Sunday, January 9, 2011

Back from Sub-Diego - I read a lot

In the Aquaman comics from around 2004, the waterfront of San Diego was somehow cleaved from the shoreline and plunged into the ocean.  The populace that survived the incident were turned into water-breathing folks, like Aquaman's peeps, the Atlanteans.  Aquaman came to the rescue, and became the hero of Sub-Diego (get it?).

Unfortunately, the writers on the book took way too long to explain what the heck had happened and why, and what started off as a great story idea fizzled, was canceled and subducted into continuity oblivion by 2006's Infinite Crisis event (which also killed Aquaman and led to the very confusing and not all that interesting follow up with Aqua-Knight/ Fake Aquaman/ Who Approved This?).

Anyway, that's what I think of when I stand near the water in San Diego.  Also: oh, look, a sea gull.

I do not have the romantic attachment to San Diego that folks in Arizona had.  It was where everybody went the minute they had a day off.  There's no real equivalent for Texans, who hold their own beaches in semi-contempt, and who generally look down their nose at each others' cities (sorry, Amarillo).  And there certainly anything in Texas that looks like San Diego, although you can certainly see certain architectural similarities between the all-recent construction in San Diego and the more recent sky-riser condos here in town.  They all have that "this is shiny and looks like it was deigned on a computer!" feel to the architecture that I suspect we'll find regrettable in another 20 years or so.

That said, I do not dislike San Diego.  Its nifty.  Its clean and pretty.  It has a lot to offer and it looks expensive as @#$% to live there.

Anyway, I presented at a conference on Saturday, and I guess it went well.  Aside from that, there wasn't much to do.  I kind of walked around, but wasn't feeling very touristy.  So I wound up watching the Texas A&M game, read two graphic novels and the better part of two books.

I read the first volume of DC's Brightest Day, and kept thinking "I shouldn't be enjoying this".  Its kind of silly, it manages to set up a whole bunch of plot in a clumsy fashion and introduces ideas that I'm not sure I care all that much about, but...  I actually liked it quite a bit.  I'm a big Martian Manhunter fan from way back, I like how Johns handles Hawkman and Hawkwoman and their convoluted history, etc...  And I try to read anything with the Jason Rusch version of Firestorm (which I never thought got a fair shake when DC tried so hard with that series about 6 years ago).

Aside from that first shot at what looked like a neat run on Aquaman (see above), I've not been a huge fan of the comic or character.  I just never found a hook.  But I kind of like what Johns and Tomasi seem to be doing with the King of the Seas.  Sure, its not as straight up FUN as the Brave and the Bold version, but please, somebody at DC get Aquaman figured out.  And none of this magical water-hand or hook-hand hoo-ha.  Just...  Aquaman.  And that's what this first volume of Brightest Day seems to be offering up (and I like Mera, who has usually stood around like vermicelli more than a character)

And like most Johns and Tomasi stuff, it seems like its actually going somewhere, which is not what I'd necessarily say about a lot of series.  Sure, its a little aggravating that the White Ring won't just lay out its plans, and instead is being all elliptical and messing with Boston Brand and whatnot, but...  you kind of get the feeling that it'll be worth the payoff.

I am not reading every single tie-in.  I'll read stuff I'm already reading, but DC is not going to be able to convince me that buying Titans is a good idea.  And as little heat as its generating, I don't see me reading JLA: Generation Lost, either (because, man...  I was kind of done with Maxwell Lord as soon as Diana enabled him to see where he'd been, if you get my drift).

If the creative team on Wonder Woman can get Diana squared away (and that seems increasingly possible), this is the first time in  25 years I can think of that the Original 7 of the JLA have been able to walk into a room and look one another in the face (just when Barry shows up, J'onn and Bruce got taken out).  There's just so much potential there, and its potential I think DC squandered multiple times over the years - most recently by demonstrating that they didn't understand what Meltzer was doing with the JLA either strategically within the DCU or from a character standpoint.

In fact, I'm kind of looking forward to a DCU that seems geared toward trying, if even for a short while, to have the most recognizable versions of their properties in one place at the same time.  Sure, change is the thing that makes the world go round, but it would be nice to see the main continuity find a way to work in an epic age for itself where the characters were the idealized versions of themselves, just for a while.

No secret, I love the DCU, and I always will.  But I also no longer feel like I need to buy everything DC puts out there.  When you don't see editorial working to make sure their properties the best they can be, I don't feel the urge as a reader or consumer to participate.  Somehow Johns (and Tomasi, increasingly) almost always makes me feel like I am getting somebody's best effort, and the effort of someone who cares more deeply about doing right by the characters than putting his stamp on that character.  That stamping part just comes naturally, in a way that I think you could almost say reminds me of how the stable of 70's and 80's-era DC writers made it work.  I'm thinking of guys like Paul Kupperberg, Elliot S! Maggin, Cary Bates, and even Marv Wolfman.  Only, you know, its Johns, so you tend to see a lot more disembowelings (Mr. Johns will one day learn that you don't need to actually show the disembowelings, you can just mention that they happened). 

I also read a Greatest Batgirl Stories Ever Told collection, and it was really, really fun.   Some of its a bit dated, some of it isn't.  Aside from the original origin story, everything in it was new to me (bot not necessarily news to me), so I finally got to read the story of how Babs got sent to Washington to hold elected office.*

Also reading a good chunk of a collection called Lone Star Noir, which is a collection of crime stories written about various locales here in Texas.  I admit I jumped ahead and read the Austin section.  The stories are, admittedly, hit-or-miss, but its interesting reading.

And I'm plowing through book 4 of the Parker Novels by Richard Stark (aka: Donald Westlake), The Mourner.  It's tough to know what to say about it other than: that is most definitely a Parker novel. Dude likes to hit people with guns.

But I'm back!  And now it slate and I should probably just go to bed.

*a bit odd reading that on the day Rep. Gloria Giffords of Tucson was shot, I confess


horus kemwer said...

In Texas, we used to go to New Orleans on our days off . . . at least until that was plunged into the ocean . . .

J.S. said...

I liked San Diego. I liked the ocean. I liked the zoo. I liked the pandas.