like to write usually shows a writer that I’m more interested in them and their actual work than a bunch of superheroes chasing each other in circles. Most writers take a question like that as a compliment.

I think that history has shown us that many if not all comic writers do their best work when they are free to write exactly what they want. As long as a writer is doing DC or Marvel capes, they will always be heavily constrained. Basically, I was asking Johns what his dream project would be. His response kind of made me think that he didn’t have one. Or that Green Lantern was it. If that’s the case, he’s certainly making the right move by moving away from the writing and getting more into corporate editorial suit and tie stuff. But right now, Johns could write anything he wanted, for any publisher he wanted (exlusive deals aside). That seems like a hell of an artistic opportunity to pass up.

I asked the same question of Ed Brubaker at a convention and he looked me in the eyes and enthusiastically said “crime comics.” Then he handed me a copy of Criminal and we talked for a several more minutes. Most writers are very happy to tell you what kind of stories they’d like to write. Basically, when I meet a writer, I want to know where their passion lies. I mean, what else is there to talk about? My question may be a bit antagonistic, but the answers I get are usually very telling. Because my question basically boils down to “Are you a real writer or are you just regurgitating forty year old cartoons for a paycheck?” Geoff Johns’ non answer certainly answered my question, especially considering his work since.

And if thinking that the storytelling medium of comic books can be better than just the same old Marvel/ DC superheroes dying and getting resurrected over and over makes me a snob, then I wear that badge proudly. I get so frustrated with Geoff Johns because, if his earlier work is any indication, he could be producing better stuff now. I think he has the talent to create something that would appeal to more than just us superhero fans. My only question is, why doesn’t he?

And oh yeah, has Johns actually done any independant or Vertigo work? If he has I haven’t heard about it. Maybe he wrote something awesome and I missed it. Because seriously, as much as I hate what Johns is doing with the DCU, I would forgive it all in a second if he impressed me with something completely new and original.

I think the nostalgia that Geoff Johns has is a double edged sword because it works in some cases and not others.
For Example-
- His work on Superman and the Legion was pretty cool because he came up with cool stories that advance the world and characters while at the same time respecting continuity.
-But however his work on teen titans left me much to be desired because it felt too much like the 80′s titans too me which was bad because most of the characters that were in the book like cyborg, starfire, raven, and starfire outgrew the team and the book and deserved to be adults elsewhere. I also felt that there was no real need for the teen titans brand name to come back because young justice had become the next generation of teen superheroes in the same vein of the JLA becoming next gen JSA.

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