I like to judge arcs as independent stories first, and parts of a greater dynamic second. For me, Blackest Night/ Brightest Day were a good story arc to reuse dead DC heroes and set straight the body count. Utilizing an under recognized Green Lantern villain, The Black Hand, DC shows an opposing side not only to the Green Lantern Corp, which has its fights with other spectrums of the light, but to the entire spectrum itself. Being a unified shadow of the opposite of all light, the Black Lantern ring seems almost unending in power, able increase its Corps size not only by resurrecting the already dead, but also sending those resurrected to kill the living and give them rings as well.
William Hand is a mortician’s son who never gets much love or respect from the family. He is thrust into the world of lanterns when Atrocious gives him what looks like a light saber with Green Lantern materialization capabilities. He decides to fight against the Green Lanterns as the Black Hand, with his suit being made out of a body bag. He isn’t much of a fight for though, and ends up losing his hand and having it replaced. After aliens operate on him, he can do more than sense the “taunting” Green Lantern’s light, he can see death, all of it. Death begins to speak to him. It tells him to kill everyone in his family and then himself. His sacrifice is rewarded with the power of the Black Lantern, and the ability to control the dead.
With each person killed and Black Lantern made, the lantern’s power grows. When it reaches 100%, Necros the Grim Reaper emerges and with him a giant monster of death. The Lanterns of all the colors must band together to defeat him. But with all colors in the Green Lantern universe, when one color is made so is its opposite, and a White Lantern emerges. Sinestro takes up the duty as the White Lantern and leads the fight to battle back the darkness.
Brightest Day, some heroes who died from Blackest Night, and the body count from that was enormous, are brought back to life. They are commanded by the White Lantern itself to complete a group of assignments. All of these assignments are pivotal for battling the reappearance of the Black Lantern. The problem is after you complete a mission and earn your life back, you are immediately killed. Out of all this a group of heroes become of elements and defeat the darkness for good. Most do not get their normal lives back, and the list of dead heroes once again is set in stone.
Where Blackest Night felt like a full, complete, compelling story, Brightest Day felt like a neat wrap up for loose ends and a way to not make the end tale so gloomy. Blackest Night gave super heroes that were not under the Black Lantern’s control a light ring, which filled some nerdy desire in my heart to see what the DC universe would be like if everyone had a ring. Most of all, Blackest Night made use of the entire encyclopedia of DC characters and gave you a feeling of their past coming back to haunt them, because Black Lantern’s retained all the memories of their former lives.
What I do give to Brightest Day was that it personified Dead Man, who had lost his humanity in how comfortable he was being a being to the nexus of life and death. Dead Man is just a man when brought back to life in the follow up series, and has to learn to appreciate life to earn it back. Brightest Day is a sad tale for him though. For just as he learns to love life and his loved ones, both are taken away from him, and he must return to the life of living-dead with no one to love him.
For a DC universe that was on the verge of a redox, this was a great way to wrap what may become known as the Old 52, with many heroes dyeing along with a lot of the old world destroyed. I recommend Blackest Night as a compilation for its immense scope in story and nail biting tale. Counter to that, I recommend Brightest Day as either a follow up, or as an independent read if you want to gear yourself up to appreciate Dead Man and Swamp Thing, who I think are two undervalued DC identities. I read these in individual comic form, but I expect a trade paperback to be published soon, with a price tag of 20-30 dollars. And well worth every penny.