Brightest Day #24 (Late June 2011) is the final issue in the 24-chapter Brightest Day maxi series from DC Comics. After last issue's reintroduction Swamp Thing to the DC Universe, this one features the first appearance of DC's John Constantine.
As Alec Holland's corpse rises from the ground, Deadman explains his history: Alec had been a botanist working on a formula in the Louisiana swamps; an explosion destroyed his lab and sent him flying into the murky water. There, he died and his memories were absorbed into The Green, the web that connects all plant life. A creature coalesced around these memories; a creature that thought it was Alec Holland, but was really an earth elemental named Swamp Thing.
The elemental heroes - Firestorm, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter and the Hawkpeople - have managed to hold off the Dark Avatar, a soulless, blackened husk representing the corrupted Green, for long enough; they are called back by The Entity, which then forces them into Alec Holland's body. It explains that much as Swamp Thing once thought he was Alec Holland, he now thinks that he is Nekron, the avatar of Darkness destroyed before the beginning of the Brightest Day storyline. Just as Nekron's memories are guiding Swamp Thing, the heroes' purified elemental essences are acting as guides for Holland's soul. Holland has no memories of being an elemental because he died before Swamp Thing was created; thus, they are instilling him with the knowledge necessary for his next role: to once more enter Swamp Thing and imbue it with his mind.
The Dark Avatar almost manages to crush Holland's body, but Dove is able to push it out of the way. At that moment, The Entity tells Captain Boomerang to throw his boomerang at Dove and simultaneously tells Deadman that someone must die for Holland to live again. The boomerang hurtles through the air; Hawk tries to catch it, but it slices through his hand, so Deadman leaps in front of her, taking it right in his chest. Deadman dies again, knowing that his second chance at life at least had meaning; a bolt of white energy hits Alec Holland's rotting body, restoring it to full health.
At that moment, tree branches, controlled by The Parliament of Trees, wrap around the restored Holland and proceed to transform him into Swamp Thing. His body grows to massive size equal to that of the Dark Avatar and begins a direct assault. It proves ineffectual until he accepts his transformation into the Swamp Thing, accepts the mantle of protector of the Earth, and uses the four elements of fire, earth, air and water already within the Green to destroy the Dark Avatar entirely. With Nekron's memories purged from The Green, Swamp Thing is returned to full power once more.
He proceeds to bury Deadman's corpse beneath beautiful flowers just as Deadman's spirit - a ghost once more - appears behind Dove. Deadman remonstrates that he wants to finally enter the afterlife but The Entity says that his time as a posthumous hero is not yet over, and that it cannot allow him to move on. There is one saving grace, however: Dove is able to see and hear him in his spirit form - something she (and everyone else) could never do before. They profess their love for one another as he fades away.
With the battle over, Swamp Thing purges the elements from The Green, restoring Aquaman, Firestorm, Martian Manhunter and Hawkman to their true bodies. Hawkman, horrified that Hawkgirl - unlike him - has not been restored to life, demands that The Entity bring her back and take him instead, but Swamp Thing says that she remains in the air all around him.
And, in control of The Green once more, Swampy spreads his mind across the planet, undoing the damage that Nekron had wrought and bringing all the plants back to life. His job done, Swamp Thing declares that he will remain vigilant for those that threaten the planet, and moves his mind away to another part of The Green, letting his 'body' fall away into a husk. With its own task complete, The Entity - and the white lantern that it used as a physical representation - disappear.
Elsewhere in the world, a group of business executives react in horror to the news that an international strike force is to be assembled to strengthen restrictions on environmental safety. They discuss moving their dumping grounds to a more secure location, and hushing up the lawsuit against them made by a little boy with leukaemia, but their talk is silenced by Swamp Thing, who grows out of the plants in the office, wraps his tendrils around each of them and crushes them to death.
Later that night, an unseen figure breaks through the police cordon, lights up a cigarette and surveys the damage. 'I suppose it was only time,' he says. 'The Swamp Thing returns? Bollocks.' The camera moves out to reveal John Constantine. Continued in The Search for Swamp Thing issue one.
- Alec Holland still died in Louisiana in this continuity - so how did his body end up in Star City, which is located in California?
- The issue included a back-up story that tied in with the then-upcoming video game Batman: Arkham City.