***WARNING: The following contains spoilers for the entire Brightest Day series. If you haven’t finished it yet, read no further***
By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder
Swamp Thing, huh? That’s the big reveal? That’s what we were waiting for the entire time? Swamp Thing was the key to all of this? Swamp Thing is the one that finally eradicates Nekron, the demon of death, from Earth? That, plus ONE page of John Constantine, is our payoff for all this? I’m underwhelmed, to say the least.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not crapping on the characters themselves. They’ve both earned their place in comic book history. But pulling them out of the hat at the end like this seems like a cheap move to me. Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi spent a year building up Aquaman, Deadman, Firestorm, and all the other characters Brightest Day focused on. But at the end of it, people were talking about Constantine and Swamp Thing. For my money, that’s an injustice to the characters, whether you like Swamp Thing or not.
It’s kind of cool to see DC start using some of these popular characters from Vertigo (they did it with Death from Sandman awhile back), but it shouldn’t be done at the expense of the characters that are already on display. In any event, DC’s got a three-issue miniseries coming up called Brightest Day Aftermath: The Search For Swamp Thing, which will feature Constantine looking for the title character.
Despite what I feel was a botched finale, Aquaman, Firestorm and a good portion of the the other featured characters benefitted tremendously from Brightest Day. Others weren’t as lucky. Let’s take a look…
When we kicked off the series, Arthur Curry had just come back from the dead, and was reunited with his wife Mera. He found himself troubled by his ability to only summon undead undersea life. Hey, that’d freak anyone out, right? But as the series goes on, we learn that Mera isn’t the person we, or Arthur, thought she was. Plus, a new Aqualad, Jackson Hyde, is now in the picture. Ironically, Jackson is the son of Aquaman’s arch nemesis, Black Manta, who once killed Arthur and Mera’s infant son. In the final issue, we learn that there may be a traitor in Atlantis, who is supplying the enemy with Atlantean technology.
Of all the central characters, Aquaman probably benefitted more than anyone from Brightest Day, as is evidenced by his upcoming ongoing series written by Johns himself. Aquaman fans have longed to see Johns give the character the Rebirth treatment, and in effect, they’ve gotten it and are going to get more. The Aquaman character can be cheesy at times, but Brightesy Day proved that if done right, he can be as compelling and entertaining as any superhero. At the end of the day, that’s nothing to sneeze at.
Image from comicvine.com.
Boston Brand, a.k.a. Deadman, was the character that experienced the biggest change to his status quo during this series. Simply put: He was always a ghost-like character, and in Brightest Day he was alive again, and at the mercy of a mysterious White Lantern ring. The White Lantern is allegedly the embodiment of life itself, and the force which has foreseen all that is happening. Boston is along for the ride. During the series, he forms a romantic relationship with Dove (of Hawk & Dove), which is weird, as I was always under the impression that Dawn was a younger character. In the end, Boston is once forced to give up his life so that Alec Holland, a.k.a. Swamp Thing, can live again. As a reader, this was a sad twist, but an expected one. I like how throughout the series, we see Boston, as well as other characters, realize that this White Lantern entity is not entirely fair to them, just as life itself isn’t always fair. It’s a nice metaphor, if not a pleasant one.
I’m not sure where this leaves Deadman going forward. As Dove is now a regular in Birds of Prey, it’s possible we could see him interact with her in that book. But if nothing else, we got a really good Deadman story, and that’s not something we see enough of.
As for Hawk & Dove, they’re pretty much back where they started. Essentially, their only purpose in this book seemed to be giving Deadman people to bounce dialogue off of. However, at the end of the series the White Entity tells Hawk that he did not fulfill his “purpose” for being brought back to life. Thus, his life is not his own. What this entails remains to be seen.
In this story, the original Firestorm, Ronnie Raymond, is forced to work with the new Firestorm, Jason Rusch, as they unite into a single body when using the Firestorm Matrix. Jason is still devastated over the loss of his girlfriend in Blackest Night, and the two don’t particularly want to work together. But in the end, they MUST get along, or their emotional turbulence could prompt the Firestorm Matrix to induce a second Big Bang, ending the universe. We also get a look at the relationship the boys have with Professor Stein and Jason’s father.
The reluctant partnership between Ronnie and Jason made for good reading here, but what I think gave the characters the most service was the emphasis on just how much power Firestorm wields. This is a power that could potentially unravel the universe, and it’s in the hands of two kids with conflicting personalities. That’s great fodder for an ongoing series, though how well it would do is anyone’s guess. Jason Rusch’s Firestorm ongoing lasted 35 issues, which is a strictly decent run in my estimation.
Either way, at the end of issue 24 we get a big cliffhanger, so we’ll be seeing more Firestorm in the near future. For my money, that’s a good thing.
Image from lost-man.com.
4. Hawkman and Hawkgirl
When Blackest Night ended, Hawkgirl, a.k.a. Shiera, had all her memories back, and she and Hawkman were finally allowed to be together again. But as it turned out, their nemesis Hath-Set had been collecting remnants from their previous bodies (reincarnations and all that), and using them to create a portal to Hawkworld, where they run into Shiera’s mother, and eventually all hell breaks loose. Carol Ferris and the Star Sapphires also jump into the mix.
I wasn’t as much a fan of this plot thread, especially when you put it next to the ones involving Aquaman, Deadman and the others. It took awhile to really heat up, and even then, it didn’t do much for me. However, I will say it was pretty cool to see Hawkman unleash himself Wolverine-style on the inhabitants of Hawkworld. That was nicely done.
At the end of the series, the White Entity takes Hawkgirl away from Hawkman for some reason. In a previous issue, the Entity says that Hawkgirl was brought back so she could conquer what held her back in her previous lives, i.e. her love for Hawkman. I can only assume this is the reason she’s gone at the end of the story. Naturally, this won’t sit well with Hawkman, and I imagine he’ll be looking for her soon.
All in all, I’d wager it was a good story for Hawkman/Hawkgirl fans. Personally, I wouldn’t have shed a tear without it.
Image from scans-daily.dreamwidth.org.
5. Martian Manhunter
J’onn J’onzz is another character who doesn’t get good solo stories very often. He’s been part of the Justice League for so long that we rarely get to see him on his own. In a sense, he got some of the Rebirth treatment in Brightest Day as well. He discovers that there is another green Martian alive, and struggles with visions of his past life on Mars. He also meets the daughter of the scientist who brought him to Earth in the first place. While she is remorseful for what happened to J’onn, he says she didn’t take his life from him, but gave him one.
I don’t think J’onn will be maintaining his own ongoing series anytime soon, and there’s very little mainstream interest in him as far as I can see. Thus, it’s nice that he can shine in big ensemble stories like this. I don’t think Brightest Day was a big game changer for J’onn the way it was for Aquaman or Firestorm. But it reiterated the fact that this is a great character. And I’ll drink to that, by God…
More than anything, Brightest Day served to expand the DC Universe a bit more, but spotlighting characters that don’t always get solo limelight. In that respect, it was similar to 52, which resulted in a Booster Gold ongoing series, Renee Montoya becoming The Question, and the new Batwoman. Hopefully, a few of these characters will still be benefitting from the spotlight of Brightest Day a few years from now. With any luck, it won’t simply be remembered as the book that brought Swamp Thing and Constantine back…
Front page image from DC Comics.