Unfortunately Aquaman isn’t buried alive, as the cover would have you believe. But Johns continues to bury him in mediocrity.
This issue hits the ground running with a fantastic opening. It marries the visual mastery of Ivan Reis with a surprisingly witty, dialogue free, script from Geoff Johns. Our title character literally falls from the sky into the heart of the desert with no one around. It’s mysterious, compelling, fantastic to look at and a little funny. It’s a shame then that after a strong start the issue goes down hill at a tremendous pace.
Obviously we must know why Aquaman is in the desert in the first place. Such is the direct and uncomplicated manner of Johns’ plot that every detail must be revealed through over used temporal shifts. Playing like an over familiar Taratino film the narrative jumps from the desert to the actions leading up to Aquaman’s current predicament. Would it be too much to ask to leave a little mystery in the book? Would it not be more entertaining seeing how he gets out of the desert, than how he gets there? In fact you could condense the events, which lead to his desert stroll in some well-placed expositional dialogue. But instead we get a book full of well-worn clichés and a ridiculous solution to his desert exile.
Looking at the flashbacks first there is literally nothing here that doesn’t seem overtly familiar. Well maybe Reis depiction of Mera as she reacts to a vibrating phone with something akin to fear, could be considered different. But aside from that we have Aquaman brooding, an Atlantean artifact that makes an annoying noise and a group of Atlantean mercenaries that are interested in acquiring said artifact by any means necessary. The shocking reveal that the mercenaries are Atlantean isn’t even surprising, it may add to the mystery of Atlantis but it lacks any impact. Again all these elements feel far to familiar, which lead to the whole endeavor feeling uninspired. Although it must be said that both Reis and johns continue to make Aquaman a formidable physical presence in a fight.
The desert scenes are better handled but at the end of the day it is a guy in desert. It is almost brought crumbling down though by an ill conceived and heavily robbed “ghost dad” scene. An issue doesn’t go by without Johns trying his hardest to throw in some emotional core to the character. And as usual it feels forced, probably due to it’s overt manner. It’s a contrived scene at best and it hammers out a point Johns has made since day one, only he has managed to do it more succinctly elsewhere. Moving on from that scene Johns again pilfers another well-worn narrative exposition device, the ill-fated messenger. For what it is it works, but at some point this book needs to start crafting it’s own identity. At the moment it is a patchwork of used ideas cobbled together under the Aquaman title.
But the most amazingly bizarre moment of the whole issue is the U.S Navy rescuing him from the desert. Quite frankly it’s ludicrous and serves only one purpose. To allow Johns to continue his obsession with having Aquaman a laughing stock in the public’s eyes. It isn’t a bad angle to take the character, but it is too elaborately constructed and mishandled on every level. It isn’t funny it’s sad.
But it isn’t all doom and gloom as Reis throws in some great images to the book. The opening scene is magnificent. The action is frenetic and flows very well. Aquaman in the desert is suitably exhausted and the arrival of the helicopter is a lovely visual.
But again it’s just pretty window-dressing to an otherwise hollow book. It’s formulaic, contrived and bland. Even the mysteries of Atlantis don’t really entice. With so many other books in DC’s canon that create compelling solo hero adventures, it’s quite remarkable that this hasn’t been cancelled to make way for something better. It could only be that people are happy to see Aquaman in his own book no matter what kind of story is being told.
A COMIC BOOK BLOG RATING
|Ivan Reis really does some splendid work. The beginning is great.||Narratively the book is familiar and unappealing. It’s character moments are forced and uninteresting.|
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