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Aquaman #15 – Review

AQUAMAN #15

By: Geoff Johns (story), Paul Pelletier (pencils), Art Thibert & Karl Kesel (inks), Rod Reis (colors)

The Story: With a tidal wave looming, suddenly the Joker seems like a trite problem.

The Review: Sheesh—this has got to be the lightest week on record here at the ol’ WCBR.  I suppose I didn’t help things by delaying this review until today, but the holiday always gets in the way of things, right?  Why, I must have played about three different board games in the last week alone.  And I still haven’t told you about my New Year’s Eve craziness—balanced my budgets.  So you might say that as far as making use of my break goes, I totally nailed it.

Back on the comics front, Johns has yet another splashy crossover arc on the stands, and it starts in earnest here.  The prologue in Justice League #15 set up the nature of the crisis pretty well, but now we really get a sense of what’s at stake.  So often in comics, major disasters will hit a city and no one will recognize the damage.  Not so here, where the enormity of the Atlantean attacks renders our heroes almost speechless with their own failure and horror.  Mera, stricken, says, “I could feel them in the water as I moved it, Arthur.  Bodies.  There are so many bodies down there.”

I also appreciate that the Leaguers call the situation as it is: an act of the most unjustifiable murder.  Aquaman makes a valiant attempt to explain the Atlantean rationale, and even manages to convince us that this is simply a cultural misunderstanding of the gravest kind—but only for about a couple pages.  For if Orm really is, as Arthur says, just reacting as any leader would, why would he seemingly take such sadistic pleasure in choking an innocent fisherman?

One thing I must call attention to in this issue is how much more comfortable Johns seems to be with these characters.  Like magic, he suddenly has a grasp on the League and their dynamic in a way that he never had on any issue of Justice League, ever.  Even Wonder Woman, clearly Johns’ weak point, sounds appropriately assertive, rather than wishy-washy or blithe.  The best and most interesting scenes by far involve Batman and Aquaman, where they gravely discuss, not bicker, their next course of action.  An unexpectedly cool combo.

Of course, since this is Johns, he can’t possibly write a whole issue where he doesn’t fall into some lame storytelling traps.  At first, I found it nothing short of laudable that the League—Batman, no less—gives Aquaman a chance to reason things out with Orm and bring him in peacefully.  Yet no sooner did I start tabulating the respect points this decision earned, they lost it all by showing up about two pages into Aquaman and Orm’s encounter, cutting his credibility short completely.  Not exactly the most confidence-inspiring moment for the League.

Ivan Reis has been nothing less than a superstar for his entire run on this title, so anyone who comes after will have to suffer by comparison.  Pelletier, however, does turn in admirable work.  He has a slightly loose, humanistic character to his art that reminds me of Rags Morales or Andy Kubert, but between his tighter lines and the solid inking by Thibert-Kesel, his figures look much more attractive and substantial than either Morales’ or Kubert’s.  It also helps a great deal that he has Rod Reis’ lush colors to give his waterworks the cool and dangerous hues Ivan Reis always profited from.

Conclusion: A satisfying follow-up to the first chapter of this latest major Justice League adventure.  A solid start bodes well for the future.

Grade: B

- Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: - Johns may have a few flaws as a writer, but he’s always earnest and sincere in what he writes, which can be very winning.  Take Harvey’s reaction to Aquaman: “Atlantis?  I thought that was just a gimmick.”

Gimmick?

Mad Hatter ain’t from Wonderland, is he?”  Good point, Harv.

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