By: Geoff Johns (writer), Ivan Reis (penciller), Joe Prado (inker), Rod Reis (colorist)
The Story: So tell me, Aquaman—was your ex-superteam as good as the one you have now?
The Review: Aquaman has been around for a long time, yet the point of this series is really about revitalizing him in the public eye again. For all intents and purposes, he must break out and prove himself just like any new hero, his only advantage being a well-developed mythos Johns can draw from. It’d be unwise to rely on this dusty material, though; it’s the new adventures of Aquaman we want to see, not the scrubbed-up reruns of old ones.
To his credit, Johns is bringing plenty of fresh ideas for this incarnation of the man who talks to fish, though in a rather odd way. It’s true Aquaman’s first arc in this title included new enemies, new running gags, and a new status quo in general. Still, it feels more like Johns has put most of his energies into reconceiving Arthur’s past and background, and what we’re reading from issue to issue is that past catching up to the present story.
Whether Johns has chosen the most effective storytelling strategy in that regard, we’ll have to judge later. He has done a fine job with it so far, carefully drawing away the veil from the past through appropriate flashbacks and timely, piecemeal reveals that don’t overwhelm you with exposition. This is the first issue, however, where he shows some of that momentum he generated in the early days of his now epic run of Green Lantern.
True, the unanswered questions of Atlantis seem a bit small in comparison to the wide expanses of the universe, but Johns makes a pretty compelling mystery out of one of the biggies: “Did someone sink Atlantis?” Of course, it begs the follow-up question: “So what?” Discovering who may have doomed the great city millennia ago doesn’t seem like much use to the Atlanteans now. But as we well know, Johns always has a plan, whether it turns out great or not so great.
In the meantime, we have the straggling appearances of the Others, who, perhaps against your expectations, do seem rather intriguing. They certainly don’t look like other super-teams out there, and while each member looks radically different from the others, they still convey a unified tone. Unfortunately, Johns (like Judd Winick in Batwing) seems intent on bumping off these curious figures before you even begin to get to know them. And doesn’t it seem a bit unfortunate that the first victim happens to be the Middle Eastern lady of the team?
The death of Kahina the Seer at least does the service of establishing Black Manta early on as a man not to be trifled with, which is critical, as Manta is Aquaman’s prime archenemy. That said, it takes a lot more than a brutal streak (“And after I kill you, I will go to Tehran and I will kill your family… I will clean them like a fish.”) and grave-robbing tendencies to elevate a villain to Lex Luthor or Joker status. We will have to see if his quest for the Atlantean relics, one possessed by each of the Others, is a big enough goal to make Manta a worthy antagonist.
With Reis fully back on board, the art can’t be anything but gorgeous and dynamic. That splash page of Aquaman tugging a ship through storm-fraught seas has to be one of the more iconic shots of the iconic hero. It says everything about his defining strength, determination, and background. Prado and Rod Reis have their work cut out for them, having to fill in Ivan Reis’ intricate work with such dark inks and colors, yet make all the details, down to the individual curls and bubbles of each wave, distinct.
Conclusion: Here is where Johns hits his stride, veering away from meta jokes in favor of real, old-fashioned, long-term storytelling.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – Having seen the other relics on this issue’s cover, I can definitely say that Kahina’s is the lamest. The “Golden Seal?” I’m sorry, is that a discarded idea for something the Pink Panther would try to steal?
– Mera, don’t get jealous—the fact Aquaman is with you and not the scantily dressed Latina (with inhuman flexibility) is a pretty good sign.