I was really enjoying Brightest Day. I like ensemble titles. I’m a big fan of many of the featured characters, like Firestorm and Martian Manhunter. Geoff Johns told a strong story, introducing new characters and coming up with interesting conflicts. Plus, he actually made me like Deadman for the first time. But the ending was a big letdown.
It was even the same problem as 52- another great ensemble title with a disappointing conclusion. The problem is that the climactic moment was about continuity not character. In 52, it was the revelation that there were 52 worlds. In Brightest Day, it was the revelation that Swamp Thing was back in the DC Universe, instead of segregated off in Vertigo land. I’m sure that both of those developments made fanboys happy. But they’re not actually conclusions to a story.
It’s not that the return of a major character can’t be a significant story element. The return of Giles was a huge moment at the end of Buffy season six. But it wasn’t actually the conclusion. It was the uplifting moment right before the conclusion that, in effect, made the conclusion possible.
The return of Swamp Thing could have been the same thing. He could have shown up on the last page of the penultimate issue- a big revelation that builds interest in the final showdown. He could have been the deciding factor in defeating Blackstorm or uniting the various elementals. But his arrival was the conclusion of the story, rather than the big build-up right before the end.
That left me feeling a little cold, and even a little cheated. Geoff Johns sometimes gets a bad rap- he’s not nearly as continuity-conscious as his critics accuse him of being. But he made the mistake here of writing a conclusion about continuity rather than character. And it’s doubly disappointing because the series had done such a good job with underappreciated characters up to that point.
A New Role for Gambit
I like X-23’s solo title. Marjorie Liu is doing some interesting things with X-23 as a lead character. She’s having her struggle with the real problems of a teenage girl- such as the self-loathing that leads to cutting.
Liu is also doing interesting things with guest characters. She actually made Daken interesting in the X-23/Dark Wolverine crossover. And Daken is a character I once compared to Poochy from the Simpsons.
Yet what I found most remarkable is her use of Gambit in recent issues. Gambit started out as a rogue in his early appearances, a former thief who hung out with the X-Men for apparently selfish reasons (not unlike a certain Han Solo, a former smuggler who initially joined the Rebel Alliance for the money). He transitioned to a Don Juan, romancing Rogue or any woman with two legs. Then, in his solo series, he was cast as Romeo- not the modern definition of Romeo as a woman-chaser but the classic Shakespearean definition. He had loved the daughter of his enemy and lost everything because of it.
However, Liu has removed Gambit from the romantic entanglements that so often defined the character in the past. He is now, to my surprise and delight, X-23’s mentor. And it works. It works really well. Gambit is a sympathetic teacher because he’s well aware of his own failings. But he’s also learned from them and is trying to help X-23 do the same thing.
It reminds me of the old stories when Wolverine first took Kitty Pryde under his tutelage. It’s a slightly different angle- as it should be. But it’s been a lot of fun so far.
Kirby Cast-Offs Come to Life
Lately, I’ve been casting about for new series to read, follow and enjoy. So far, I’ve been underwhelmed by a number of titles that have captured the interests of other fans, such as Shinku, Super-Dinosaur and Xombi. But one new title has struck the right chord for me so far- Kirby Genesis.
I’m not the biggest Kirby fan in the world. I’m bothered when people imitate his style, rather than his energy. I really don’t need Steve Epting or Butch Guice drawing Kirbyesque square faces in FF or Captain America. I’d much rather see them work in their own more naturalistic styles.
But Kirby was the king of imagination. In the right hands, his ideas can be fascinating. That’s true even of his weird cast-offs.
Kurt Busiek has worked on Kirby characters before. He resurrected Silver Star for Topps Comics. And he wrote a great editorial describing the differences between Captain Victory, Captain Glory and Silver Star. So he has a pretty good idea of what he’s doing.
I also appreciate the freedom that Busiek and Ross have given themselves. They’re not only working on established characters like Captain Victory and Silver Star, who appeared in the ‘80s for companies like Pacific Comics. They’re also building concepts around one-off sketches, coming up with back-stories and code names for characters who were never more than a flicker in Kirby’s mind’s eye.
It’s an interesting exercise. It has a stronger internal unity than Ross’ SuperPowers work. And it might just be the newest series to capture my imagination.