Review by C.J. Bunce
With three issues out we’ve had enough time to get a feel for the DC Comics’ New 52. Some of the DC titles have found their own niche in the giant volume of books available, considering the severl hundred books published by DC, Marvel and all the independents.
I am pretty pleased with the overall picture in the Aquaman series. On the one hand, the story is very simple so far. On the other hand, what is there is full of snappy dialogue, nostalgic quick references, and inside jokes, from the pen of writer Geoff Johns. As far as the art is concerned, initially I was hoping an Aspen comics-esque, ex-Fathom series artist would draw the Aquaman series or that the current artist would take on Fathom’s dreamy waterworld stylings. Yet Ivan Reis’s view of a world existing side by side Atlantis is superb. And his seafaring underworld aliens are still the best villains in the DC universe right now. Kudos are owed to Reis for his consistent, relevant, striking covers, too.
What struck me reading issues #2 and #3 is that this story is written as if Aquaman was existing in the Marvel Universe. Folk on the street chide and lambast Captain America and X-Men in the ordinary course of the day. Here, Aquaman walks in the room and there is no awe in the eyes of those he meets. He might as well not be there, from the perspective of the regular townspeople. Now this has been done in the DCU before and happens all the time in various contexts but this superhero in the real world concept is very overt here and Geoff Johns’ approach is working so far. The fact that someone can show up at Aquaman’s door and basically say that he was looking for Aquaman and heard he lived around here…maybe it is simple, but it works.
As story arc is concerned, we are seeing more of the calm before the storm in this story than the actual storm, yet we see pockets of storm. As a matter of story tempo and meter, it is following the pacing of the movie Jaws, unintentionally I would expect. That is, we get to know this harbor town, and this is a familiar place. It could be Amity from Jaws. It could be Haven from the Stephen King/SyFy channel series Haven. It is tranquil, and if you have ever spent much time in coastal towns Johns and Reis locked in the feel of this setting, the calm tide, almost the smell of sea and sound of the squawking seagulls. And like the vengeful spirits in John Carpenter’s Fog, the approach of the villainy is slow and deliberate, victims are picked off one by one.
The aliens speak in stilted tones like the bionic animals in the stellar-but-sad-and-disturbing series WE 3, by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely (probably the only series that has really impressed me from the much-hyped Grant Morrison). Unlike the aliens in the Alien series, this makes them some how more approachable, a necessary trait with any good fleshed out villain. Can these seemingly unsympathetic villains be redeemable? One says “Help us” as he drifts away? Does he mean “I am helping myself?” by escaping, or is he beckoning to Aquaman?
If there is anything to improve upon it is Aquaman and the often jokingly mislabeled Aquawoman, Mera. Mera almost seems more interesting at this point. We’ve been peppered with some slightly depressing but spotty backstory, some kind of regret, but I’d prefer something else, or at least some reason to like these characters more. The super duo are trying to help humans, despite clearly the fact that humans don’t always want their help. But as story elements go, we need to like the humans and the lead characters both or we’ll get bored with the story. Maybe if Aquaman were to act against his own interest? Then again, saving a dog from the creatures is a good start.
In issue #2 we learn that the sea monsters are hungry and they see us as food. We also see that Mera is not going to take a backseat in this story—being the first to step forward against this new threat. In issue #3 Aquaman gets the body of one of the sea monsters for examination and learns more about the creatures. The book ends with Aquaman and Mera racing to “The Trench,” the supposed origin of these villains. The story arc continues next month… and we’ll be back for more.