Brightest Day #24
Written by Geoff Johns and Peter J. Tomasi
Art by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Patrick Gleason, Ardian Syaf, Scott Clark, Norm Rapmund, Vincente Cifuentes, Oclair Albert, Tom Nguyen, Mick Gray, Mark Irwin, David Beaty, and Peter Steigerwald
Letters by Rob Clark, Jr.
Published by DC Comics
Now with all 24 issues of Brightest Day loosed upon us, one has to wonder what DC's endgame has been. The integration of the Vertigo line into the mainstream DCU? The return of a number of classic characters to their roots? It's hard to say, and not in the least because Brightest Day has felt somewhat stilted since the first few issues. It was made clear early on that the series was building towards something, and sometimes felt like it was less a story, and more a tool being used to accomplish a task.
So what did it accomplish? A semi-retcon of Swamp Thing's origin, a single page of an unexpected character return, and a few new status quos for characters who are B-list at best. Firestorm's plight is compelling, and it's good to have Aquaman back to normal, but everything else just kind of seems like old hat. So were we actually on a plotted course, or just meandering? Having read the entire series, I can't help but feel like Brightest day has been floating along on a river, with some idea of where it was going, but no real feel for how or when it arrived.
The real problem with Brightest Day has been building the mystery. The early setup was strong; several recently resurrected characters find themselves living with strange side-effects from their return. The only cure lies in somehow accomplishing vague tasks. We were shown the tasks that each character was meant to perform, and so knew what was coming, but instead of waiting and anticipating the moments when these definitive acts were to take place, it started to feel like we were simply killing time until the finale.
Meanwhile, the stories presented for each character were meant to be dramatic and revelatory, but rarely hit that mark. What might've made a good Hawkman one-shot kind of wound up running on too long, and it was the same with each character. Rather than having each individual story build to the climactic ending of the main tale, they all kind of puttered around until the deus ex machina of the White Lantern floated in and provided the most minimal context.
And that's definitely how the big finish reads, like Johns and Tomasi wrote the last issue first, and kind of couldn't really ever figure out how to wind up there. Aside from the uninspiring and often exhausting dialogue, there's nothing about this issue that really puts the nail in the coffin, it's just kind of... blase. If you told me a year ago that someday I'd be indifferent reading a comic book where two fifty-foot-tall Swamp Things are wrestling each other, I'd have punched you in the face. Yet, here I sit, checking my own pulse while the premiere creative team of the DCU attempts to cram into a single issue the entire plot that they seemed to have forgotten to add to the preceding 23. It almost seems like the appearance of John Constantine (oh, right, SPOILER ALERT) on the last page was designed to cultivate the controversy and buzz that the writers knew wouldn't arise from anything else in the issue.
Aside from all of that, the ending was just kind of confusing. The White Light is protected by the Green. No, not the Green Light. The Green that's anchored by the Parliament of Trees, which was established not once in the last 23 issues of Brightest Day. Also, the Green is powered by the elementals of Earth, who happen to be embodied by the returning heroes. Aquaman is water, because he lives in the water. It's long been established that the Firestorm matrix is the avatar of the element of fire. Hawkman and Hawkwoman are air because they fly so fancy free, and J'onn J'onzz is earth, because someone had to be Kwame. So they fight the Black Lantern Swamp Thing, while Alec Holland is resurrected and re-mutated into a White Lantern Swamp Thing to finish it off.
I'm sure there are people who will consider this as having delivered. Anyone who has loved the previous 23 issues of Brightest Day will love this one, but this ending's not gonna win over any naysayers, let alone those of us who rode the fence the whole time.
People who hated Swamp Thing existing entirely at Vertigo will also probably love this outcome, while those who are fans of the creature's status for the past several decades will be turned off by his sudden, random, and unforeseen marginalization into a growing mythology of self-serving confusion and mysticism. If you like that sort of thing, this is probably the book for you. Otherwise, just leave it on the shelf, and back slowly away.