Emperor Aquaman #1
Written by Tony Bedard
Art by Ardian Syaf and Vicente Cifuentes
What do we know about Aquaman in the world of Flashpoint? Well, we know he’s a scarred individual that sank Europe after going to war with the Amazon’s. That a wedding gone wrong and the death of a loved one pushed him over the edge. And that his brother Orm, the Ocean Master, is at his side. These are the few facts we’ve managed to gather about the man from his references and appearances thus far, which means that Tony Bedard has been left with a lot of room to work with. He’s been given the opportunity to show us just what exactly happened, and how precisely everything has gone down.
This issue, the first issue, jumps back and forth from the present to eight-to-eleven months ago. For the most part the happenings in the present are done to set up the various flashbacks of the title while at the same time granting Bedard a platform to characterize our lead with. There are several Aquaman mainstays that appear, like the aforementioned Ocean Master, as well as Vulko…which makes me wonder if he’s going to remain dead once Aquaman relaunches, but that’s hardly a point for this topic. Aquaman’s plans for the present are rooted in the anger and betrayals of his past, his loss radiates and clearly effects his decisions. He’s also…a lot colder, more calculating than I would probably ever give his mainstream counterpart credit for. And I say this without thinking about his sinking of a continent.
Speaking of his sinking of a continent, the meat of the backstory is several European nations coming to him looking for a mutual defense pact, hoping he might be an ally against the Amazons. The group looking for his assistance is led by a pretty well known DC character who has a highly vested interest in Eastern DC Europe going untouched. The Amazons have conquered the British Isles with rumors of concentration camps set up for the humans, their army marched in without issue…the fear is real, the fear makes sense. This isn’t the DC Universe that we’ve grown used to, this isn’t a world filled to the brim with brightly colored heroes. Aquaman is a questionable ally, but the Atlanteans grant the Europeans reason enough to trust them. The book twists, and it’s not exactly a spoiler to say that things don’t go according to plan. After all, the book opens with Aquaman swimming through the ruins of Rome, so it’s a fair guess to say Rome gets wiped out. At no point do you ever feel like the humans can succeed, but that doesn’t take away from their desire to live and their willingness to hope for the best.
Ardian Syaf, hot off of Brightest Day, provides the art here. Now, he handled the Hawkman stuff in that book while Reis handled Aquaman, but this is a nice looking issue. Aquaman’s design only looks better in action, Orm looks intimidating as hell…oh, and the ruins of Rome is enough to send chills up your spine. It’s a great way to put over Aquaman, to be honest, show the devastation caused by his sinking of a continent. The actual action in the issue is brief, but fluid, with one of the true highlights coming at the end when the wave finally hits.
Bedard has set up an interesting title with this issue; by beginning with the answers about the fall of Europe, and a second issue that promises us the origin of Aquaman. There’s an actual plot introduced in this issue that seems like it will be the device that carries this mini through it’s three issue run, and it’s not a bad one, hell, it could carry over into the actual Flashpoint mini on its own. Aquaman and Wonder Woman are at war, and he may have finally found a way to end it once and for all. I’m interested to see where this mini takes us, and if maybe there’s a chance that there’s redemption in the future for the Emperor. Though at the same time…I will never complain about someone simply being a bad guy for the sake of being a bad guy, even if they have a good excuse.
Tags: Aquaman, Flashpoint (DC Comics), Reviews, Tony Bedard