So in catching up on my comics reading after weeks of being too busy, I finally got to read Brightest Day #0 and yeah, it’s a pretty bad comic. Whenever a character refers to the title of the comic unironically, you know you’re in severe hit-or-miss territory, and between Captain Boomerang explaining The Shawshank Redemption to the Flash in a scene that just feels like treading water for a page or this whole “Deadman as Life-Man!” thing or the truly inexplicable return of Hawk (and everybody just forgetting that whole “hey, remember when he tried to conquer the universe and kill us all?” bit) or Hal Jordan being, well, Captain Needs A Dick-Punch again (seriously, there is no comics character I hate as much as Hal Jordan, with the possible exception of Beast Boy. Fuck Beast Boy), it’s pretty much mostly a miss all the way.
Don’t get me wrong: there are some good ideas in there. I know a lot of people hate the Max Lord revamp, but my thinking is if you’re going to have Max Lord be a baddie, then go full-out with it, and the idea of Max Lord making the whole world forget he ever existed (except for the old JLI, of course) is kind of appealing. And although Cry For Justice was dogshit in numerous ways and the worst possible way to get to the end result of “now there is a giant star-shaped forest in Star City and that is where Green Arrow will hang out,” that end result is not half bad.
But mostly it’s just bleh. I mean, you know what I’m sick of? Other comics characters constantly referencing the fact that J’onn J’onzz likes Oreos.1 I mean, here he is, your buddy back from the dead, so what do you do? You bring him cookies. Because he likes cookies. Granted, it’s at least nice to have comics characters making a thoughtful gesture, but you’ve got to figure at some point J’onn is going to be all “…you know, I do like other things that aren’t cookies. You could have brought me a book. I like to read. Or maybe some nice incense for when I meditate. Or something I’ve never seen before, to express the wonder that is Life that I may once again enjoy. That sort of thing.”
I mean, J’onn can just go to a supermarket if he wants some cookies. Bringing him cookies is like buying your loved one a birthday present at the gas station because nothing else was open – it actually manages to be almost worse than a gift certificate. Can you imagine anybody doing this sort of thing in real life? “Hey, dad! I know you like barbecue, so for your birthday I brought you five pounds of raw pork shoulder!” It just makes J’onn’s friends seem like assholes who don’t care about him enough to know him better than “he likes cookies”; it rings false.
The other thing that really bugged the shit out of me was the treatment of Aquaman.2 This is not because Aquaman was brooding, because Aquaman should brood. Really, I know there’s a large contingent of people who think Aquaman is just a less interesting version of Namor, but they are wrong: Aquaman is a more relatable version of Namor, who is, let’s be honest, kind of an unlikable dickhead. And it’s not like Arthur doesn’t have interesting narratives: he’s the King of the Sea, for crissake. You can do political narrative with Aquaman all day long and, unlike other characters, it doesn’t come across as forced or uninteresting: court intrigue as superheroics is something nobody else (other than Namor) can really pull off. And on top of that, he’s got an archenemy who killed his son. Like, not a son analogue a la Joker killing Jason Todd – his actual honest to god son. I have yet to see a writer really convey the sheer amount of hatred Aquaman must have for Black Manta; I’m not expecting to see it anytime soon, especially considering the three pages he got in Brightest Day.
I’ve seen other people describe this comic as being the worst comic of the year. It’s not. It’s mostly just weak, tepid sauce, the same weak tepid sauce that is ninety percent of DC’s output these days. If DC Comics was fast food, it would be Taco Bell to Marvel’s higher-end burger shack (nothing surprising, but better than average level of quality across the board).