By: Geoff Johns (writer), Ivan Reis (breakdowns), Joe Prado (artist), Rod Reis (colorist)
The Story: See, Mera, this is where a little concept called a shopping list would come in handy.
The Review: I don’t know about other reviewers, but I like to throw around the words “cliché,” “predictable,” “trope,” “formula,” and “archetype” like time’s a’wastin’ and I’ve got too many on my hands. It’s just that after reading so many stories over the years, particularly in comics, you become very familiar with all the traditions and conventions of the craft, and sadly, it gets a little harder to surprise and excite you.
Take the premise of Mera buying dog food in a small town. Now, as an exercise, consider how you’d write that story. Odds are there are a few beats you’d feel obliged to hit, no matter what your creative chops are. You’d almost have to get in at least one scene where Mera’s naivety about contemporary surface life leads to some amusement at the normally competent warrior woman’s expense. Inevitably, the culture clash will lead to a misunderstanding that will just as inevitably result to some hydro-violence. And somewhere towards the end, you’ll have at least one moment of mutual kinship so you can conclude on a heartwarming note.
If you imagined any of these scenes, congratulations—you just outlined about three-quarters of the issue’s material. Rather than focus on any of that, let’s look at the more original stuff Johns has to offer, the most prominent of which has to be Mera’s origin story. Johns retains most of the significant rewriting of her early life he originally wrote in Brightest Day, only now it’s unclear whether her hubby knows about her secret but ultimately impotent treachery or not. Johns also adds a new layer of intrigue by bringing up the question of what exactly happened between Mera and her daddy when she betrayed him. Given their shared violent streaks, you can’t imagine the parting went down without some physical pain.
Mera as the aggressive half of the Aqua-couple is a Johnsian invention, one that’s made Mera a star and which gives credit to Johns for his particular flair for character interpretation. The only downside is that Mera at times gives off the vibe of a rageaholic, which can become tiresome after a while. Making fatherhood a touchy subject for Mera would seem to exacerbate her anger issues (best demonstrated by her reaction to a wife-murdering daddy here), but it actually gives her a vulnerable spot for Johns to emotionally exploit, should the ripe moment come.
Johns has been teasing the Aqua-couple about their “fish out of water” obstacles since this series began. To some degree, Arthur has broken out of that perception, but it’s Mera who really puts an end to the idea that she’s helpless merely by a lack of water. Then again, she can do this because of the nature of her powers. Obviously, there’s a difference between her dealing with a single human foe and Aquaman getting stranded in the desert, but you can’t help feeling like this issue highlights how Mera frequently seems to outshine her husband in the powers department.
If you squint, you might be able to fool yourself into thinking Ivan Reis is at work, but otherwise, Prado makes a bit of a mockery of Reis’ full-bodied, lush style. Most of his problems centers on his tendency to make the characters, especially the women, unnaturally thin and narrow, with pointy and peaked features. As the issue goes on, the flaws become more and more apparent, and you can’t help wishing they’d just tacked on a different artist altogether, as it may be preferable to having each page look just that little bit wrong.
Conclusion: A light, breezy issue which introduces a few dramatic overtones to the title’s second banana; the art, however, takes a step down, making the issue suffer more than it needed to.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – It needs to be said. You’re a damn fool if you think you can get away with acting like a creepy hornball to anyone with superpowers. They are, quite literally, out of your league.