Aquaman: the best character in company-owned comics that no one can seem to translate across to audiences in a positive manner that doesn’t rely on some weird gimmick.
But hey, we’re on a break from the main story arc and their “cooler” “darker” Other League. It’s time to reintroduce Aquaman for the 2012 audience! Geoff Johns’ got this!
Written by Geoff Johns
Illustrated by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado
– It’s the first appearance of Atlantis — and Aquaman’s first encounter with Atlanteans! – How will this story of Arthur’s past set the stage for his future? Find out here!
Aquaman is awesome. There. I’ve said it. Now we all know it to be true. He gets a lot of guff from comedians who know little of the character beyond that he can talk to fish and he’s consistently a laughing stock both inside and outside of the comic medium, but in the grand scheme of things there is a lot to like about Aquaman. He’s royalty, is part of a much bigger world (the sea covers about 75% of the Earth) and has just as much if not more potential to be a big time hero than guys like Batman and Green Lantern (both proven jerks). So why can’t DC just put out a book in which Aquaman isn’t made to be just like everyone else? We had the time of a more broody Aquaman back in the 90’s, and back then he at least had the excuse of being moody what with his hand being cut off. It seems that, in the infinite wisdom of regressive storytelling, DC and Johns both assume that what will make Aquaman appealing in 2012 is for him to be a bit rougher around the edges, perhaps darker and more moody — so that’s what we get.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s back it up for a bit.
In “Aquaman” #0, we are shown Arthur Curry six years ago (against the “five years ago” timeline of everything else) as he searches for meaning in his otherwise miserable life. Stalked by the paparazzi and without a parent, Arthur takes to the sea to find answers from his long-lost mother (nothing says DC Comics like absent parents) and hopefully some sort of reason for his existence. What follows is an incredibly beautiful little sequences of Arthur The Possible Champion, discovering his powers and his potential by exploring the sea and saving wayward sailors. It’s a fantastic example of just the kind of hero we’re looking for in these troubled times; someone who sees beyond their selfish needs to protect others despite the odds, someone who uses their abilities to protect others without reason and who understands that this is the true call of the hero.
And then, less than halfway through the issue, this mentality is thrown out the window. Instead, we are given the subsequent story of a hero who actually is fairly self-centered, needlessly broody and otherwise typical and dull, and it’s such a shame. While the introductory sequence of Arthur swimming and saving was enough to elicit an almost overwhelmingly positive response from yours truly, the resulting sequences of Arthur and new pal Vanko simply reaffirm every issue that is prevalent with the modern iteration of the DCU. While Arthur’s history was never necessarily light-hearted or “friendly” by any means, we’re instead given a Game of Thrones-esque recap throughout the following pages of blood and betrayal as Arthur is filled in on what he’s missed growing up on land. It’s with that that the issue isn’t ever really about Arthur or Aquaman; this is a book that really, really, really, really, really wants to sell you on the idea that Aquaman is cool without feeling the need to back-up that thought in any conceivable way, and it does so by telling you about stuff and things you’ll never see anyway.
However, the ultimate detriment to the book is that it stops itself before it gets going. The book is more of a tease for a larger story than it is an origin book; yes, elements of an “origin” are certainly discussed, but the comic breaks the ultimate rule of a visual medium: show, don’t just tell. While Johns certainly lets Reis spread his wings and fly a bit in the beginning, the latter half of the book is bogged down by so much needless exposition that it’s almost cringe-worthy. An entire potential storyline of discovery is thrown away in exchange for trivial knowledge that will admittedly be quickly forgotten (especially since this story won’t be resolved until next year it seems), and you can’t help but wonder if there could’ve been a better use of this comic’s time. In fact, while it’s the most endearing part of the issue, the thought occurs that the entire decompressed sequence of Arthur exploring the deep could’ve been boiled down to just two pages, because that’s seemingly the only reason why an infodump was needed in the end. You don’t really get a feel for Arthur at all because of all this, and in a book that should help you relate to it’s central protagonist more, that just seems like a bit swing and a miss.Continued below
All lackluster writing aside, let it not be said that this is a fantastic looking book. Often times in comics we find that on occasion great art will carry along terrible writing to the point that it’s tolerable, and “Aquaman” is a great example of that. It’s too bad, really; Reis is doing top notch work here, bringing a really cinematic lens to the storytelling that Prado can bring out beautifully with firm and sturdy linework. The opening sequence stands out thanks to the lack of dialogue, and Reis really gives Arthur the gamut of emotions that we haven’t seen in him yet — from elated to terrified, brave to forlorn. Reis’ composition is beautiful, delivering some richly detailed sequences throughout the all too short and stunted read — yet when you get to that final page, you can’t help but stop and admire the work that went into bringing that page to life.
Thus the problem with Aquaman continues. All things considered, Aquaman has a lot of potential in today’s world; sure, we’ve all heard a few too many jokes about how lame his powers are, but there are plenty of things Aquaman could do to show us that he’s a hero. Instead, we get this brooding man-child who is relatively unlikable and dull in a way that goes beyond familiarity. “Justice League” gives us a bully, and “Aquaman” gives us what amounts to a confused child with anger issues lashing out. It’s not exactly an endearing mix.
A year ago when “Aquaman” #1 came out, it was an easily missed opportunity to show off the heroic talents of Aquaman when Johns chose to write a story about how no one could respect the character no matter how hard he tried. Now, a year later with “Aquaman” #0, not too much is changed — nobody really cares about Aquaman, and we’re given half a story that barely goes to inform who the character is today. If that’s worth $2.99 to you, then by all means.
Final Verdict: 5.0 – Browse for art purposes