By this point I think we all know that the name of “Brightest Day” has nothing to do with an upbeat tone for this mini-series or its connected tie-ins. (If not, the number of characters exploding, stabbing family members in the throat, or planning to hunt down and kill an enemy would be the tip-off for this particular issue.) So with that particular bugbear set aside, it clears the plates a bit for a more important question: regardless of the title, how is “Brightest Day” so far?
Unfortunately, the one-word answer right now is certainly, “Uneven.” Like “52” and “Countdown to Final Crisis” before it, “Brightest Day” is juggling a number of characters and settings, although here “Brightest Day” gets the advantage of being co-written by the same two people the whole way through. It would have been a reasonable guess, as a result, to assume that with the same co-authors attached to the entire story that we’d have a more cohesive start to the series. Instead, though, it’s surprising how disconnected everything feels here.
“Brightest Day” #2 focuses on just a few characters this issue, but aside from a lot of characters being recent resurrections, there’s no connection from one to the next. “52” at least had many of its characters trying to fill the void that the temporarily-gone Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman had left, but there isn’t even that sort of unity present here. Instead we get eight pages of the two Firestorms sniping and bitching at one another, a few pages of the Hawks preparing to hunt down Hath-Set, and a Martian Manhunter subplot that ends up being the most interesting part of the book. For now, it feels more like an issue of the old “Action Comics Weekly” anthology experiment from back in the day.
It’s also hard to not feel like we’ve seen a lot of this before. Two people trapped in the Firestorm matrix is a story we just had a few years ago when Stuart Moore and Jamal Igle were working on the “One Year Later” issues of “Firestorm,” only that time there was a level of fun and entertainment with Firestorm and Firehawk bonded together. Here, it’s a lot of nastiness being launched between Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch, although I am at least amused that Ronnie Raymond is the primary jerk in this relationship. (It’s as if Geoff Johns and Peter J. Tomasi are deliberately making the returning Firestorm unlikable while the more recent Jason is the voice of sanity.) If this was part of an ongoing “Firestorm” series I’d have dropped the series based on those eight pages alone; page after page of bickering does not make a good comic. As for the other stories, is there ever a Martian Manhunter series or mini-series that doesn’t ultimately go back to his origin story and try to tweak it once again? It might be the most interesting part of “Brightest Day” #2, but it also feels the most familiar and rehashed. As for the Hawks, well, their part is awfully small this issue but even it seems to be familiar territory. It’s just not that interesting. (And yes, while Aquaman is on the cover, he’s in a whopping one panel this issue. Guess someone should have told David Finch who not to draw in advance.)
With five different artist penciling “Brightest Day” #2, there’s bound to be even more of a feeling of disconnected stories going on here. Some scenes end up looking better than others; the Firestorm sequence veers between the styles of Finch and Brian Stelfreeze, and the art in the closing sequence is a good standard superhero look. On the other hand, if the point of the art in the kitchen sequence was to make me feel slightly nauseated, well, mission accomplished! Don’t read “Brightest Day” right after lunch, folks.
“Brightest Day” #2 is a mish-mash of all sorts of stories, but none of them manage to be particularly engaging. After the huge disappointment that was “Countdown to Final Crisis,” I was hoping that more recent faster-than-monthly experiments like “Trinity” and “Wednesday Comics” had shown that DC had fixed the kinks in the system. “Brightest Day,” for now, seems awfully dim. Everyone involved is capable of much better than this.