The New 52 comic book line by DC comics was more or less a mixed bag for me. I do think that Marvel’s “MARVEL NOW!“ line was much more ambitious and innovative. Granted, I did not collect all of their titles because I felt that most of them were unnecessary reboots and they opened several continuity issues that I felt were careless. But some did have their potentials and among those titles were “Aquaman” since Geoff Johns had done something very different with the sea king, he made him very cool.
The New 52 Aquaman title proved very creative and innovative that it even made a crossover with a new Justice League title also written by Johns. After a rather shaky start, Justice League had finally found a strong footing after its first story arc with Darkseid. “Throne of Atlantis” is a crossover series that was published in Aquaman #’s 14-17 and Justice League #’s 15-17. Written by Geoff Johns, illustrated by Ivan Reis, Pete Woods and Paul Pelletier, this mini-series carries some Shakespearean themes; it is a story of love, sacrifice, betrayal and loyalty between comrades in battle, brothers at arms, sibling rivalry and familial love.
The set up of its premise is actually pretty simple. A sabotaged test missile launch ravages an area near Atlantis and this had caused casualties in the undersea kingdom. Arthur Curry’s brother Orm, the current ruler of Atlantis then launches an attack on the surface world. Orm sends large tidal waves and seeking to sink the cities of America. Orm is following the Atlantean War Plans written by Aquaman himself, as the Atlantean forces also target people who may pose a threat (among them are Batman and Prof. Shin). The Justice League mobilizes to meet the Atlantean threat with Aquaman caught in the middle of his former countrymen and teammates. The team of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and Cyborg even assisted by Mera and Aquaman are pushed to their limits and this sets into motion a series of events that calls on new members of the League and the rise of the Ocean Master. Secrets will be revealed as Aquaman must now choose between friend, lover and brother.
Admittedly, the premise is not entirely original. It reminded me of the classic stories of Marvel’s PRINCE NAMOR The Sub-Mariner and even Aspen‘s own FATHOM. However, Johns’ writing was pretty strong that I was able to ignore such things. Yes, the story is pretty predictable in some areas but I really liked the way it managed to add certain touches that made the read very enjoyable. I remember Aquaman’s old foe, the Oceanmaster, and Johns handles his update quite effectively. Orm is a conflicted villain here; he loves his older brother, he loves his culture and Atlantean law, and really Orm was made into a tragic villain in many ways as well Aquaman being the reluctant king. Orm is not an evil man, and he was merely a victim of circumstance; I am really interested as to how the events of “Throne of Atlantis” would affect future stories of Aquaman, since this story arc may indeed be the mere introduction to even darker territory.
The writing by Johns was steady and it succeeded in immersing the reader into the world of Aquaman, a being caught between the surface world and his undersea kingdom. Johns’ plot development started out easy enough as it gains its footing with a meeting between Arthur and Orm in their discussion of the events with Black Manta. Johns’ also incorporates some bits of the League’s personal lives as Superman and Wonder Woman share several intimate moments, Batman doing what he does best and how Cyborg is coping with his own situation. Once the story goes into overdrive, the writing along with the illustrations by Ivan Reis generated such suspense that it became difficult to wait for the next issue. Reis’ art was just amazing in his panels where an aircraft carrier threatened to wreak havoc with a tidal wave. Johns’ wasn’t not afraid to go dark with his premise, the story has a huge body count and the Justice League issues were the ones that shone because of its amazing artwork. Reis’ art was able to dramatize the horror of the Atlantean attack with a lot of authority. The art by Pelletier and Woods were very good, but they felt a little uneven when compared to Reis’ renderings.
Johns’ was also able to bring into bear the emotions necessary to generate intensity. I have often wondered just how much of a strength upgrade Aquaman had received in the New 52 line, and issue 16 of Justice League shows the man having enough strength to topple the likes of Superman and Wonder Woman. I am glad to see Arthur finally getting his due, and becoming the major metahuman much in the class of Prince Namor (in strength level). Arthur also had Namor’s strong sense of individuality, and I appreciated the way Johns’ handled the character development that it was able to make the plot that much stronger. True, there were areas in the plot that were a little underdeveloped, I thought the story arc could’ve benefited in being longer as the Justice League issues regrettably shared a back-story with Shazam. I felt that Johns’ missed some things with his formation of the reserve Leaguers (I know they were going to be developed later) and the resolution of several areas in the script were a little uninspired; the coinciding wars between the Atlanteans, the surface world and the monsters of the Trench (fresh from the early Aquaman issues) felt a little anti-climactic.
Be that as it may, Johns’ focus remained on Arthur, Orm and the kingdom of Atlantis, that he managed to create enough dramatic tension between its characters. I loved the final act as the conclusion was truly epic with a lot of Shakespearean overtones. It was the definition of a king….what it meant to be one and just what it means to be both a hero, a warrior and a king. The conflicts between Orm and Arthur were well-developed, that I could not help but feel sympathy for their challenges. It is the rise of a new villain, the return of a king, and how personal wants must give way for the greater good. “Throne of Atlantis” was not perfect, and it was a little predictable, but it proved exciting and imaginative in the areas that really mattered. It is the right stuff to convince me to stay the course in following King Arthur’s future adventures. Believe it or not, Aquaman is now Awesome! [4+ Out of 5 Stars]
While I still believe that crossovers are shameless money grabs, "Throne of Atlantis" has renewed my belief that crossovers can be rewarding when done right. Fresh from the New 52's flagship title and the most innovative comic series that ever came from the New 52 line, Aquaman is now cool! A war between Atlantis and the Surface world has broken out and only the Justice League has any hope of breaking it off. But just which side is Aquaman on? … more