Thursday, February 25, 2016

Righting the Ship: Aquaman #49

I cannot fully express how pleased I was to read this week's issue of Aquaman (#49, by Not-Cullen-Bunn-Thankfully).

Writer Dan Abnett did everything he need to right Aquaman's sinking ship rapidly and efficiently.
He checked nearly all the possible boxes for signaling a return to Aquaman's previously schedule life and direction.  Salty the Aquadog, Tula, Murk, and Garth in non-combatant supporting roles.  Amnesty Bay smalltown life. The lighthouse, both as a physical home and as a metaphor for Aquaman.  The strength of Mera and Arthur's relationship. Mera's sense of duty. Erika the police officer.  Humanizing scenes for the entire cast (because, really, if you are from Atlantis, there isn't a reason you would know not to feed cotton candy to a dog). Aquaman running around with his shirt off at home and wearing that little necklace that makes him look like a lifeguard (oh, and Mera in towel, if you like that sort of thing, which apparently some do).  And, in defiance of the Gods of Gritty, a sense of FUN.

Beyond that, he hit all the beats that the plot has a sensible direction to go and that all the elements of the Aquaworld are being position for proper storytelling.  Various scary scenes of apparently random water-based attacks from barely seen monsters provide contrast to the calm domestic humor of Amnesty Bay and promise a Dire Threat from which Our Hero must Save The Innocent.  Aquaman uses his trademark combination of common sense and kingly wisdom to place his teammates on the storytelling board: Atlantis as just another country that happens to be under the sea and needs to be part of the world community, Tula as regent of Atlantis, Mera as the Ambassador to the land, Arthur as the border guard between land and sea with (I assume) Murk and Garth as his 'sidekicks'.  Abnett shows that he understand Aquaman's role in the DCU by showing that Aquaman himself understands it.  Plus some truly marvelous character work with Mera.

Sure, it's a talk-centric rather than action-centric issue. But that what was needed and the exposition, while extensive, still felt natural and discursive.  

For all the many many important and positive things about the issue there's one that stands out as the MOST important:

Geoff Johns didn't write it.

While I have lots of hope that Johns can re-rail a lot of derailed characters in the DCU (and the DCu itself), my concern has been he can't write it all himself.  DC has to start finding other writers who can embrace the essence of their iconic characters while following and extending their worlds and stories, rather than writers who only know how to break things.  

THIS is the issue that gave me hope that that can happen.

Thank you, Dan Abnett.  It's not easy to become one of my favorite writers in one issue...but you did.

Friday, February 19, 2016


I live in DC (the District of Columbia).  It's known for many things (good and ill) but one of the things it is most known for recently is rapid and dramatic urban upscale renovation (a.k.a., "gentrification").

Now, a lot of things (good and ill) have been said about gentrification.  In my own life, I have been both its beneficiary (as a resident whose home value tripled) and its victim (as a business owner whose shops couldn't keep pace with changing costs).  But in either case it's mostly a natural economic phenomenon.  Just as scrub gives way to bushes and then trees in a biome, an economically poor neighborhood will sometimes be superseded by a wealthier resident/business profile.  This is particularly true if it possess some locational advantage (such as proximity to a transportation hub). There are quite a few neighborhoods in my city -- including my own -- where the opening of a subway station caused a complete rebirth.

And speaking of rebirth in DC....

We seem to be having one in DC (Comics, that is).  

In the real world of urbanism, gentrification happens where it's easiest: it neighborhoods where there are a lot or properties that are abandoned or deteriorating or unused or nonfunctional or dangerous or toxic or some such.  At least that's true in a big city where there is a ready supply of such areas.  

Anywhere where things are bad but not terrible, there are usually attempts (often by government entities) to stanch the bleed out of residents and businesses.  Usually those don't work and if anything just perpetuate the place's poverty.  Eventually, an area can 'hit bottom' enough that, with property values low and lot of opportunities for redevelop, it becomes a place that redevelopment naturally flows to, like water seeking its level.

In the DCU, those physical buildings and areas are instead intellectual properties. Flash. Green Lantern. Hawkman. The Justice Society.  Aquaman.  Those IPs were, essentially, abandoned by DC ...until Geoff Johns 'redeveloped' them (for the most part with great success).

Now, however, after several well-meant attempts by DC Editorial to prop up its neighborhood with patches and odd projects (which I like to picture as 'digital monorails'), DC has admitted that the DCU is broken down and (increasingly) abandoned. At least by readers, myself included.   Sufficiently decrepit, in fact, to be ripe for wholesale gentrification.

They have turned to the creative conscience that has guided their recent strong successes in other media, the same one that guided the earlier in-print renovation of many IPs deemed toxic and irreparably damaged. He is certainly not without his flaws as a writer (who is?)... but he "gets it".  Geoff Johns understands something that Dan Didio never has: why people like DC Comics.  Dan Didio has, on average, only been able to see what's not working in the DCU and to react against it; Geoff Johns is able to conceive of what could work and aim toward it.

You may be skeptical; you have every right to be, given DC's many 'reboots'.  And cynicism is certainly always in fashion.

But I for one finally have something I haven't had in the DCU for a while now:


Perhaps all may yet be well.


Finally, I have a reason to post again.  A positive one, I mean.

Finally, there is someone in charge. Someone with a vision, one that lies between the extremes of non-stop crossover events and authorial chaos.

Finally, DC can, if it wants, stop acting embarrassed about owning some of the greatest cultural icons of the last 100 years.

Finally.... a rebirth.