The King of Atlantis resurfaces in the wake of the DC relaunch. But does Aquaman have what it takes to become the star Geoff Johns wants him to be?
From the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean a group of monstrous fish creatures make their way to the surface. On land, Boston to be exact, Aquaman stops a hijacked armoured car with ease. The cops can’t believe he’s helping, in fact they can’t believe he’s upstaging them, and after a very brief conversation Aquaman hops off to his next destination. He arrives at Sam’s, a seafood restuarant, much to the dismay of the patrons. After ordering fish and chips he is set upon by a blogger who asks him far too many questions and Aquaman decides its time to leave. At Amnesty Bay he tells his wife Mera that he doesn’t want to be the king of Atlantis and that he wants to start a new life with her above the waves. In the middle of the Atlantic a fishing boat looses a member of its crew to the monstrous fish creatures, who seem intent on devouring the rest of them and that is the book.
Well Aquaman’s seventh attempt at his own title is not what you’d expect from the character. Johns clearly has a mission statement with Aquaman in general, to make him into the icon he should be. He has thrown Aquaman at the fans since Blackest Night and he clearly wants to recreate the success he had with Green Lantern. But whilst Johns had a grasp on what makes Hal Jordan tick, from this issue you get the sense that perhaps he hasn’t the same affinity for Arthur Curry. This is due to the simple narrative and clichés Johns throws into the book. Arthur has daddy issues, is a superhero out to prove his worth, is a reluctant king running from his responsibilities and can brood with the likes of Bruce Wayne. In fact you could be forgiven from thinking that in this one issue there doesn’t seem to be anything that makes for a unique or compelling character within its pages, however before you write Aquaman off Johns throws one idea into the mix that might be a lifeline. He makes Aquaman a joke, not for the reader but for the populace of the DC universe. Police are embarrassed that he helps save the day, people poke fun of his powers (Apparently he doesn’t talk to fish, he telepathically commands them) and the feeling you get from Aquaman’s reactions is one of frustration. Yes this gives us the “superhero out to prove his worth” cliché but its so metatextual its forgiven. The fact that he has to prove himself to a populace that believes he’s a joke whilst the book itself has to convince readers that a character called Aquaman isn’t a joke is a stroke of genius.
However the plot is so run of the mill that it pulls the book down and the whole blogger interview aspect of the book is just lazy exposition. In fact the blogger interview is in complete contrast to our introduction of Aquaman, which is in the realms of “show, don’t tell” territory and works well in establishing the characters powers (Although when could he leap like the Hulk?). It is the exposition dialogue which cripples the flow of the book and it even resorts to flashbacks to fill in his past. Understandably this is a first issue intended for new readers and therefore must explain a few things, but it is in the manner that they’re explained which is the problem. In contrast books like Wonder Woman and Animal Man, who arguably are as hard to sell as Aquaman, have more economical and fascinating ways of establishing their main characters. In fact the only thing that is established that isn’t explained in the dialogue is that Aquaman is a man of few words.
But if there is something that raises the book up it is Ivan Reis. His art is fantastic, the monstrous creatures are freaky, the action is kinetic and highly detailed and even Mera’s hair is great. But it is how he captures Aquaman that adds depth to the character. Reis’ Aquaman is regal, strong and stoic, in fact it is in the art where we can see Arthur’s characterisation and not in the dialogue. It is worth picking it up for the art alone.
So on the one hand the art is terrific and really sells the character as he has never looked this good in a while. But on the flip side Johns’ hasn’t offered anything new for him to do, even people unaware of the character could guess the outcomes of some of the plots that have been set up here. However with the added metatexual commentary comes a sort of charm, which could sustain readers for a few issues (even if it isn’t intentional).
A COMIC BOOK BLOG RATING
|The art is fantastic and there is a hint of metatexuality that adds a bit of much needed depth to the book||The plot is uninspired and the dialogue is loaded with exposition which weighs the book down.|
More Aquaman @ acomicbookblog.com/tag/aquaman