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.