Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, and Rod Reis
Since just around the time Blackest Night began it’s seemed like Geoff Johns personal mission for Aquaman to be taken seriously. I mean, Mera playing a prominent role, Black Lantern Aquaman being an incredible badass, and even Tempest being killed and then destroyed along with the rest of the supporting cast, and finally Arthur being returned to life. This was followed up by Aquaman in Brightest Day having one of the better stories in that book, and making a display of why he belongs. There’s also Emperor Aquaman from Flashpoint, but I’m trying to stick with the Aquaman that actually matters (though he was quite the badass). Interestingly enough, all of that was handled by this creative team, as Reis and Prado were the artists for the Aquaman pages in Brightest Day. It’s been more than just the mission of Geoff Johns, as for an artist like Ivan Reis to be handling Aquaman almost exclusively since Blackest Night must mean that someone upstairs (hi Dan!) must really want the butt of every superhero joke to belong in the list of the elite. It’s not an easy task though, as ever since the days of the Superfriends has Aquaman been greeted with the worst of joking reactions, generally revolving around his ability to talk to fish.
It’s not surprising at all that Johns would devote time to having these jokes pop up in Aquaman’s actual life, but unfortunately, he devotes most of the issue to it. The upside is that by the end of the issue Aquaman makes a lot of jokesters look like complete jackasses, but the downside is…quite literally everyone Aquaman comes into contact with makes an Aquaman joke. From armed robbers to cops to waitresses to hipsters. Everyone has an Aquaman joke to tell, hell, someone asks if he needs a glass of water. It gets laid on pretty thick, and that’s really the worst part of the issue. The jokes somehow seem to lose their humor when actually used in print…which I imagine is Geoff’s intent. He portrays Aquaman in such a way that you can’t help but think these people are just jackasses and that Aquaman gets a bad rap, and that’s really not the worst way to establish him. The hipster blogger towards the end of the issue is by far the worst of it, and that is totally the intent. He’s obnoxious, he’s irritating, and he provides the ultimate display of being a good guy. Aquaman doesn’t reach across the table and smack the little punk.
That’s one of the cool things that I noticed in the issue, actually. Aquaman doesn’t react to these people when they mock him, there’s annoyance on his face, sure, but you never get the impression that it’s actually hurting his confidence. He has the demeanor of a King, which is rightfully so as he is the King of the vast majority of the planet by right. He’s noble, he only says that which needs to be said, and he’s not one to ask twice. He really doesn’t talk a lot for the majority of the issue, not when in public at least. Most of what he says is short explanations, like explaining why what he does isn’t talking to fish. He also does something incredibly generous for, quite literally, the only surface dweller he comes across that is actually nice to him. Aquaman looks like a million bucks, but the way the average every day person is displayed you’d think everyone is a message board avatar doing topics about why Aquaman sucks. There’s solid enough ground to build on, but public perception in the book either needs to change or not be brought up nearly as much, because by the end of it I’m glad that Arthur can go somewhere and not be harassed, not because I feel bad for him, but because I’m just annoyed! Aquaman has had awesome moments for years, I mean Peter David wrote him, he’s just never had the push to make him seem like a top draw. And like I said, there’s really enough here to build up from.
Johns really does find the core of who Aquaman is and try to go from there. He shows us the man, the King, and the super hero. He shows us a guy that’s incredibly strong and durable, but who is not indestructible. The orange shirt becomes a bullet proof piece of armor that doesn’t restrict his movement, at no point does it look funny or stupid, but I’ll get back to that. The trident is a great addition, especially because this is an Aquaman who has both hands, something I imagine will last for the foreseeable future. Mera is also among the main cast of the book, appearing towards the end, and they seem as if they’re just happy to be together again. It’s nice that in a DC Universe of split relationships that a few have survived, and after all the build for the two of them over the last few years, it’s nice to not see it completely taken away. Plus, I would have screamed if I got Aquaman: Year One to open this book.
The bad guys however, The Trench, the title characters, new creations by Johns? I have to ask, and I really really really want to know if this is true but….Geoff? Were you watching Piranha 3D when you came up with them? Because that movie is all kinds of awesome, and this is essentially the same origin. Piranha like beasts that have been sealed up under water deep below the surface for an untold length of time, and now they come up wanting to taste that sweet sweet human flesh that all big toothed fish crave in the world of fiction. This isn’t a complaint though, really, I’m just pointing it out. I love that movie, and while I know some of my peers abhor gratuitous violence just for the sake of it….I love it. I find entertainment in it, and while I mean, Aquaman isn’t much of a hero if everyone dies, but that doesn’t mean that our bad guys can’t have a feeding frenzy! Ving Rhames can cameo and use a boat motor as a water chain saw! Alright, damn it, I’m going to finish writing this review and go watch that movie. Highly recommended for anyone who watched Jaws and wished the shark had eaten more people.
The art is exactly what you would expect out of Ivan and Joe, it looks amazing. Aquaman looks like a superhero in costume, and yet his face never seems to lose that regal look that is being cultivated through both the writing and, well, the art. I love the costume work, especially the shirt. It’s armor, it’s clearly armor, and with lighting and shadows, it always feels like it as there is constantly light shining off various scales. He looks like he’s wearing a piece of orange scaled armor, with a collar, and he pulls it off. The action early in the issue makes him look awesome, and the way he handles himself speaks volumes for his character. The subtle things, the positioning, the disappointment leading to anger in his face. He doesn’t look like a guy trying to fight, he looks like a guy trying to win as quickly and effectively as possible. The facial work is some of the standout work from the book as a whole, and I would expect no less from these guys. There’s a full range of emotions even without the words. What else can I say? Well, Mera looks hot, yet classy, even in a robe. And The Trench? Well, they look like creepy piranha monsters. Very creepy.
However, the books pacing tells me off the bat that this won’t be unlike when Johns launched Green Lantern, where Hal seemed figured out but the book was slow moving and didn’t really find its groove until the Sinestro Corps War. I don’t think this book will have quite that issue, but with Geoff also writing Green Lantern for life, as well as Justice League, and his own repeated declaration that he will only do three titles at a time…how long is he going to be here? He was on Flash for a year before this, but he was on JSA and his original run of Flash for years. Who knows, maybe he’s ready to settle in for the long haul and give Aquaman the kind of attention that made Green Lantern into DC’s top franchise. That’s really where this book gets iffy, as really, aside from the overdone Aquaman jokes, this is good issue….alright, fine, this issue is at least half bad Aquaman jokes. It feels like a first issue, and it does succeed in getting you into the head of our main character enough to care that he creates a new status quo for himself come the end of the issue. Hell, I’ll even say he makes the right decision with it. I’m curious to see where they go from here.
Tags: Aquaman, Blackest Night, Brightest Day, DC Comics Relaunch, Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Justice League, New 52 (DC Comics), Reviews