When DC's summer event Blackest Night ended, it left readers with an incredible tease - 12 heroes and villains resurrected in a brilliant flash of light, all revived for a specific-yet-unknown purpose. Now learn the fate of the 12 as Brightest Day Vol. 1 kicks off with issues #0-7 in the series. I'd held off on reviewing this anthology series until the final issue was out - after all there's no point in advising readers to sink coin into volume 1 if the story doesn't live up to expectations (the whole saga in collected form will span 3 volumes total). And really, at the end of the day this is a conflicted review - there's a lot to like about Brightest Day, but whether it lived up to its full potential (and is worth your money) is up for debate.
First, the good. Having already gotten several year-long series under its belt, DC has learned from experience and banked some of its best talent for this project. Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi co-write Brightest Day, bringing the same accessibility and ease of prose that made the current Green Lantern books such a success. Artistic collaborators Ivan Reis and Patrick Gleason are also on board, as well as Scott Clark, Joe Prado and Adrian Syaf. It's an impressive roster, and unlike 52 and Countdown to Final Crisis, here each artist is assigned a specific set of characters and their story arc. So all the Aquaman segments are drawn by Reis, all of Martian Manhunter's odyssey is handled by Gleason, and so forth. In addition to maintaining the visual continuity, the breakdown of artistic chores gives each artist a bit more time to refine their pages. You'd never know Brightest Day was running on a twice-monthly schedule with its quality of art. DC also rethought the way their year long "spine" titles should operate - whereas 52 had the benefit of operating in its own continuity bubble and Countdown to Final Crisis tried and failed to mesh disparate elements from various concurrent titles, here Brightest Day is the focus with the other titles brancing out and taking notes from it. You'll never feel like you're missing a plot point because you're not reading Justice League of America: The Dark Things, The Flash, Vol. 1: The Dastardly Death of the Rogues, Titans: Villains for Hire, Green Arrow Vol. 1: Into the Woods (Green Arrow (Graphic Novels)), etc. The focus on 2nd-tier characters is appreciated. Johns has made a career at DC out of resurrecting the intriguing-yet-underused players, and it's great seeing Aquaman, Deadman, Firestorm and Hawkman handled with the same reverence as the big guns. All the arcs are generally intriguing with their own highs and lows, my favourite being the Aquaman story. The occasional revisionist history (a staple of Johns' work) is a concession most fans have learned to live with.
So why the 3-star rating? I mentioned I generally liked all the individual story arcs, but the series doesn't make a strong case for why they needed to be presented together (as opposed to individual minis with bookends, much like Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers of Victory series. None of the arcs really tie into each other, and in turn the pacing suffers when you spend time away from one set of characters to focus on another. There's not a lot of logic in how Brightest Day chooses to dictate its focus. And without spoiling the ending, Brightest Day sets up a sense of reader involvement that it never really pays off. This is, at its most basic level, a missing persons mystery story. There's the detective (Deadman) the suspects (all the returnees, and a few others) and a person to find (the Chosen One). But unlike other stories in the genre that lay out clues along the way and reward readers for paying attention to details, there's really nothing here in the beginning that is relevant in the endgame. There are several opportunities for Johns and Tomasi to layer in foreshadowing, and none of it is really taken advantage of. This is a *huge* disappointment in a story that purposefully asks readers to guess a mystery character, and undermines what should have been the high point of an exposition-heavy volume 1.
The trade edition comes with a variant cover gallery, as well as the special character-themed variants from all the tie-in books that form a larger spread. I can't totally write off Brightest Day, but it's also not the crowning success that all the talent involved could've made it to be. At the very least wait for paperback - DC's attempt to peddle this out in 3 volumes versus 2 (see the companion series : Justice League: Generation Lost, Vol. 1) reeks a bit of money grab.