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Is It Wednesday Yet?

29 June 2010 Here we are again with another installment of your favorite comic book review series. As always, the reviews are free of spoilers, so read on without fear of having your experience ruined!

Our grading scale is simple:

Buy: An excellent comic book.
Borrow: A good comic, but save yourself some money by reading a friend's copy.
Flip Through: Give it a once-over at the comic shop.
Skip: This doesn't need to be explained.

Brightest Day #4
Publisher: DC Comics
Released: 16 June 2010
Writers: Geoff Johns and Peter J. Tomasi
Artists: Ivan Reis, Ardian Syaf, Scott Clark and Oclair Albert
Inkers: Vincent Cifuentes and David Beaty
Colorists: Aspen MLT's Peter Steigerwald and John Starr
Letterer: Rob Clark, Jr.
Cover: Ivan Reis
Cover price: $2.99

Review: Sean Lemberg
When you've spent a full year sorting out the changes and challenges presented by Blackest Night, in which the publisher's dead heroes and villains were suddenly returned to life as evil husks, the obvious next step is to leap right into another yearlong crossover to work through the aftermath. That's just second nature. So, if you weren't already aware (or if the title alone didn't make it patently obvious), Brightest Day is precisely that follow-up. Concentrating on Deadman now wearing a white power ring along with 11 other supporting characters resurrected during the events of Blackest Night, the series stretches to cram as many different plot threads and character-driven events into each issue as possible.

When they can keep their ADD in check, the writing team of Geoff Johns and Peter J. Tomasi are good for a few interesting twists and turns, but it's tough to shake that pervasive feeling that they're trying to do way too much for a single series to handle. This could've very easily been a set of one-shots or limited runs, spotlighting the same characters under their own mastheads and skipping the confusion altogether. That much is made clear just from the opening volley. Literally beginning the issue mid-sentence, Hawkman and Hawkgirl spend one page reminding the readers what they're doing, and another making up their minds before wandering through a portal to the vast unknown and bidding their audience farewell for another issue. From there, the story recklessly leaps from one narrative to the next, often abandoning a new direction just as things start to get interesting. It's a literary junkie, constantly on the prowl for its next cliffhanger fix.

Johns and Tomasi may bring a glut of fresh plot ideas to the table, but the particulars of their writing leaves a lot to be desired. Often formulaic and predictable, I found their dialog dull and the character interactions excruciatingly one-dimensional. When Deadman suddenly appears in Dove's bedroom in the middle of the night, for instance, I immediately figured we'd see a few pages of hero-versus-hero when Hawk burst into the room. Sure enough, two pages later they were at each other's throats with Dove playing the mediator. Afterward, an unheralded new threat emerges from the ocean with a single vocal outburst: "Kill them all!" Who, exactly? Well, I guess that mystery will wait for the next installment. The entire issue is hackneyed, bowing to stereotypical conventions at every opportunity, and that makes it difficult to step back and enjoy the big picture.

Ivan Reis is the issue's primary artist, with an assist from a full brigade of DC's resident talent. Fortunately, each progressive style compliments the next, and, unlike its writing, Brightest Day #4 enjoys a stable, cohesive visual showing from cover to cover. Not that it enjoys a lot of opportunity to stretch its legs and show off. As you can imagine, the storyline's penchant for leaping from one complicated situation to the next necessitates an awful lot of panel work and doesn't provide much room for visual effects. Even in the issue's pair of full-page spreads, there's so much forced into the picture that it felt like the artists were more concerned with the chore of fitting everything in than they were with the liberty of cutting loose and delivering something eye-popping.

This issue is a convoluted, confusing, irritating mess. It's all over the place, both in focus and pace. The story leaps from full-speed onslaught to slow, deliberate conversation and back again more times than I think anyone's ready for. If Brightest Day #4 were a car, Johns and Tomasi would have thrown the transmission by now. The story's tough to follow and stale, while the artwork never gets a chance to plant its feet and fight back. It just isn't worth your time. Skip it.

Ultimate X #3
Publisher: Marvel
Released: 16 June 2010
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Penciler: Art Adams
Inker: Aspen MLT's Mark Roslan
Colorist: Aspen MLT's Peter Steigerwald
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Comic Craft's Albert Deschene
Cover: Art Adams
Cover price: $3.99

Review: Preston Nelson
This is actually my second attempt at writing this review. The first one ended with a drunken scrawl of how much I hate this book, which, in retrospect, is a little unfair. This is a very pretty book. Art Adams is a great artist with a tremendous grasp of layout, anatomy, and emotion, all conveyed expertly with the utmost care here. Roslan's inks are crisp, sharp, and give the art a real expressiveness without taking away from Adams' pencils. Steigerwald uses a muted, almost noir-ish palette that enhances the art and provides the environment with the feel of a real city. In short, the art is fantastic. There are moments when Adams is a bit more cartoony than suits, but they are fleeting and not that distracting.

I'm now done saying happy things.

Jeph Loeb sucks. I'm sorry. I love The Long Halloween, Hush, and Fallen Son, but Jeph Loeb has no idea how to write a comic anymore. And the worst part? I can't criticize this as Loeb's usual crap! There are no crossovers with unneeded guest stars, or a huge mystery that needs solving. This is his attempt at a more low-key book, but he's just finding new ways to make me hate him. Basically, in the wake of Loeb's personal attempt at aborting the Ultimate Universe, Ultimatum, the X-Men have disbanded, and mutants are illegal. Allow that second one to hit you; let it sink into your brain. Mutants are illegal. Let it fester and feel it tear your sanity in twain. Mutants are illegal. Feel the sheer illogic of that statement.

Mutants are fucking illegal.

This is why I hate this book. The premise is inherently flawed, because of this one sentence. You want to have the X-Men disband? Fine. You want to send a disguised Jean Grey with Wolverine's son to recruit a bunch more young mutants? Fine. But making mutants illegal makes no sense. This isn't a "register with the government" thing; this is a "turn yourself over to SHIELD, or you will be shot on sight" thing. Ignoring the fact that the fucking Ultimates have had mutants on the team, this is still asinine. Making something illegal doesn't make it go away. You know what I hate? Hipsters. Let's make hipsters illegal. Watch Pabst Blue Ribbon sales tank! Problem solved! Let's all go get a milkshake, America!

The actual story revolves around Loeb's attempt at an urban youth (RE: Black kid), who lives with his older brother and pregnant sister-in-law. The urban youth, Derek, is secretly a mutant, and since mutants are illegal and his brother is a cop, you can see where this is going and God, I just don't care.

Jeph Loeb wrote Commando, so I can never wish ill upon him. But I can tell you to skip the ever-loving crap out of this book. Seriously, if you know someone that bought it, on purpose, punch them.


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