Monday, October 16, 2023

Brightest Day #19 (Early April, 2011)

The White Lantern had Deadman "kill" Hawkman and Hawkperson (Girl? Woman? I'm not checking her then-current status.) When questioned, the Life Entity explained, "It is part of the plan... The plan to stop Earth from turning against humanity... The world has slowly been poisoned for centuries by mankind, but Nekron's attack heightened the contamination of Earth's life-web-- it's very soul. Soon this corruption will rise in the form of a dark avatar and it will seek out the forest I created... It holds the key to Earth's salvation. The twelve I gave life to each plays a role in saving the soul of your homeworld. Some have already prevented further destruction to it and given us more time... while others are ultimately more significant to my purpose. Arthur Curry, Ronald Raymond, J'Onn J'Onzz, and Carter and Shiera Hall are unique. I put them on a journey to overcome what held them back in life... And that in turn purified their life force... Their life force must be purified-- because their essence is essential in saving Earth's Soul. If the forest falls to the dark avatar, the new champion of this world will never rise-- and Earth will die. This world is too valuable to the future to allow that to happen."

"Aquawar Part One" was by writers Peter J. Tomasi & Geoff Johns, with art by Ivan Reis & company. A White Power Battery obsessed with "purity" against the darkies? Are our heroes headed to the GOP primaries? Also, by the end of this two part micro-series, Aquaman will be "dead" too. Not looking good for Martian survival...

Monday, October 9, 2023

Brightest Day #15 (Early February, 2011)

On Mars, twenty-five years later. There's a big ceremony celebrating what is essentially the resurrecting Messiah of Mars (as in he resurrected Mars rather than himself. In your face, Jesus of Nazareth.) The other, older members of the "Magnificent Seven" had been snuck on-world to join in the global celebration of the wonder that is Green Lantern J'Onn J'Onzz. As in the Green Lantern Corps, with whom Martians were positioned as having an adversarial relationship in a book edited by Pete Tomasi, and whose masters, the Guardians of the Universe, had altered the DNA of prehistoric Martians to be vulnerable to fire after they had been deemed too great a threat to other lifeforms? Yeah, so Green Lantern Corpsman J'Onzz had brought a lasting peace to Earth and Mars, to the gushing adulation of an entirely uncritical and deferential Batman.

Of course it's an imaginary story. Doi. I'm certain the writers did not expect the readership to be utterly clueless to this fact by the third page, and yet the story keeps on belaboring asserted facts that any experienced comics reader would dismiss on sight. It's hard not to get antsy reading pages of nonsense filler while waiting for the matter to resolve. So yeah, giant statue in Martian Manhunter's honor. J'Onn's family alive and expanded, with daughter K'hym herself now a Manhunter. Keeping the homicide witness family dog from earlier in the series as a pet, despite feeding it a steady diet of sandwich cookies, likely to cause daily severe stomach upset, pancreatitis, and chocolate poisoning. Batman feeling the need to list the ways in which every Leaguer but him is not entirely human, but failing to explain in the same panel why his head is in 3⁄4 but his mouth is a front view. I didn't know you could get punched that hard.

Getting shot with "pearl bullets" is actually what did Batman in, because a pearl necklace wasn't suggestive enough. Wonder Woman was hung from her lasso by a finger of the Manhunter statue. Aquaman drowned on Martian sands. They ran out of ironic deaths for Green Lantern and the Flash, so they just get dismembered, though Flash continued running like a chicken with its head cut off. Hardy-har. After invading the minds of all Martians simultaneously in search of clues, the yet surviving Superman was found in "the underground security bunker where our most powerful enemies are kept captive." A brief history of Martian imprisonment: In the Silver Age, they'd strap this flying belt thing on crooks and leave them floating at a stationary point in the atmosphere. Morrison stuck the White Martians in the Still Zone, a formless white void outside space/time. Malefic was held a gem-type thing. Here we have... Sciencells, but red. I guess it's a good thing that this is a Green Lantern story, then. Oh, and so many great Easter Eggs in the cells, with classic Martian Manhunter villains like Despero and... Starro... Johnny Quick? Various unidentifiable squiggles, though one is a girl, so, like, Bette Noir?

Superman was wearing a Kryptonite mask, and K'hym wanted to mentally probe his unconscious form for answers, as he was among the few beings capable of killing the League. J'Onn refused her, prompting a tirade about how he was okay with probing every Martian but not a single outsider, and how his loyalties are ever with Earth over Mars. A justifiable concern, but also D'Kay D'Razz's hand being tipped. More so when they line up all the corpses in a morgue, and all the cross slashes supposedly spell out the Martian words for "love" and "hate." Also, despite saving Superman's life, Manhunter randomly stabbed him to death with an undetected Kryptonite spike or especially powerful ring construct? Also, K'hym was inexplicably absent. And despite using heavy shadows as a handicap throughout the issue/run, the artist channels Ed McGuinness cartoon hyper-muscularity to depict Superman getting shived under lighting so bright that the only shadows cast on the entire pages were to highlight said inflated muscles. Being a sloppy second rate Doug Mahnke had gotten him this far, so is it too much to ask that we keep the artist we're deriving from consistent from panel to panel?

So, yeah, all of Mars burned again and M'yri'ah was unmasked (de-gloved?) as D'Kay, ending on the distasteful note of her on her knees being choked by our standing "hero" while the bones of Martian children were ghoulishly arranged in the background. D'Kay accused J'Onn of giving up on Mars. "I do not fight for lies of the mind, D'kay... and I never will!" How relatable. So inspiring. Smash cut to two pages of Scott Clark teasing the ongoing Firestorm story (which, remember, will ultimately be abandoned for the New 52.)

"Whatever Happened to the Manhunter from Mars?" was by writers Peter J. Tomasi & Geoff Johns, with art by Patrick Gleason & company. It is perhaps the worst Martian Manhunter story. You might dismiss that as hyperbole, and it's certainly not true at the level of raw craft, but bear with me. "For the Man Who has Everything..." and "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" are considered to be two of the greatest comic stories ever told, a pair of Alan Moore's most well regarded tales, and typically at minimum top 10 Superman yarns (though both lose impact the further perception moves past the Silver Age model, into the ongoing Byrne Man of Steel period.) Martian Manhunter is widely considered to be mint-flavored Superman. Blatantly cribbing from major Superman stories, much diminished in length and talent, on a highly visible maxi-series that eclipses any audience the Sleuth from Outer Space ever commands on his own, conforms the bias held by many that the Alien Atlas has nothing more to offer than being a stand-in or jobber for the Man of Steel. Plus cynical ultra-violence, which is itself reheated '80s Moore. Plus the story just stinks, and the artist can't maintain quality or character from panel to panel. Plus, all those wardrobe changes, and they're all Green Lantern costumes. There may be objectively worse stories, but few more harmful to the Martian Marvel.

Monday, October 2, 2023

Brightest Day #22 (Late May, 2011)

One last flash-forward as we enter spooky season. Deathstorm had stolen the White Lantern Battery and brought it to his master, the Anti-Monitor. It made a little sense in context, but over a quarter-century after Crisis on Infinite Eartths? Such a dumb name. Anti-Monitor is Galactus but universes, so he planned to use the Life Entity to cook up meals that would make him infinitely powerful. Despite having a whole-assed Black Lantern team, Deathstorm was still jerking around with Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch, ultimately killing Raymond's partner in the original Firestorm matrix. After Professor Martin Stein was turned to salt, Ronnie overcame his insecurities to reform The Nuclear Man, and... the White Lantern destroyed all the Black Lanterns in a single blast? Even though Ronnie was always a headstrong idiot who rushed into danger, so this was par for the course? Make it make sense. Oh, and for added anti-climax, the Lantern transported Firestorm back from the Antimatter Universe, so that the Anti-Monitor could sit on a shelf until another big event instead of being addressed in this one.

"The End and the Beginning" was by writers Peter J. Tomasi & Geoff Johns, with art by Scott Clark & company. A White Power Battery obsessed with "purity" against the darkies? Are our heroes headed to the GOP primaries? Also, by the end of this two part micro-series, Aquaman will be "dead" too. Not looking good for Martian survival...