There’s no easy way to say it: “Brightest Day” is still a bit of a mess. I think it comes down to a simple problem, too. If you try to please everyone, you’ll end up pleasing no one.
“Brightest Day” is continuing to jump from one story to the next, with this issue hitting Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, Deadman, Firestorm, and Hawk & Dove. On the surface, that probably seems like a good idea; showcase a lot of characters, so that the fans of each one get a little something. The problem is, all of the pieces are so small that they end up being unsatisfying.
I think this technique worked better in “52” because there, as a weekly series, the writing team wasn’t afraid to occasionally drop a character entirely for a week, because they would come back just seven days later. It still felt fast-moving because new installments rolled out like clockwork. Here, with issues published every other week, it feels like Geoff Johns and Peter J. Tomasi are dragging their feet a bit, that things are inching along. It makes me wonder if a series of mini-series about each spotlight character might’ve been the better way to go, “Seven Soldiers” style.
There are a couple of good bits along the way, though. Ronnie Raymond’s alcohol binges at least get a motivation this issue, and while it feels slightly forced it’s no longer so out of the blue. Likewise, the mystery voice (that may or may not be Gehenna) existing in the Firestorm Matrix is one of the first truly interesting pieces of plot advancement we’ve seen to date. But other stories, like Deadman and Hawk and Dove, just drag. When Deadman is asked when the last time he ate, it’s hard to not want to shout out, “A small eternity” based on how long it feels like his storyline has gone on for.
The artists assigned to “Brightest Day” don’t really have comparable styles, but it’s all fine. Ivan Reis’s pages in particular look nice as always, although I’d rather see him on a book all of his own. And while I’m not 100% sure who the artist is on the Aquaman pages, whomever it is has channeled their inner Michael Kaluta with that two-page splash showing Aquaman and Mera’s history. If an Aquaman series comes out of “Brightest Day” I think we’ve found the perfect artist. The way the characters feel almost fluid as they move across the pages, it’s a smart choice.
“Brightest Day” has picked up a bit since its debut, but it still doesn’t seem to quite work. (And that’s not even talking about the “shocking cliffhanger,” which at best is an ill-timed fake-out and at worst a real waste of a character.) I understand the love of the weekly or even twice-monthly series, but in this case I feel it isn’t doing “Brightest Day” any favors. Just about every creator on this series is capable of something better, and it’s a shame to see this not living up to its creative potential.