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Saturday, May 08, 2010

Brightest Day #1 - July 2010

Comics Weekend "Second Chances" by Geoff Johns, Peter J. Tomasi, Ivan Reis, Pat Gleason, and more.

Brightest Day kicks off proper, picking up at the exact moment where #0 left off: a white power battery sitting in a giant crater. Some cops try to move it, but it won't budge. Green Lantern, Star Sapphire, and Sinestro arrive to try and do the job:
They can't move it, either, and they wonder who might be able to.

Cut to: Deadman, who has found himself teleported all the over the world due to the White Lantern ring he's wearing. His latest spot is a pirate ship, featuring a crew that has taken a group of children hostage.

Deadman tries to intervene, but finds he cannot. Just as he wonders aloud who can help, a certain king and queen arrive!

Okay--at this point our hero(es) show up, so I'm just going to step back and present this great sequence at full. I'll meet you all at the end:

Aquaman's return makes the news, and a TV station discussing it is broadcast in a small fish market in Wesport, Massachusetts. The store's customers seem delighted, but the guy gutting the fish is not, to say the least: he attacks everyone in the store, gutting them as well (ick). He then takes off.

We then catch up with Firestorm, Martian Manhunter, and Hawkman and Hawkgirl, each of them having their own problems.

The issue ends with our murdering fish seller, and after he sets the store on fire, he wanders into the sea. After a few moments, he emerges, as:
...needless to say, to be continued!

Wow, what an issue, huh? I absolutely loved that Aquaman sequence, for so many reasons: first, its the action "set piece" for the issue. All the characters that Brightest Day is about get their moments, but its nice that in the very first issue, Aquaman and Mera get such attention.

Second, it shows off Aquaman and Mera's powers very effectively. You've got Aquaman's strength, speed, and mental telepathy on display, not to mention something a lot writers have not used when writing Aquaman: he's bullet-proof. Check out the first couple of pages: bullets are hitting Aquaman in the head and chest, and he's not flinching!

I've always been of the belief that, since Aquaman can withstand the pressures of the ocean, a little piece of lead isn't going to do him much harm (I've even been sort of backed up on this theory by a real-live physics professor), so I was thrilled to see Johns and Tomasi employ it here. Plus, it just looks badass.

One other thing touched on in this that I liked: they don't come out and say it, but clearly the ship is full of these modern day Somali pirates that are sailing the seas and, well, pirating. I feel like this is yet another real world issue that a modern Aquaman comic book could focus on, which could provide years' worth of storylines.

With Aquaman's Rogues Gallery being on the thin side, any Aquaman writer needs to find other things to engage the Sea King with, and (sadly) the real world gives us all kinds of things that Aquaman could face. IMHO if an Aquaman comic focused more on these sorts of issues, it might make the character connect better with readers, rather than yet another "heavy is the head that wears the crown" type of thing.

At first, I thought Mera's dialogue ("Anyone who hurts children...will feel my rage!!") was more than a bit over-the-top, but now I've come to think that was Mera trying to scare the crap out of these guys. It may sound silly, but it works (kind of like Christian Bale's "Batman voice").

If I had to complain about something, I guess I would repeat my sense of unease about the sheer amount of blood spilled here (and in Blackest Night). The scene where Black Manta cuts all his customers and fellow employees up (no Employee of the Month certificate for him!) is, to me, unnecessarily gory--you could've gotten across what he was doing without seeing every gory, blood-soaked detail. But that's just me.

Sure, there are some troubling things here for our heroes (Aquaman summoning dead sea creatures, for example), but so far this whole Brighest Day thing is being told with high style, and it was really, really great to see Aquaman and Mera like this, after so many years out of the spotlight.

Anyone who has been keeping up with Johns' comments on Aquaman knows he is clearly a big fan of the character, and while I still have some reservations about some of the story elements in Blackest Night and Blackest Day, I think we can safely regard this issue as the first step back to prominence for DC's King of the Seven Seas. Its great to have an unabashed Aquaman fan so high up on the DC ladder!


Count Drunkula said...

Thanks so much rob! for posting this review tonight! I have been looking forward to this series so much, and Arthur's prominence in BD specifically, but I won't be getting this issue (and #2) until June. These pages look spectacular. In such short order, Johns is able to showcase their power sets in such cool ways. Mera's hardwater snakes were awesome.

One thing I did notice was on their first page with the biographical captions: Mera is credited with a "mysterious origin". Does this mean Johns plans to retcon her backstory in the future? Or is it just too complicated to explain she's from an alternate water dimension in that limited space? It'll be interesting to see if that gets attention later on.

Another question/concern: Okay, Arthur can command dead sea life... but how much "control" does he really have? It seems like the squid and shark were operating on their own blood lust more than his decree. Again, we'll see how this plays out.

Everything else you mentioned I agreed with. Last summer when the news was dominated by coverage of Somali pirates, I kept thinking they're the perfect "street villain" for Arthur--the equivalent of Batman's gangsters and street hoods. He should get involved in more real world aspects like piracy and environmental issues. Not like Captain Planet eco-wars, but tracking down illegal shark and whale hunters and pollutants. How cool would it be to see Arthur rising out of the water to fight on a burning offshore oil platform while saving the workers?

Again, thanks for the spoilers and info.

Erik the Sleeper said...

Nice coverage Rob!

After recovering from my heart-attack paying for the variant cover, it was kick-arse (ass)! I personally believe DC are seriously looking toward Artie having his own book again- just my opinion, no facts to back that up.

The blood-fest of the whole issue was far too much. I think some of these artists are too far detached from the real world and if they had ever actually seen in real life what they depict in their 'art', they would quickly change they're minds.That whole scene in the fish shop could have been communicated without that unecessary blood.

Johns, Tomasi: go and spend some time with the Police and Fire Depts. Then see if you still want to draw those things for all ages to see.

Without getting too fashioista, I liked the collar/neckline of Aquaman's top and the way they've done away with the black undies.

Bloodlust aside (which I am strongly against), I'm loving the Brightest Day so far and as I said I really reckon he's going to get his own book again- IF we all keep pushing for it! Hell, they're giving the green arrow one!

Louie Joyce said...

Yeah, i dug this issue alot. Intriguing story for Aquaman so far. And i like the armored touch to his and Mera's costumes, plus definitively showing that he's bullet proof (well, resistant, as it does draw blood, but doesn't slow him down). Mera is great by the way. I love how she's not just background in this.

Manta's looking great too. The gore was pretty intense, but Johns is trying to make him look badass, and that seems to be how it's done these days. I don't mind as long as he's written well character wise.

I'm also excited to see more Pat Gleason artwork on Martian Manhunter side of things. That guy is a fantastic artist, and hopefully we even get to see him draw Aquaman in there at some point.

Joe Slab said...

As I was reading Brightest Day #1 I thought "Rob's not going to like this..." when I paged to the civilian Black Manta scene in the fish shop and I knew you would discuss it in your review!

Sad to say, I don't think the shock and gore is going to disappear from comics anytime soon. It is prevalent in all forms of media unless you seek out a "G rated" format. That being said, I am kinda worried about what Johns has in store for Mera/Arthur and the secret that somehow involves Black Manta as teased at in Blackest Night. I hope that it is not too over the top lurid or disgusting, or even worse tarnishing to the silver age history of the characters. I've got more to say, but need to be at the gym by 9AM EST so be back later :)

Wings1295 said...

Great stuff! Glad they are back in the action, doing what they do best - being heroes. Even if his powers are a bit 'off', to say the least. And I love that they are a team again!

Wings1295 said...

Oh, and Black Manta was working in Westport Mass? So he went into the ocean there, I would assume. I grew up one town over from Westport and the beach there is the one we went to. Kinda cool, even if it IS Black Manta who was there. ;)

Joe Slab said...

@Ryan re: Mera's origin- Johns has said that he would like to explore her origin which left many details unexplained ( I recently picked up her 1st appearance in Aquaman #11) and I bet that Johns wouldn't describe his plans as a retcon, but more of an origin evolution as he has done with many a character.

We have to give props to Ivan Reis and the colorist...those scenes where Mera is controlling the sea jump off the page and you can literally see the water scintillate on her armor! My hope is that Johns has Reis reserved for all future Aqua-segments in Brightest Day.

Shellhead said...

My, you guys are squeamish! I like the more mature showing of violence. It's far more realistic. It's not like many kids are reading comics anymore, guys. I almost never see them in my comic shop, that's for sure.
I consider it an evolution of the art form. Kind of like how Super Friends gave way to Justice League Unlimited. I mean, come on! He killed Aquababy 30 years ago! You don't think Manta'd gut an entire store? Geeze.
Maybe you should just go read Archie instead.
Me, I like my comics for grownups.
That being said, this issue was an excellent outing for Arthur. Here's hoping for more great things for our King of the Seas!

Louie Joyce said...

Joe: That being said, I am kinda worried about what Johns has in store for Mera/Arthur and the secret that somehow involves Black Manta as teased at in Blackest Night.

Something like JMS's Gwen Stacey/Norman Osborn retcon in Spider-Man? Yeah, i'm hoping it's nothing like that.

I think he said that Atrocitus would be interacting with Mera and Aquaman at some point too. Which the whole "feel my RAGE!" thing is alluding too i believe.

Joe Slab said...

@Louie Joyce:

Exactly! Mera and Aquaman's history includes some groundbreaking moments in DCU and comics history in general, and GJ should tread carefully when writing stories that address this.

Having Aquaman being written by Johns is a bit of a double edged sword. He will definitely take the character where he has never gone before and many new fans will jump on board because of that but the risk is that he could take it too far and destroy some of what has gone before that makes the Sea King so special to long time fans.

IADW said...

The book doesn't arrive on these sores until next week, but boy that Black Manta splash is awesome.

It's great to just appreciate the fact that Aquaman's back after all these years and exactly how the Aqua-fasn have wanted - in something high profile, that showcases he does more than 'talk to fish'.

Love that bullet proof scene too, and I agree Rob - I think of AM as an amphibious tank - as indestructible and versatile on land as he is on water, and this scene showed that!

Erik the Sleeper said...

Shellhead: I agree, kids don't read comics quite so much these days- but enough still do. I also like the more 'adult' approach to comics, but again I stress this point.

That sort of gore and unpleasantness is real in this world. It's not a comic, it's not a game. Having seen this sort of thing for real on a professional level, I assure you, it's not entertainment. You don't need to see it for real to respect the gravity of it though.

Don't get me wrong- I'm all for some violence and great action in my comics; you're right there. I just believe that everyone's tastes should be catered for, with a bit of common sense. I mean really- does anyone need a reminder of the ugly side of this world?

I like everyone's take on Aquaman being involved in real-world events; environmental issues, piracy and so on. There's plenty of story there for books and at least one movie!

Anonymous said...

I don't know, guys. I was MUCH more disturbed about the implied child rape than the violence. Too me, that was coming pretty close to crossing the line.

rob! said...

Anon--Yeah, I wasn't too thrilled with that line either. But, as you say, at least it was implied, not so overt that a kid would understand it.

The scene with Manta is right in your face. I don't think seeing all the blood splatter adds anything to the scene, so I think it'd be better if it too was implied.