By Allison Eckel
The Blackest Night is over so we must return to our monthlies to read about our heroes picking up the pieces after defeating their worst nightmares made flesh. After such a crisis, I expect to slog through a few months of everyone bemoaning the psycho-drama, revisiting their loss, their struggle, their burden of continuing. Instead, the editors at DC Comics have learned lessons from the recovery from 52, Infinite Crisis, Final Crisis, et al. They have given us Brightest Day, which so far seems to be a framework for the recovery; a focus for the characters to avoid the endless whining.
The title Brightest Day sounds like it will be a big-smile, broad-chested, hands-on-hips, cape flapping in the wind way to look at life. What we actually get with Brightest Day is so much more complicated. Now, it’s not Grant Morrison complicated, thank goodness. But it is seeking to accomplish many things all at once, and so far doing it smoothly. Brightest Day is bringing back 12 departed characters and reinserting them into the universe (at least for now). The characters include some headliners like Aquaman, Firestorm, Hawkman and Hawkgirl, and Martian Manhunter, together with Deadman, Hawk, Captain Boomerang, Black Adam’s adopted son Osiris, Jade, and Maxwell Lord. Since Barry Allen’s Flash returned from his “death” in the speed force just before Blackest Night, he doesn’t count here. So, why is Flash one of the Brightest Day titles? The twelfth returned character is Eobard Thawne, the Reverse Flash.
And already, this list is so much more interesting than it first appears. Aquaman is alive and reunited with Mera, but his power to summon sea life seems limited to dead creatures. Hawkgirl is once again Shiera, not the more recent Kendra. Firestorm has always combined two people into one hero, only now it combines old and new versions with Ronnie Raymond with Jason Rush -- and neither is happy about it. Captain Boomerang and the Reverse Flash are both incarcerated at the start, but early glimpses indicate they won’t be for long. Osiris had once linked up with the Teen Titans, but he has now joined Deathstroke as a mercenary in Slade Wilson’s twisted one shot Titans: Villains for Hire. Maxwell Lord has a grand plan, as always, and it begins by making nearly everyone on Earth forget him. Everyone except former Justice League International members Booster Gold, Captain Atom, Fire, and Ice. Hank Hall has returned to be Hawk to Dawn Granger’s Dove, but more than an avatar of war, he sees himself as a soldier of God. Maybe the Birds of Prey will calm him down. Finally, Deadman, at long last alive but not yet with free will, is compelled by a mysterious force to visit each of the twelve; and he’s not sure why he’s wearing a white lantern ring.
The separate reintegration stories all have legs to carry them, seemingly without Brightest Day: Who is blackmailing the Birds of Prey? Can Barry Allen balance all aspects of his life? Will the mercenary Titans continue to kill heroes or will they implode from internal strife (spoiler alert: we no longer have two Atoms)? Will the JLI find Maxwell Lord before he carries out his big plan?
In the case of Flash, Brightest Day is the opportunity for a headliner to reboot an existing title.Flash Reborn had me worried. I’m a big Wally West fan, so when the esteemed Barry Allen returned angry and without hope, I considered giving up on the speedsters. But so far, the regular Flash series has me really excited for more. Brightest Day tie-in aside, this first issue laid some solid foundations for a long-running series. The Fastest Man Alive is the slowest member of his police forensics department because he is one of the few government workers who still care about a quality outcome. He is also married to a fast-paced newspaper reporter, which brings conflict into his home life. On top of that, he is the Flash. All of this we know already. This is a return to life as Barry knew it before the Crisis on Infinite Earths. The freshness for readers is in the art by Francis Manapul, and in the way Geoff Johns is willing to step back and let the art tell much of the story. Here's an interview with Manapul about this issue.
Here’s a fun experiment. I went into one of my storage boxes and pulled out an issue of Flash at random. Out came #226, written by Stuart Immonen and Kathryn Kuder. Here is what Wally has to say to us on page 1:
“Check it, don’t these jerks ever learn? There must be at least two synaptic nanoseconds between this joker’s mouth and his trigger finger. Enough time to realize this is a totally useless endeavor. And they’ll have enough time to mull over what went wrong… in jail! I don’t get much time for quiet contemplation. After all, I am the Flash – the Fastest Man Alive!”
I don’t mean to criticize the writing. After all, it is difficult for me to comprehend Wally’s level of speed and descriptions about “synaptic nanoseconds” help. But, to compare, turn to the newFlash #1. Pour over the first 11 pages. The words are mostly removed and replaced with an exploding car, a steering wheel headed straight for a kid, and a scarlet speedster crackling with energy holding the steering wheel an inch from the kid’s nose – he caught it, and I can breathe again. Wow.
After Blackest Night, I should be cross-over-weary. I should be ready to return to the regular slog of monthly titles. I was ready to look cynically on Brightest Day as just another hook to get me to spend more money. But so far, it has surpassed my expectations. I am very excited for more.
Great online resource: Resurrection Checklist. This online document provides the issue numbers for the deaths of each of the 12 resurrected characters for Brightest Day. I would have liked to see digital pages linked through this, but at least I know what to shop for if my collection has a hole.
Flash and Birds of Prey aren’t the only titles starting afresh this month. Here is a cavalcade of First Issues, including:
Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne (Grant Morrison picks up where he left off in the final pages of Final Crisis #7)
DC Universe Legacies #1 (A 10-part history of the DCU, because after every major crisis, they have to re-write their own history)
Legion of Super-Heroes #1 (by Paul Levitz, former DC corporate honcho now returning to his creative roots)
Zatanna #1 (from the preview looks a lot like a sexier “Harry Dresden.”)