By: Geoff Johns (story), Ivan Reis (pencils), Joe Prado, Oclair Albert, Andy Lanning (inks), Rod Reis (colors)
The Story: All those years of PTSD therapy, undone by one super-villain attack.
The Review: As I read through this issue, it struck me that I haven’t been giving Johns enough credit for what he’s been doing on the title. In many ways, Johns has had to reintroduce Aquaman like a brand-new hero, giving him a fresh mythos for a new generation of readers. At the same time, Johns has not only been preserving the essentials of Aquaman’s lore, he’s been portraying Aquaman as a hero who comes with a rich history already attached.
The Others represent this strange mixture of new and old in Aquaman’s current continuity. Though I still think it an unusual choice for Johns to spend so much time establishing a whole other set of characters when his star still has a long way to go in the development department, he’s been doing a remarkably good job at it. The opening with Prisoner-Of-War shows Johns’ writing at its best: largely stripped at dialogue, yet incredibly informative and emotionally stirring. I will happily accept any number of Others if Johns can write them all like this.
He’s also done a surprisingly strong job of writing the group’s (out of respect to Aquaman, we won’t call them a team) chemistry, especially considering the complete lack of it over in Justice League. As it stands, Aquaman has a much deeper bond with this band of outcasts than he does with his current gang of icons, a bond which runs on implicit understanding. Though separated for who knows how long, they still hold influence over each other and they come to each other’s aid without question.
Obviously, the influence between Ya’wara and Arthur likely goes even deeper than that, as he admitted (to Mera’s chagrin) last issue that they share a “telepathic” connection. Here, as they romp through the Amazon, clearing it of Manta’s henchmen, you can deduce the specifics of that connection. Ya’wara has the rainforest’s creatures—or, at least, its large felines—at her mental beck and call as Aquaman has all the ocean’s; it’s not hard to see why they might have been kindred spirits once upon a time, and how their mental powers might have once interacted.
If the Others come to each other’s aid without question in this case, it might have more to do with Black Manta’s involvement than anything else. Lord knows how the rest of the Others came to hate him as much as Aquaman does, but we soon learn the enmity between Manta and Arthur is a lot more complicated than previously imagined. It’s not just that Manta is a ruthless treasure-hunter who sought Arthur’s flesh once upon a time; Manta has a legitimate personal vendetta against Arthur as well, one which actually puts our hero on the morally shaky ground.
At the center of all this is Dr. Shin, yet even his role comes across more layered than you might expect. Self-serving and arrogant he might be, but he did devote himself diligently to the Curry family for a long time, and was scientifically and intellectually frustrated in the process. In the end, he’s less sympathetic than otherwise, but he’s clearly not a villain. At the very least, he serves an important task in this arc; Mera said from the start she wanted to know more about her husband’s past life on land, yet only Shin has given her the stuff she needs to know.
Every issue of this series only further confirms my theory that Reis stands in the top tier of DC’s mainstream artists. This time around, pay attention to his dramatic ability. The sheer variety and subtlety of expression on Shin’s face is so rich that you can only call it good “acting,” and it is largely thanks to this that you connect to the character as you do. And of course, Reis’ storytelling in the opening with Prisoner is crucial to making that scene one of the better things Johns has written thus far in the new 52.
Conclusion: For those of you who remember Johns’ superb early work on Teen Titans and the rebirthed Green Lantern, he’s bringing some of that same magic here.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – I’m no hawk, but I do appreciate our nation’s military, and it is only right that Prisoner-Of-War stands fearlessly against Manta.