Brightest Day #16
Written by Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi
Art by Ivan Reis, Scott Clark, and Joe Prado
So despite doing the big on the cover real back for issue ten, this is the first real issue where Jackson King does up the Aqualad bit, as in he finally gets his costume. Spoiler Warning, oh, wait, too late. That’s what passes for a spoiler in this book, that despite this being his second or third cover, this is the first issue where he really does anything. The issue does a lot of that, actually, taking plots already established and just expanding on them. It doesn’t really lead us….anywhere, at all, but hey, now we get some more background. That’s a problem I have with this book, because I do want to like it, and more often then not I do like it, but the book just isn’t as consistent as it’s bi-weekly brother Justice League: Generation Lost, in that even when JL:GL does a filler issue it still pushes something forward. In this issue though it’s more like they’re trying to push in details we were waiting on a month or two ago. It’s nice to have them, sure, but the pacing of this book takes out the impact. I mean, I had all but forgotten what was going on with Aquaman after the last several issues, and now he’s back front and center.
This issue is Aquaman and Firestorm, as far as which returnees take center stage, so needless to say it follows the Aqualad and “Firestorm go boom” plots that have been their focal points. Aquaman takes Aqualad to learn his secret origin, and Firestorm….spends the issue in a tube not wanting to blow up the universe. As far as Brightest Day stories go, these are two that I’m really interested in, but in both cases I feel have been short changed in favor of the awful Hawk story, and the Deadman story (which I like). So here we are, two big stories trying to share one issue, and while each gets some cool moments, the book doesn’t ever really feel like it gets out of first or second gear. Sure, it promises more for next issue, but that doesn’t help with this issue. So far all Aqualad has been to me is a walking plot device, I mean, he’s the key to a war with Mera’s people, and the Bermuda Triangle, and he’s Black Manta’s son, and there are chests and crates and messages all triggered by him, and it’s like, okay, I get it, he’s a plot device. An angsty plot device with some cool powers, and potentially an awesome future, but still, a plot device. He’s almost enough to make me miss Aquagirl, but I imagine she’s going to fade off into the forgotten pits of limbo since Teen Titans dropped her.
Aquaman, for his credit, does a better job of mentoring here then I’ve ever been lead to believe he could do. I mean, keep in mind that my Aquaman experience was Peter David’s run where Orin and Garth were as dysfunctional as Ollie and Roy. But he deals with the kid not taking kindly to an info dump, lets him unload his powers, and then goes ahead and relates just how similar the two are. That’s something that gets me, I mean, I understand that it’s easier to have like heroes of a like origin, but when you’re able to draw near one for one similarities maybe you should branch them a bit, because the biggest difference between Aquaman and Aqualad is their powers. Both are half breeds who were not taken kindly to, and while their people want them dead, it’s only because they would be of extreme importance. But hey, at least it gives Aquaman a reason to pal around with this kid….who I will honestly say has a pretty slick design, and I do like his powers.
Firestorm’s story isn’t giant in this issue, and in fact it’s restricted to a few pages, but I give it credit because of one scene in this issue. See, Deathstorm gets a few pages this issue, the Black Lantern Firestorm, and his pages are just ridiculously creepy and awesome. Playing with the characters he has kidnapped into himself, Professor Stein as well as Alvin Rusch (father of Firestorm half, Jason Rusch), he decides to offer them a chance to beat him and save Ronnie and Jason from the torture he’s going to put them through. Painting a picture of the horrible things he would do to them, he gives them a hard decision on how to defeat him, and I have to say it’s one of the coolest, darkest, creepiest moments I’ve seen in a little while, and I loved it. Excellently handled, and despite only being a few pages, hands down, best part of the entire issue. It’s one of the few times in this series we’ve been given a chance to see someone other than the returnees do something, and while I profess no prior knowledge of Jason Rusch’s dad, he could very well deserve a father of the year in comics award for what happened here.
The Aquaman sections by Ivan Reis are amazing looking, and just goes to remind me, yet again, that I want him on a true monthly. Maybe Aquaman? Seriously, it looks great, and I seriously like the design work on Aqualad in action. The weapons are just sick. Scott Clark, on the other hand, is given almost no room to shine. The Firestorm pages are all pretty limited in scope, with the character in a giant tube, there’s no real chance to do anything overly creative, just a lot of static shots. Which is unfortunate, because I’ve enjoyed Clark’s work with Firestorm thus far in the book.
This book is a mixed bag, because it’s not really bad, it just doesn’t really go anywhere. Aqualad’s origin story is nice, but it feels thrown in, and the similarities to Aquaman are just a bit too much for me. I fully expect to like the character going forward, but it’s going to be by his execution and not by his origins if and when it happens. Again, the Firestorm bit is freaking awesomely creepy, and is no doubt a lock for one of my top five this week. It’s an enjoyable issue, but yeah. This book needs to fix its pacing again, or at least do a better job of pushing certain stories forward (i.e. Aquaman). As it stands, the book lives in its vigenette style, and it’s getting more annoying as the book moves into it’s final ten issues. I want this book to finish strong, but if the plot doesn’t strengthen it’s not going to matter.
Tags: Aqualad, Aquaman, Brightest Day, Firestorm, Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Peter Tomasi, Reviews, Scott Clark