REVIEW: Brightest Day #23

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The penultimate issue of DC’s year long series, Brightest Day, arrived in stores today preceded by a monster spoiler for the issue hitting the Internet last night. There’s no way to discuss this issue in any meaningful way without discussing that spoiler so be warned. We were kind of down on the series after seeing it cut from 26 to 24 issues with no satisfying resolution in sight. Issue #23 may have changed all that as it finally brought everything happening throughout the series together and unleashed some huge surprises. There’s plenty to talk about, but the question remains: after what amounted to a shaky flight, can Geoff Johns and crew stick the landing?

PTB: Spoilers for this issue were all over the Internet as early as Monday. I still haven’t looked at them, but I’m assuming they have everything to do with who was revealed as the “Dark Avatar” and who we can expect to take up the mantle of the “Protector of Earth” as the White Lantern.

KevinMLD: Yeah, I did my best to avoid those spoilers prior to seeing the comic but in looking back at it, it looks like Swamp Thing’s involvement leaked first, followed by the return of Alec Holland.

PTB: I was really amused by the lengths each of us went to in order to avoid have the issue ruined for us. I was also happy to see your text reading, “That was awesome.” after you got your hands on the book. That’s high praise from you about anything, let alone an issue of Brightest Day.

KevinMLD: I have to admit I really loved this comic. Several major events have been crammed into this issue:

  • The Earth seems to be attacking humanity.
  • The remaining resurrected players have been brought to the forest in Star City just in time for the big finale.
  • The Dark Avatar who is determined to destroy the Star City forest is revealed to be a Black Lantern version of the Swamp Thing. A character that has been banished from the DC Universe to the Vertigo line for 20+ years.
  • Firestorm joins the other characters apparently murdered by the white ring (Aquaman, the Martian Manhunter, Hawkman and Hawkgirl), evolving into living representatives of the elemental forces for fire, water, earth, and air. Swamp Thing had previously been an elemental force for what was known as “the Green”.

Finally the “Earth’s Ultimate Savior” is revealed to be Alec Holland; a man whose very being was once tied to Swamp Thing.

PTB: These revelations were somewhat lost on me as I wasn’t sure that was actually the Swamp Thing until I saw his name on the final page and I have no idea who Alec Holland is. To be honest, reading this news in advance probably would have had as little impact as the Nekron spoiler that leaked during Blackest Night.

KevinMLD: In Swamp Thing’s original origin, Alec Holland became Swamp Thing after a lab explosion. Alan Moore later retconned that a little bit to say Swamp Thing somehow absorbed some of Holland’s essence and only believed he was Holland. In reality, however, Holland was dead. In considering all of this today, I’m thinking Swamp Thing may arguably be DC’s most successful solo character not named Batman or Superman having headlined 2 movies, 2 TV series and a toyline… though as you’ll see below not all of those projects turned out well.

PTB: Regarding the White Lantern voice making references to “The Green,” from what I know that’s a fundamental force of the universe that connects all life, or at least plant life?

KevinMLD: It’s been many years since I read Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing run but as I remember it, you have it basically right. Swamp Thing evolved into the elemental for the Green.

PTB: “The Green” isn’t the only one of these spaces/forces out there (I seem to recall Animal Man was connected to “The Red”) and I’m wondering if it’s corruption by the Black Lantern has implications for them. Doesn’t the Flash tap into the Speed Force or something equivalent that’s connected to “The Green” in some capacity? Could this have implications for the upcoming Flashpoint series?

KevinMLD: The Flash does indeed tap into the Speed Force, but I don’t ever remember it being tied to the Green. By the time the Speed Force was introduced, Swamp Thing was trapped at Vertigo.

PTB: We both saw the gorgeous Gary Frank cover to this book last week and while it’s a fantastic image, it does raise its share of issues. I’ll buy the Hawkpeople as avatars of the air and Aquaman as water, but Firestorm’s powers and nature aren’t really fire based in the conventional sense (maybe in terms of his fire as a cosmic solar furnace). Martian Manhunter’s connection to the Earth is new to this series, right?

KevinMLD: I definitely never would have tied the Martian Manhunter to Earth. Terra would have been a much better choice, but that’s just my opinion.

PTB: The White Lantern voice refers to the returned heroes as “controls” for the Elementals that have always been needed. The term “Elementals” made me think these were established forces in the DC Universe beyond just being the four ancient elements. Am I reading too much into this?

KevinMLD: The concept of elementals played a big part in Moore’s work with Swamp Thing. Again I don’t remember all of the details, but I plan on getting caught back up during some upcoming flights.

PTB: Despite the the Manhunter/Earth angle being new as of this series, it was at least established from the outset in Brightest Day with his connection to both the forest in Star City and the forest on Mars.

KevinMLD: I guess.

PTB: Did you change your feelings toward the Star City Forest after reading this issue?

KevinMLD: No. It still has very little to do with the Forest’s story in Green Arrow where Entrigan the Demon was the one leading the assault on the forest and it’s being defended by a lunatic who thinks he’s Arthur’s Galahad.

PTB: Yeah, that doesn’t sound great.

We get confirmation that the White Lantern voice has been manipulating everyone and everything to get to this point. It essentially killed Professor Stein to motivate Firestorm and it’s pulling everyone into the forest for this final battle. Well, not everyone, but the resurrected heroes we’ve seen in the pages of Brightest Day.

KevinMLD: Plus Captain Boomerang, I guess.

PTB: True, I wasn’t sure if he was appearing anywhere outside of Brightest Day. Captain Boomerang’s arrival spells bad news for Dove. I’m interested to see how all this plays out obviously, but I have to say again that it bugs me that twelve characters were brought back and we only got a story about six of them (eight if you include Hawk and Captain Boomerang at this point) in this series. It just feels incomplete to me.

KevinMLD: Worse than feeling incomplete, the missions of those other characters had nothing to do with this story. So it was all unnecessary or at least that’s how it feels right now.

PTB: As intriguing as the Swamp Thing/Alec Holland reveal is, is it from as far out of left field as it seems or have seeds been planted all along here that I may not be able to appreciate?

KevinMLD: The truth is the idea that Swamp Thing would return to the DC Universe as a result of Brightest Day has been floating around the Internet for months. Largely tied to the fact that in the aftermath of the changes at the head of DC’s corporate structure, a Vertigo Swamp Thing relaunch had been cancelled before the first issue ever hit the stands despite the fact that five issues had already been written. Having said that, I certainly didn’t expect Swamp Thing to turn out to be both the villain and the hero of the series.

PTB: That’s an interesting point. The spoiler article linked above mentions the fact that both Swamp Thing and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman have their roots in the DCU even though they have been kept separate in the Vertigo line for years. Death’s recent appearance in Action Comics is in some ways analogous to Swamp Thing appearing in Brightest Day, and it makes me wonder if the two occurrences could possibly be connected. Both are related to the events of Blackest Night and possibly to Final Crisis. All that Crisis stuff involves the multiverse, and the Vertigo books are a part of that, right?

KevinMLD: Not really. The Vertigo stuff was kept completely separate except for a few occasions, especially in recent years. None of the 52 Earths are Vertigo nor do all Vertigo titles exist in the same universe.

I thinks it’s more likely that the Action example is also related to the change in DC’s corporate structure.

PTB: OK, so if anything it’s an editorial reintegration of characters that started out in the DCU before the Vertigo line was established.

KevinMLD: Exactly. Dan Didio had commented on various occasions over the years that he specifically wasn’t allowed to use Swamp Thing in the DC Universe.

PTB: In terms of what we’re seeing in Brightest Day #23, having the avatars of the two forces working against each other first appear in the final two issues feels a little cheap. I like that the resurrected heroes have all been working toward this point, but throwing Swamp Thing/Alec Holland into this specific conflict seems like it should have had more development.

KevinMLD: To me this hits at the fact that this probably shouldn’t have been a 24 part maxi-series, but rather a few simultaneous mini-series. I think this feeling wouldn’t have been so prominent were that the case, but there’s no way Johns could have been involved in writing so many simultaneous series and he’d have less control over quality.

PTB: During the issue we again hear that the White Lantern needed some information from the Anti-Monitor and I believe it had something to do with the Anti-Matter Universe. Any connection between that and the Swamp Thing?

KevinMLD: Swamp Thing had some wacky adventures on other planets, but nothing specific that I remember about other universes.

As much as I really enjoyed this issue, a lot of questions remain to be answered for this series and there’s not much space left in which for us to get answers. The largest question for me is why and how has a giant Black Lantern Swamp Thing been unleashed on Star City? And why does the resurrected by the light Alec Holland look so sinister?

Read our thoughts on:
Brightest Day #22

More on the series can be found at our Brightest Day hub.

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