Brightest Day hardcover.
DC Comics Presents: Brightest Day #1
Contains: Hawkman #27, 34 and 36, and stories from Solo #8, DCU Holiday Special 2009 and Strange Adventures #205
Context: The Hawmkman issues take place between Hawkman: Wings of Fury and Hawkman: Rise of the Golden Eagle.
Of the three, perhaps I best enjoyed this first volume, which focuses on Brightest Day characters Hawkman and Deadman. This is aside from what's a somewhat strange order in which the stories are presented -- the Deadman Solo story first, three Hawkman issues (one of which guest-stars Deadman), then the holiday story, and only at the end Deadman's origin; in terms of indoctrinating a new reader, one might think leading with Deadman's origin would be preferable.
This aside, Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, with art assists from Ryan Sook and Joe Bennett in different issues, write what I think were great and under-acknowleged Hawkman issues; Rise of the Golden Eagle was great stuff. Their Hawkgirl is young, tough, and still finding her way, and their Hawkman is brooding and violent and much what one wants from a Hawkman.
The stories don't make a lot of sense collected here, as they include allusions to villains and cut-scenes that are never resolved, but if you read the aforementioned Golden Eagle some of this will be familiar and even fill in a plot hole or two.
DC Comics Presents: Brightest Day #2
Contains: Martian Manhunter #11 and #24; Firestorm #11-13.
Context: The Firestorm (Jason Rusch) issues take place before the Firestorm: The Nuclear Man: Reborn collection.
The three Firestorm issues here by Dan Jolley, one with Dale Eaglesham on art and two with Jamal Igle on art, are obviously appropriate, as they team Jason Rusch with original Firestorm Ronnie Raymond; the only drawback is that they start in media res and we never quite know how Jason encountered Ronnie in the first place.
The other surprise is how serious and together Ronnie is here, and how well he and Jason get along; this is not the tempestuous relationship we find in Brightest Day. Indeed reading Brightest Day I was sooner under the impression that Jason and Ronnie had never met. I'd be happy to see Brightest Day acknowledge this previous adventure, because it's such a far cry from what we see right now, and because this version of Ronnie is so different (more heroic, even?) than the Brightest Day version.
In terms of the Martian Manhunter, certainly the issues collected here demonstrate writer John Ostrander's strong creative range. One issue takes place in the far future (after JLA: One Million, surprisingly enough) and the other is set between the pages of Justice League International. The latter is funny, the former great science-fiction. Neither offers any good sense of Martian Manhunter's ongoing adventures in his previous monthly series, and that's a shame -- nor do they deal with the Manhunter's Martian heritage as Brightest Day does -- but in contrast to the Hawkman and Firestorm issues, there's nothing you need to know to enjoy this section.
DC Comics Presents: Brightest Day #3
Contains: Teen Titans #27-28; Legends of the DC Universe #26-27.
Context: Between Teen Titans: The Future is Now and Teen Titans: Life and Death.
This third DC Comics Presents volume was my least favorite. Not only is it shorter than the others in containing only four issues, but the two two-issue stories only reinforce the book's brevity.
The stories here are rough. It's hard to sneeze at work by Steve Englehart of Batman: Strange Apparitions fame, but his Legends of the Dark Knight Aquaman story turns on Aquaman not knowing who the Joker is, and the people of Atlantis making the Joker their king. It's so far-fetched, even for comics, and the Atlantians are so one-sidely atonal as to make the story a little boring. Artist Trevor Von Eeden's work here is fine for the most part if a little dated, but toward the end of the story it loses a lot of detail, and the fight scenes get hard to follow.
As a Hawk and Dove fan, I've wanted to read these Teen Titans issues for a while, despite that they're widely despised by fans. Writer Gail Simone does a good job presenting Robin Tim Drake's pain over the death of his father, but Rob Liefield's art is terribly distorted; at one point Wonder Girl seems to be flying while bent nearly in half, solely for the art to accentuate her breasts. It's a shame, because the art distortion ruins any fun nostalgia that would have come from Liefield drawing Hawk and Dove again (after originally drawing the modern version); Simone's story is passable, but doesn't distinguish itself above the Geoff Johns Titans issues and such.
So there you have it. There are long-uncollected issues in DC Comics Presents: Brightest Day like Teen Titans that I'm glad to see, but that fail to impress; there's better ones like the Hawkman issues that read well but don't serve much purpose. In all, the DC Comics Presents: Brightest Day were a fun next read after the Brightest Day hardcover itself, and it was interesting to see Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, and the rest "out in the wild" of the DC Universe, though I'm not sure any one of the books on its own would be worth the $8.00 price tag.
Again, we'll be looking at additional DC Comics Presents books in the coming weeks and months. Coming tomorrow, the Collected Editions review of Teen Titans: Ravager: Fresh Hell. See you then!