In the city of Boston police are hot on the trail of some masked criminals. Arthur aka Aquaman, King of Atlantis, steps in and captures the crooks. Instead of actually being thankful, the police are pretty much embarrassed. It appears Aquaman isn't really liked, yet this doesn't stop him from doing what he believes to be right. -summary
It may sound crazy to a lot of people when they hear this, because Aquaman really isn't among the most liked or appreciated characters in comics, in fact, many fans feel he straight up sucks. Still, I was looking forward to his reboot in the New 52. This is mainly due to Geoff Johns at the helm though. His portrayal of Aquaman during Blackest Night and Brightest Day had been the best work on the character in years, quite possibly since Kurt Busiek's run. To be straight up, Johns made Aquaman cool again. I actually had high hopes for this debut and although the book is entertaining, for the most part it feels like Johns was holding back. It's actually kind of difficult to critique the book. Johns does deliver enough to make Aquaman into a strong character you may want to follow, and he delivers just enough story to set a foundation, but unfortunately, Johns really doesn't elevate him from a C-list character tagging along with A-Listers. In other words, he doesn't feel like a founder of the Justice League, just another strong guy hanging out with them. Aquaman Vol. 1: The Trench collects issues 1 - 6.
The story does have a lot of depth that many new fans may not catch simply because they're just not in the know. Over the last few years, quite possibly decade or so, many people did not like the character and he was definitely a favorite in the punchline circles. Johns openly addresses those jokes of the character, by allowing most of Aquaman's detractors to blatantly insult him. There's one interaction where Aquaman is publicly asked, "How does it feel to be nobody's favorite superhero?". Johns pretty much sums up all of the criticism, and then goes on, in his mind, to prove why Aquaman does not suck.
After reading this book, you may also agree that Aquaman does not suck, however, you're not going to liken him in terms of greatness to Batman, Superman, or even Green Lantern. Johns develops the character giving him a personality and even a background some can relate to. Aquaman is half human and half Atlantean, and he does have problems fitting in with both. There are various attempts towards making him more human, and Johns really could have carried the entire book with just that, but he decides to cram it all, and then get to the action. A small town on the surface is attacked by a group of very hungry monsters, that appear to be humanoid piranhas. Aquaman along with his wife Mera engages the creatures in bloody and brutal battle. The storyline is concluded quickly, too quickly I might say, but you can tell this is something that can be expanded on. The remainder of the book features Mera in solo action, along with setting up the next storyline. Mera is interesting in her way; as a born Atlantean she's very curious about her husbands life as a surface dweller, at the same time, she's terribly confused on how the surface people think, even more on how her husband tolerates their insults. I admire Johns continued development of her character, it makes her more than just a tag along or potential plot device.
Even if the actual story was horrible, in which it isn't, Ivan Reis's artwork would probably be worth the price of admission all alone. There's this majestic feel when seeing Aquaman for the first time. He really does look like royalty, with his golden trident standing so proudly. Aquaman's tacky orange and green never looked cooler. Mera looks just as great with her skin tight green and crown. The character designs are just very well done; I mean there is nothing to complain about here. The fish monsters are grotesque, they would make great flesh eating beast in any sea based horror film, with their sharp gruesome teeth and scaly bodies. The action has some good moments but nothing truly groundbreaking though. I just wish there was more gore. The backgrounds aren't the least bit neglected. The deep, watery, ocean depths are perfectly drawn with the right amount of darkness. This particular area works very well with the development, providing a decent amount of depth for the fish creatures. This place looks dangerous even for the King of the Sea himself. I really liked the wit in the dialog, and not at all because the jokes used to degrade Aquaman are actually funny, but it's the dated feel of them. The jokes are corny, and very, very dated, yet it's clear that was Johns intention though. He wants readers to understand just how far back the negativity in regards to the character goes. Some people ripped the book because of these old jokes, the truth is they just didn't get it.
Although this is a very good starting point for anyone new to Aquaman. I personally feel some things were too brushed upon. Aquaman has suffered from a very bad rep over the years, and it appears that it's going to take time to repair him. I heard that Johns is leaving the book after issue 16; I only hope he leaves it in good enough condition for the next writer to pick up. In any case, if you skipped over this title simply because you know nothing of the character, I think you should give it a shot anyway. It's among the better New 52 books.
Pros: -Fantastic artwork, decent debut story with character development
Cons: -Feels too much like a taste of things to come
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