“Brightest Day” #22 is one of the quickest reads of the series, but that swiftness is not indicative of the impact the story is sure to have on the larger “Brightest Day” tale. As billed on the cover, this issue features Firestorm against the Anti-Monitor. The Anti-Monitor was resurrected at the end of “Blackest Night,” and save for a brief encounter with Deadman earlier in this series, Anti-Monitor hasn’t been seen much.
This issue shows a glimpse of what the Anti-Monitor is plotting. Set in the Antimatter Universe, the Anti-Monitor’s lair has been invaded by Firestorm, who is there in an attempt to retrieve the White Lantern. Firestorm’s mission from the White Lantern, as assigned back in issue #7, was “Ronald Raymond of Earth, you need to study. Jason Rusch of Earth, you need to get your head out of the books. Learn from each other so you can stop him. Don’t let him destroy me.” To this point, I had assumed the “him” Firestorm was supposed to stop was Deathstorm, but this issue proves otherwise, particularly as Firestorm is on the precipice of completing or utterly failing his mission. In his battle with the Anti-Monitor and Deathstorm, Firestorm is separated into his human components, and one of those components doesn’t make it to issue #23.
Jason, Ronnie, and Professor Stein get to share a few moments in this issue that makes the passing a little more dramatic. On the other hand, Firestorm’s foes don’t attack during that emotional moment, which seems hollow. In battle with the Anti-Monitor, there shouldn’t be down time to get mopey or to steel resolve, as happens here. Otherwise, Johns and Tomasi seem to be having fun writing the dialog of Deathstorm, who has quite a few sharp-tongued moments in this issue.
Clark’s art, while heavily photo-referenced for backgrounds and atmosphere, is filled with stark shadows, adding to the great emotions and character acting Clark puts upon these characters. The final two pages take Firestorm away from the Antimatter Universe, and the contrast in art styles between Clark and Ivan Reis is dramatic and well-suited for the story and the shifting location. There is only a pair of issues left, and I’m still not completely certain what the end game is that is being played towards here, but I am definitely along for the ride.