Thursday, July 15, 2010

Brightest Day #4

When you've spent a full year sorting out the changes and challenges presented by Blackest Night, in which the publisher's dead heroes and villains were suddenly returned to life as evil husks, the obvious next step is to leap right into another year-long crossover to work through the aftermath. That's just second nature. So, if you weren't already aware (or if the title alone didn't make it patently obvious), Brightest Day is precisely that follow-up. Concentrating on Deadman - now wearing a white power ring - along with eleven other supporting characters resurrected during the events of Blackest Night, the series stretches to cram as many different plot threads and character-driven events into each issue as possible.

When they can keep their ADD in check, the writing team of Geoff Johns and Peter J. Tomasi are good for a few interesting twists and turns, but it's tough to shake that pervasive feeling that they're trying to do way, way too much for a single series to handle. This could've very easily been a set of one shots or limited runs, spotlighting the same characters under their own mastheads and skipping the confusion altogether. That much is made clear just from the opening volley. Literally beginning the issue mid-sentence, Hawkman and Hawkgirl spend one page reminding the readers what they're doing and another making up their minds before wandering through a portal to the vast unknown and bidding their audience farewell for another issue. From there, the story recklessly leaps from one narrative to the next, often abandoning a new direction just as things start to get interesting. It's a literary junkie, constantly on the prowl for its next cliffhanger fix.

Johns and Tomasi may bring a glut of fresh plot ideas to the table, but the particulars of their writing leaves a lot to be desired. Often formulaic and predictable, I found their dialog dull and the character interactions excruciatingly one-dimensional. When Deadman suddenly appears in Dove's bedroom in the middle of the night, for instance, I immediately figured we'd see a few pages of hero-versus-hero when Hawk burst into the room. Sure enough, two pages later the two were at each other's throats with Dove playing the mediator. Afterward, an unheralded new threat emerges from the ocean with a single vocal outburst: "Kill them all!" Who, exactly? Well, I guess that mystery will wait for the next installment. The entire issue is this hackneyed, bowing to stereotypical convention at every opportunity, and that makes it difficult to step back and enjoy the big picture.

Ivan Reis is the issue's primary artist, with an assist from a full brigade of DC's resident talent. Fortunately, each progressive style compliments the next and, unlike its writing, Brightest Day #4 enjoys a stable, cohesive visual showing from cover to cover. Not that it enjoys a lot of opportunity to stretch its legs and show off. As you can imagine, the storyline's penchant for leaping from one complicated situation to the next necessitates an awful lot of panelwork and doesn't provide much room for visual effects. Even in the issue's pair of full-page spreads, there's so much forced into the picture that it felt like the artists were more concerned with the chore of fitting everything in than they were with the liberty of cutting loose and delivering something eye-popping.

This issue is a convoluted, confusing, irritating mess. It's all over the place, both in focus and in pace. The story leaps from full-speed onslaught to slow, deliberate conversation and back again more times than I think anyone's ready for. If Brightest Day #4 were a sports car, Johns and Tomasi would have thrown the transmission by now. The story's tough to follow and stale, while the artwork never gets a chance to plant its feet and fight back. It just isn't worth your time. Skip it.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 2

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