Brightest Day #23

Brightest Day 23

B

Boy, if Alan Moore was pissed before…

(Note: it will be impossible to talk about Brightest Day #23 without spoilers. You have been warned).

When DC’s giant crossover Blackest Night was released in 2009, legendary comics author Alan Moore had some fairly unkind things to say about its publisher, his one-time employer. It turns out that Blackest Night had its genesis in an 8-page story Moore wrote for 1987′s Green Lantern Corps Annual #3. Moore was none too happy that DC used that story as a tentpole for their biggest-selling series of the last couple years, causing him to shoot back with a couple choice quotes, including this fantastic singer: “The comic industry [is] going through my trashcan like raccoons in the dead of night.”

At that time, Alan Moore couldn’t have known — unless his fictional snake god Glycon told him — that DC’s follow-up to Blackest Night, Brightest Day, would also be based entirely on his works. This time we’re not talking about a throwaway back-up story… we’re talking about one of his most significant contributions to mainstream comics outside of Watchmen.

If you haven’t been spoiled by now, too bad. The secret of Brightest Day is that Swamp Thing is back. The Star City forest is the new home of the Parliament of Trees. All the death going around in the universe has corrupted the former guardian of the Green, and he now serves the Black, looking like some crazy cross between Swampy and the Anti-Monitor. The elemental champions of Earth — Firestorm, Martian Manhunter, Aquaman and the Hawks — have been chosen to help the resurrected Alec Holland reclaim his role as the Green’s emissary and stop the Black once and for all.

I am really, really torn about my response to this. On the one hand, as a big fan of Alan Moore, I see what he’s saying — why mine stories from 25 years ago for plot points when creators could make something original? On the other hand, that’s the nature of work-for-hire, isn’t it? When you’re an employee of a mainstream comics company, you’re feeding into a shared universe of characters and ideas, and that which you create will at some point cease being yours to control. It’s part of the magic of comics put out by the big two, but probably also a significant source of frustration to creators.

Being an Alan Moore fan, I’m well-versed in his Swamp Thing. And from that perspective I have to say yeah, this is pretty exciting. I’m willing to admit I may have been wrong about the preceding 22 issues of Brightest Day (pacing problems aside) — using the five heroes it’s been tracking as Earth’s elementals is a pretty slick twist and nicely ties together why we’ve been following them individually for the past year. Having them unite to bring back Alec Holland… well, it’s hard for me not to be excited.

Not that there’s no trepidation here. There’s obviously a significant question as to whether or not DC can handle Swamp Thing well. Time will tell on that one, though I have to say: Geoff Johns is obviously a big Alan Moore fan, and that gives me hope. Johns at his best is a really skilled writer and an excellent universe shepherd, so I’ve got my fingers crossed on that one. However, I also wonder whether readers relatively new to DC’s rich history will have any idea of the larger significance of Brightest Day #23. Though the Swamp Thing reveal will probably register with most long-time comics readers, might this series be alienating their newer fans here? Then again, I guess it’s a net win if even one person goes out and picks up Moore’s run on Swamp Thing as a result.

Mostly unrelated to the big green guy, the art in this issue is fantastic. Brightest Day has showcased top-notch art throughout; I think the pencillers who’ve put this book out twice a month for the past year are the real stars here, so major props for this issue go to Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Norm Rapmund and Oclair Albert. I’m really, really impressed by the images of Evil Swamp Thing, but the rest is solid as well.

What happens next is anyone’s guess. Will Swamp Thing really return to the DC Universe proper? Will Alec Holland be at the helm? What becomes of the five heroes who now fill the roles of Elementals? There seem to be no sure things at this point except this: for the first time since its beginning, Brightest Day has moved to the top of my reading pile.

tags: alan moore, brightest day, geoff johns, ivan reis, joe prado, peter tomasi, swamp thing

  • Kyle G.

    I have not been following this series in books but have been keen to keep up by talking to my friends who are buying it.

    I was never truely taken by what was going on but am very excited to see Swamp Thing back on the bored. As for Alan Moore, I’m not sure how much he’ll have to say about it all. He didn’t create Swamp Thing and while Brightest Day did come out of the Moore inspired Blackest Night there isn’t as much relation to him.

  • Anonymous

    True, Moore didn’t create Swamp Thing, but he popularized and defined him. I’m pretty sure the only Swamp Thing stories available in print are those by Moore.

    Further, the resurrection of Alec Holland seems to tie in to Moore’s very first executive decision with the Swamp Thing character – namely, that Swamp Thing is NOT Alec Holland but is merely a plant that possesses his memories. I believe other writers have tried to bring back the Holland body, but none of them have been as prominent as Geoff Johns.

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