Brightest Day #0

Written by Geoff Johns and Peter J. Tomasi
Penciled by Fernando Pasarin
Inked by Fernando Pasarin, John Dell, Cam Smith, Prentis Rollins, Dexter Vines, and Art Thibert
56 pages, color
Published by DC Comics

For the past few years, DC Comics has experimented with the weekly series. We had three year-long series where one followed the next (52, Countdown to Infinite Crisis, and Trinity) plus the twelve-week Wednesday Comics. In terms of audience reception for the first three, it’s seemed like 52 is the favorite, and Countdown the least favorite, with the latter being a bit of a jumbled mess. With Brightest Day, DC has shifted to trying out an bi-weekly series (and Justice League: Generation Lost scheduled to fill the other weeks, both kicking off in earnest next month). In terms of storytelling, though, it feels like Brightest Day is trying to feel like 52. My initial reaction, though, is that this initial issue feels more like Countdown.

Like 52, Brightest Day #0 comes immediately after a large conflict in the DC Universe, and follows a group of characters adjusting to their new lives—or in this case, being alive. Geoff Johns and Peter J. Tomasi quickly set up Boston Brand, the former Deadman, as the narrator for this first issue and making him jump from one scene to the next to see how each of the eleven others restored to life are coping with their new situation. And so, one by one, we get jerked across the planet (and Mars) to check on each of them in scenes lasting anywhere from three to six pages. And as a result, it feels like a bit of a mess. It’s hard to work up interest on almost any of the characters based on these short scenes. Aquaman staring into the water while having a bad feeling? It’s not the most inspirational of scenes, and that’s not even talking about the bad taste opening of a baby bird falling out of a nest and dying so Boston Brand can bring it back to life five pages later.

The one fortunate thing is that it looks like half of the characters in issue #0 are promptly moving elsewhere, most signposted by ads at the end of the comic. Hawk and Dove are headed to Birds of Prey, Maxwell Lord to Justice League: Generation Lost, Reverse-Flash and Captain Boomerang to The Flash, Osiris to Titans, and based on interviews with James Robinson, Jade to Justice League of America. Winnowing down the cast to just Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Firestorm, and Boston Brand can only be a good thing. Right now most of these characters get such pithy, weak scenes (Firestorm in particular stands out in that regard) that it’s actually hard to believe this is written by the same two people who have made Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps so much fun the past few years. I can’t help but think that the (presumably) departing characters would have been better served by not even appearing in this first issue, and let the remaining cast get a stronger hook from which to try and hook readers. I finished this issue with no great burning desire to find out what happens next, and for a year-long follow-up to the huge Blackest Night event, that’s not a good sign.

Fernando Pasarin’s pencils are everything that’s good and bad about superhero comics, rolled up into one. On the plus side, Pasarin’s basic storytelling is good. Pages are laid out well, and I think he’s an artist who handles motion well; the scene with the Flash running up to Captain Boomerang’s cell, for instance, looks slick and energetic. And while it’s a simple layout, I liked the last page with the Hawks, the top third being the present day characters, the bottom third the remnants of the past, and the middle cutting back and forth between the two. It’s an easy transition for the reader, but it manages to carry a nice punch. On the down side, though, Pasarin’s characters are so over-idealized and muscled that it’s actually distracting. I can see the argument for a character like Hawkman being highly muscled, when even businessman Maxwell Lord turns out to have six-pack abs things are getting silly. Likewise, it’s hard to take seriously a page that opens with Mera sprawled naked and face-down on the bed, with only the edge of a sheet barely covering her rear end. It comes across not as sexy but rather as unclassy.

Brightest Day could still come together when the series starts in full the first week of May. I think there’s a real possibility that it could all come together with a smaller cast, and regular installments building towards something bigger. But as a preview for the series to come, and theoretically trying to whet people’s appetites, I fear that it falls a little flat. This is hardly, unfortunately, a brightest day for DC Comics just yet.

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