When a book plays the, “It’s all just a dream” card, it’s hard to keep from feeling a little cheated, and yet comic books seem to rejoice in this literary device. In the case of “Brightest Day,” it was several issues ago that Martian Manhunter was mentally hoodwinked by D’kay. The end result is that as readers, we know from the moment that “Brightest Day” #15 begins that this is all a dream of sorts, a Mars twenty-five years in the future that exists only in J’onn’s mind.
It’s a freeing story element for Geoff Johns and Peter J. Tomasi, who don’t have to try and persuade their audience to buy into this future timeline where J’onn has become a Green Lantern, Mars is alive and populated once again, and someone is slowly killing the founders of the Justice League. Instead of trying to look for clues on what’s really going on, the reader gets to look for the signposts that this is a dream and which J’onn may or may not be recognizing.
Of course, the one downside is that before too long, readers are going to get a little tired of the story and start itching for it to come to a conclusion, or at least for J’onn to break out of his mental prison. Taking up all but two pages of “Brightest Day” #15, it does slightly overstay its welcome. On the bright side, though, it does mean that all but two of the pages are penciled by Patrick Gleason, and getting almost a full book’s worth of art from him is a real plus. Considering that seven people inked Gleason’s pencils this issue, it looks uniformly strong; Gleason has grown as an artist over the past few years, and his art reminds me a lot of people like Doug Mahnke with a slightly exaggerated form that is smooth and powerful. As grim as the image of the Justice League laid out in the morgue is, each of the characters is drawn with detail and strength, and it makes me hope for another high profile assignment for Gleason once “Brightest Day” is over. Scott Clark gets the final two pages of the issue, leading into the Firestorm storyline, and while visually it’s a huge shift I do like how he tackles the two surprise Justice League members that appear here.
I appreciate that “Brightest Day” isn’t afraid to give almost all of an issue as a spotlight to a single character; it keeps the book from feeling scattershot like those first few issues, and it’s found a storytelling rhythm of its own. I just wish that the Martian Manhunter story had moved a bit more quickly and given us some more progression now that we’re finally back to the character. Still, the book is maintaining a solid, middle-of-the-pack approach, and there’s enough here to sustain interest for another issue.