When a Spade’s a Spade (but it’s okay): Aquaman #1-4 of The New 52 Pick Up

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Usually, I give “list” reviews to comics I don’t like. Today, why don’t I do a list for something I like (despite some problems)? Let’s start, shall we?

1. Okay, I fell into the trap. I have picked up the new Aquman series by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis and will likely continue to. Well played, DC. But…

2. There’s already been revamps done by Peter David and others to make Aquaman relevant. The Aquaman out of water jokes have already gone at least one round. To do it again in less than twenty years seems a bit much.

3. And did Aquaman ever need this much of a revamp? You might be wondering this too if you took to Aquaman as depicted in the Batman: The Brave and The Bold cartoon. In it, he’s vain, badass, yet altruistic, friendly and above all, unapologetic in his presentation, especially when contrasted with this new version.

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4. That cartoon made me even consider the Super Friends version. Take the picture below, taken from one of the show’s many intros:

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Since the recent Brave and The Bold cartoon, even that silly image tells me that Aquaman is saying, “That’s right. I’m riding dolphins, and I just summoned a legion of small and large fish. What did you do today?

5. It’s odd that Johns is trying to implement the real world view of Aquaman as a hero (with it’s numerous jokes as heard on shows like Saturday Night Live and Family Guy). And yet, in this revamped DC universe (according to Justice League title by the same writer), all superbeings are regarded with suspicion and even fear. If that’s the case, would Aquaman be an SNL skit? This seems like a case of a writer wanting to have the cake and eat it. Johns tries too hard or not hard enough to make this work in issue #1.

6. So what works? Well, Ivan Reis, who, with Joe Prado, turns out pages like the one below from the first issue.

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It’s art that that (better than any recent Jim Lee pages I’ve seen) is what convinced me to buy the second issue. Not the weird pop culture references and other in-jokes. Thankfully, Johns writing stepped up a bit, ma
ybe deciding less is more with the water jokes.

7. By issue #2, the story moved to straight action, peppered with hints of Aquaman’s new (newish?) origins. A new underwater race has emerged from the depths and is looking to eat humans. Aquaman is (reluctantly) called in to help, fights ensue. All the while, there are hints of Aquaman’s history that get dropped and no doubt help to set up future storylines. There’s some hints of the Alien movie in the fourth issue. Not sure how I feel about that. It is subtle enough, unlike Chris Clairmont’s creation of The Brood.

8. Really, my biggest writing complaint from issue #2 on is the ad copy in issue #3.

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I don’t know if you can call the creatures cannibals if they’re non-humans eating humans. If they ate their own kind, maybe…

9. This first story took four issues from start to finish. It’s a nice, straightforward tale. I wish more new DC titles were like this.

10. This introductory story also sets up Mera, Aquaman’s wife, as his sole companion and partner in battle, both self-exiled rulers of Atlantis, which in this New 52 world, is not even believed to exist. No children, though, which seems to explain why they’re so happy together (when Johns has depicted other heroes with spouses and kids, they seem so miserable sometimes).

11. He lives in a Lighthouse now, which makes sense. Spider-Man needs tall buildings to swing from. Aquaman needs water. Both heroes would have a sucky time in the desert for different yet similar reasons. Namely, out of their element. Do you make fun of Batman because he wouldn’t work in New Orleans during Mardi Gras??

12. Disclaimer: If you saw the Brave and The Bold Cartoon, you realize Batman would totally work in a Mardi Gras setting.

13. I hope that the Aquaman title can give me similar self-contained stories for a while. I’m afraid that Johns has a Atlantis-themed crossover spanning all titles. Johns can’t seem to work his head around a character until he throws them into a crossover event. Not even The Flash, who prior to Flashpoint had already starred in two high profile company crossovers and died in the first one. And of course there was the whole attempt to turn Green Lantern into Lord of The Power Rings. I like Aquaman’s simpler vibe much better.

14. That’s all I’m going to say. Aquaman has a “ain’t broke/don’t fix it” vibe around it, but it’s gotten over some of it’s weaknesses in the first issue to deliver the goods. Grab it while the fun and the solid art lasts.

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About Chad Parenteau

I'm a poet. I run the Stone Soup Poetry series in Cambridge that runs every Monday night. I review comics in my spare time.
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2 Responses to When a Spade’s a Spade (but it’s okay): Aquaman #1-4 of The New 52 Pick Up

  1. Pingback: LAST WEEK on the ‘net | Ty Templeton's ART LAND!!

  2. I like this series exactly as much as I loathe JUSTICE LEAGUE, and I hate the latter like a festering boil on my ass. This is warm, character-driven, spectacularly drawn; Ivan Reis has as much taste in depicting this kind of Big Stuff as Jim Lee lacks. Because Reis is still a storyteller, while Lee, like all the original Image artists except Larsen perhaps draws like he’s not so much trying to tell a story as push up the price of his originals, the reason so many of those artists (a) usually packed as many characters on a page as they could at all times and (b) favored wall-to-wall splash pages. Reis here could be argued to have a perfect excuse for splash pages (yes, you can kill me for that pun) but mostly avoids them as such. When he does, things are still HAPPENING.
    And this just makes JL piss me off even more, because we know Geoff Johns can write, it’;s just sometimes he chooses to shit out character dialogue that’s nothing but constant pitches.

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