Get ready for your closeup, Aquaman

20090720_aquaman_250x375The King of the Seven Seas, Aquaman has become something of a joke in recent years… to anyone not reading the hit monthly comic book (so successful that it has launched a spin-off) or the character’s many appearances in animated form (from Trapped in Time to the Flashpoint Paradox and the hint that the sequel to Justice League War will be Aqua-centric). Building on the work of his predecessors, Jeff Parker has found new ways to make Aquaman a superstar.

Via ComicBookResources:

With team-ups lined up from Swamp Thing to the Amazing Amazon, Parker spoke with CBR about his Wonder Woman-heavy “Aquaman Annual,” Mera and Arthur’s division of labor and how “True Detective” has influenced his take on “Aquaman.”

CBR News: We’ve seen the first part of the Aquaman/Swamp Thing team-up, and you mentioned that part of the reason you wanted to cross those two over was because Paul really wanted to draw him. What was the inspiration for the Wonder Woman team-up in the “Aquaman Annual” #2?

 Jeff Parker: That was more pure story reason, because once we did the thing where we had a Pandora’s box-type situation — Aquaman was used to release all these giant-born creatures from ancient mythology — it instantly connected into Wonder Woman’s world. So it’s like, okay, they’re both in the Justice League, who else would he call to start tracking these things down? It just was story logic and we wanted to follow that through the end. The artist on it won’t be Paul because he has to cover the main title, but it is a former “Aquaman” series artist, Yvel Guichet, and it’s gorgeous. He does a good, strong Wonder Woman that everyone’s going to like; it’s more monster fighting fun, but with Wonder Woman.

What else can you say about the story in the Annual? Is Hercules involved as well? Yeah, I’m trying to warm up the idea that Hercules is probably going to return and maybe be a little different than we saw him in his ranting, frothing mad state. Aquaman’s solution was to stick him in a labyrinth! [Laughs] But you can escape from labyrinths, and I think that was one of Hercules’ major feats in the past, so it stands to reason he’ll be back. But then he’s almost certainly going to be Wonder Woman’s problem; I think maybe the whole thing is Aquaman getting her used to the idea, “Sorry you’re going to have to deal with this — good luck, Wonder Woman!”

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Wrapping up, is there anything else readers should really pay attention to in the next couple of issues? I hope everybody picked up the “Secret Origins” #2 that has Aquaman’s secret origin in it. That just came out and it connects to some of the stuff we showed, like when we showed the high school reunion you see some of Aquaman’s friends when they were teenagers in that, and we hint at some things with that and an upcoming “Secret Origins” that’s all about Mera for some storylines coming up because there’s more in his past that hasn’t even been scraped yet, and that’s what we’re going to start heading to. We found out all you need to find out about his dad but we don’t really know that much about his mother and I think it’s about time to explore what happened to the queen.

In print, Aquaman has enjoyed a new lease on life thanks to a major shot in the arm thanks to the relaunch by Geoff Johns.  Incoming writer Jeff Parker has, if anything, further catapulted the hero into success in the comic book world.

So… how come he is still a joke? Expect that situation to change.

With Aquaman’s climb in popularity, he could easily become DC’s answer to Thor on film, especially after he makes his big debut om the silver screen in the ever-crowded Batman V Superman. Aquaman is noticeably absent from the long-term plan that was revealed by Warner Bros, but that too could change with this new star casting of actor Jason Momoa. Jason-Momoa Via Variety:

“Game of Thrones” actor Jason Momoa has signed up for the role of Aquaman in Warner Bros.’ “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.” Variety reported in December that Momoa was in talks for the Zack Snyder-directed tentpole, scheduled to be released May 6, 2016, with Henry Cavill as Superman, Ben Affleck as Batman, Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman. Other cast members include Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor and Jeremy Irons as Alfred while Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne and Diane Lane reprise their roles from “Man of Steel.” Snyder is directing from a script by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer. Charles Roven and Deborah Snyder are producing. Aquaman first appeared in DC Comics in 1941 and is a founding member of the Justice League of America. The studio is planning to shoot “Justice League” after it completes “Batman v. Superman.” Momoa played Khal Drogo in the first season of “Game of Thrones” and starred in 2011’s “Conan the Barbarian.” He is repped by APA, Kritzer Levine Wilkins Griffin Nilon Entertainment and Edelstein Laird & Sobel.

aquaman_2Keep in mind that the Aquaman pilot was passed on by CW only to be released on iTunes in 2006 to a resounding reception when it became the most downloaded TV program (and to be fair, it’s not that good), so this Justice Leaguer has potential if only WB has the courage to explore it.

And not do this… aquaman_superfriends

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Get ready for the all new Aquaman!

Aquaman_newOne of my favorite comic book writers to come out of the past ten years, Jeff Parker made Hulk cool, Incredible Hercules mythic and Agents of Atlas a must read cult hit. Now he is taking over the reigns of Aquaman from outgoing writer Geoff Johns who has done a great job at making the King of the Seven Seas a hit hero again (for the first time in a long while).

This week, Parker’s Aquaman hits the stands. If you are unfamiliar with the tangled history of Aquaman, you may want to read this old article.

Via USAToday:

He’s just in the beginning of his run on DC Comics’ Aquaman comic book, and Jeff Parker’s already in the deep end when it comes to using water metaphors.

With previous writer Geoff Johns driving the ship, Arthur Curry had to deal with a Dead King coming back to reclaim the throne of Atlantis, learned he wasn’t of the royal lineage he long thought, and discovered the existence of the kingdoms of the Seven Seas.

Parker says he’s not throwing him back into all that quite yet. Instead, “there’s shark punching, monster fighting and, the most deadly of all, the high school reunion.”

Out Tuesday, Aquaman issue 26 begins Parker’s creative reign with artists Paul Pelletier and Netho Diaz with some time passing since the last issue, when Aquaman and Mera took the thrones as rulers of Atlantis.

Arthur’s trying to make some changes in the Atlantean government yet he also feels the calling for being a superhero on the surface while what he has learned about his underwater city is still weighing on him.

“Ironically, he’s a fish out of water with the Atlanteans because he wasn’t raised there,” Parker says. “He’s caught up as fast as he can, he’s a smart guy, but at the same time he always has a little trouble with people because it’s not his culture.

“It’s literally like if you were raised in a lighthouse in Maine and then later on someone told you you’re the king of a country and you have no idea what to do.”

His mother’s role would have been teaching him all the royalty stuff, the writer adds. But because his dad, a lighthouse keeper, was the one who raised him, “what he takes away is you’re supposed to watch out for people and protect them, and that’s what he’s really good at.”

Being a member of the Justice League has earned him some goodwill among those on land. However, while he’s loved among the sailors and others whom he has saved, most of the general population doesn’t understand him.

Also, the rest of the world feels under threat by the Atlanteans since they are this mysterious force underneath them, and in turn the Atlanteans also feel constantly on the defensive from those up above.

So even though the rule of Atlantis isn’t technically his birthright, Aquaman takes the responsibility anyway.

“I don’t think he even thinks he’s necessarily the best person for it, but he’s the best person around,” Parker says. “And more importantly, and Mera helps him a lot with this, he’s the only person who cares about the surface world and the underwater world and that’s the key to their success.”

The new issue has Mera finding new ways to use her powers of moving water around — she’s the one responsible for Aquaman being launched nearly into space on the cover of issue 26, according to Parker — and the writer will continue to focus on their relationship and the typical stresses any couple has, though played on a larger scale.

Mera was starting to like the surface world and wants to spend more time up there, and she also wants to learn more about Arthur’s past. She’s the one who pushes him to go to his high school reunion because “she’s in love with him and wants to know what his adolescence was like,” Parker says.

In cherrypicking the threads Johns set up, Parker liked the moment where Mera met Officer Watson, who mentioned to her she went to school with Arthur in Amnesty Bay, and Parker liked the idea of seeing more of his classmates because everybody knows his identity as opposed to Batman or Superman.

A reunion is something readers old and new can relate to “because a lot of people stress over it, especially now that you get hammered on Facebook by everybody from high school,” Parker says. “You try to get away from them, and they’re like, ‘Come on, come back to this thing!’

“It give us a chance to reveal some stuff about him growing up, which you haven’t been able to see that much.”

The fan-favorite Aquadog, a canine named Salty, will be appearing in upcoming issues as well as Swamp Thing, who drops by for a team-up story line involving the environment and the ocean.

Black Manta and other familiar faces will be on the sideline, though, and Parker aims to touch on some but not all of the bigger Aquaman mythology that Johns picks up next year in his “Rise of the Seven Seas” Justice League story arc.

“It’s best to get back to the basics for a while and pick up those threads further in,” says Parker, who’s infusing some humor but not changing the tone or direction of the book all that much.

“Unless I screw up, it should feel like the Arthur you’ve been reading. What I’m doing really is what Geoff was doing: updating ’60s types of stories with modern storytelling approaches. In that sense, we’re kind of the same.”

People probably joke a lot less about Aquaman after Johns spent two years making him cool again, but for Parker, who grew up near the North Carolina coast and enjoyed “beach stuff,” the character’s always been a favorite.

“His comic book didn’t feel like anybody else’s comic book. You’d see people from the aquatic dimension and things like that — it was always really wild and sci-fi and magic all over the place.”

Some folks enjoy Aquaman in a “hipster-y way,” Parker says — “like, ‘I was always into Aquaman while you were into the typical superheroes.’ ” The reason why people can poke fun, though, is because they get him on a visceral level.

“As someone who’s worked on a lot of obscure characters over the years, this is a huge relief to me,” Parker admits. “I can say ‘Aquaman,’ and right away, no matter how much people have read, they know what he is. It’s all right there in his name. He’s the water superhero. And we just, so to speak, dive right into that.”

Aquaman #13 preview

Aquaman by Alex Ross

The New 52 Aquaman series has been a surprise hit with fans and critics alike. Rather than simply retelling the origin story of the King of the Seven Seas, dwelling on the underwater politics and obscure aquatic villains of the past, Johns and Reis have instead brought forth a more purposeful Aquaman with depth of character and an already developed past involving a secret league of super-powered individuals called ‘The Others.’

Using ancient Atlantean artifacts, the Others have unusual abilities but are still prey to the treasure hunter Black Manta who seeks to dredge up the mysteries of the past in order to create his own kingdom. It has been a major thrill ride so far and the conclusion looks to be a real blockbuster!

Written by Geoff Johns, art by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado

RELEASE DATE: October 31st, 2012

• The finale of “The Others.”

• Aquaman pushed to the breaking point!

• Who is Black Manta working for?

(Click on the images below to see a preview via CBR.com)

Quick review: Aquaman #0

Aquaman #0

By: Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis and Joe Prado

Six years in the past, young Arthur Curry’s true legacy is revealed. A royal bloodline is revealed and Curry finds that he has a destiny connecting two separate worlds.

For a guy that talks to fish and swims well, Aquaman has an unnecessarily long and complicated back-story that has only gotten more littered with conflicting ideas over the years. When Geoff Johns first spoke about taking up Aquaman as his next project, I was excited to see how he would unravel the character’s tangled aquatic web. I was surprised when the New 52 Aquaman series started without a new origin story and instead placed Curry in a contemporary setting. This of course allowed for the story of The Others to slowly unravel, giving readers glimpses of this hero’s personality and history over the course of several issues rather than all at once.

The monthly Aquaman series has earned acclaim from readers and critics alike. Johns and Reiss have crafted an original and innovative world around Aquaman that has drawn in new followers and pleased lifelong Aquafans. The zero issue connects some of the remaining gaps in Aquaman’s history. It’s an extra treat for fans of the monthly comic

Beginning with the death of his father, Arthur Curry is left alone in a strange world, an outcast from human society. The issue is unusually slim on dialog but very strong on imagery as Curry’s descent into the underwater realm is depicted in all of its dark mystery. After narrowly escaping a shark attack, Arthur rescues a mariner and his daughter, raising their craft with his immense raw strength. From there, Curry learns of Vulko, a man who also talks of Atlantis and holds all of the secrets of Arthur’s past. Arthur’s mother was Queen Atlanna. After siring a son on the land, she returned to the undersea world and was taken in by politics, wed to the captain of the guard. After having a second child with her husband, she was soon widowed and later died herself. Vulko strongly suspects that Orm was Atlanna’s assassin, and has waited for the return of the one true king.

From Vulko, Arthur Curry learns that he is not just an outsider, but an estranged member of royalty. In the absence of the royal bloodline, Arthur’s brother Orm has taken up the crown. With the exiled Atlantean by his side, Aquaman journeys to the breathtaking realm of mythical Atlantis to reclaim his birthright and restore order to a kingdom in turmoil.

This zero issue delivered the goods on who Aquaman is and what his new origin entails, something that has hung over the character since his return in Brightest Day. Not only that, it hints at what is to come in later issues (and possibly JLA as well). Mainly an issue of continuity and world building, but it’s also a very good sign that DC Comics may have finally sorted out Aquaman once and for all. A hero recognized by all yet known by a relative few, Aquaman has all the makings of a modern cult superhero hit along the lines of Green Lantern (not the Ryan Reynolds movie, the comic).


I have been suitably impressed by Ivan Reiss’ artwork in this series, one that suits his skills quite well. Reiss is a true gem of the DC Comics bullpen and I look forward to his future as a stronger part of the creative team when he takes over writing duties.

Recommended:

Aquaman Vol. 1: The Trench

The Adventures of Aquaman: The Complete Collection

Quick review: Aquaman #10

By Geoff Johns, Ivan Reiss and Joe Prado

The thing with Aquaman is that he is one of the most well-known superheroes in pop culture, but by well-known, I mean as a joke. The guy talks to fish and swims… that’s it. He got the biggest exposure from the Super Friends cartoon and that did him no favors. He was given a come back in the Justice League cartoon, but that’s mainly a riff on Sub-Mariner, not Aquaman at all. So, why would anyone want to work on this series let alone read it?

Because it’s awesome.

Aquaman is almost just as old a character as Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, but unfortunately, his back story is very convoluted and often contradictory. The new series by Geoff Johns side-stepped this issue immediately by placing Aquaman and his wife in the world of men while also establishing that no one takes him seriously. Tough break and it also struck me as an odd way to re-introduce Aquaman in this ‘New DC.’ It turns out that Johns had a master plan all along.

Throughout the first ten issues, small hints have been littered about the mystery of both Aquaman and his wife Mera. Both are not what they seem. Mera was sent from another dimension to kill Aquaman and instead married him (make of that what you will). Whereas Aquaman had his own secret Justice League years ago and was far less restrained. He also killed Black Manta’s father. So… complicated.

This series really grows each issue for me. I was hesitant at first, but this is quickly turning into the Aquaman series that fans of the hero have wanted for years and the one that should have been printed ages ago. The action is dynamic, the artwork by Reiss and Prado is amazing and the plot just keeps developing. I am very interested in seeing where this goes next.

Discover ‘The Other League’ in Aquaman #7

Aquaman

This week a new story line begins in the pages of Aquaman by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis. Introduced in this story will be a new group of characters called ‘The Other League.’ The Aquaman monthly book has been a hit with new readers and contained enough surprises to make it interesting to long standing fans of the King of the Seven Seas.

After halting an invasion from a deadly underwater race known as the Trench, Aquaman has taken up residence in a small seaside town with his wife Mera and adopted dog. Aquamn and his wife have an uneasy relationship with the locals but are slowly earning their respect, if only on account of their sheer power.

In a recent issue, Mera assaulted a man for trying to take advantage of her and later attacked another resident threatening the life of his daughter with a gun. There is much more to Mera than meets the eye, she is from another dimension and was sent to kill Aquaman, but fell in love with him when she crossed over.

No longer an ocean-dweller, Aquaman has turned his back on the kingdom of Atlantis, but the latest issue will explore the mystery of what caused Atlantis to sink beneath the ocean.

Preview via ComicBookResources:

Who destroyed Atlantis? In the start of a new storyline, we follow the hunter as he stalks and kills his prey, claiming their weapons and armor as trophies. A golden shield, a golden helm…and the final prize is the most powerful of all: a golden trident. The only problem is, he’s going to have to go through Aquaman to get it. Who is he? What is the secret of Aquaman’s trident? And how does this all tie into the destruction of Atlantis?

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Here are character backgrounds by Geoff Johns and designs on each member of ‘The Others’ from DCComics.com.

Vostok X

“Conceived in a controlled test aboard a Russian space station, the man known as Vostok-X was genetically designed to be the perfect cosmonaut. Heightened endurance, enhanced strength and intelligence and most importantly to the scientists overseeing the project, he was psychologically programmed through intense experimentation to embrace human isolationism. Vostok struggles with making emotional connections with other people.“He is equipped with a jetpack that enables him to fly, though not at tremendous speeds, and a helmet that allows its wearer to breathe in any environment.

“Vostok-X was the tenth attempt at creating the perfect cosmonaut. The others are said not to have survived.

“Vostok-X has not been seen for years.”

The Operative

He’s known only as the Operative. His exact country of origin is unknown, but the Operative appears to have deep connections to every government on Earth. He’s called in favors from the Mexican military, Russian Peacekeeping Forces and South African Freedom Fighters. He’s gotten intel delivered to him from the FBI, China’s MSS and the Internal Security Organization of Uganda.When designing the Operative protecting his identity was the most important element to his uniform.

Other than Aquaman, the Operative is the only member of the Others who has never gone into hiding. The Operative never stops until the mission is won. And in his line of work the mission is never won.

Ya'Wara

“There isn’t much we want to say yet about Ya’wara. She is a member of the Tapirape, an indigenous tribe of Brazil living in deep in the Amazon rainforest, she has a jaguar, she has a unique power and she has a connection with Aquaman that isn’t going to make Mera very happy.

“There’s much more to learn about the Others in our upcoming Aquaman arc – what binds them together and what forces them to undertake one final mission – and what revelations we’ll reveal about Aquaman through these reluctant heroes.

“Plus, we haven’t even talked villains yet…keep your eyes peeled for more.”

Quick review: Aquaman, Daredevil, The Flash

Aquaman #4

By Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis
The latest Aquaman revival is at its fourth issue, the conclusion to the opening storyline: The Trench. The man who relit the Green Lantern, gave Hawkman his wings back and brought the Flash up to speed, Geoff Johns, has finally taken a hand at the King of the Seven Seas and… I’m still not sure what to make of it.

Aquaman is a solid book that features astounding artwork from Ivan Reis (whom I have enjoyed on his various DCU projects over the years), but the script still feels like it is lacking something and that may be depth (if you’ll pardon the pun). The tricky thing with Aquaman is that there really is not much to the core character. He swims, he talks to fish and that’s about it. Subsequent attempts to add some edge to the character by pairing him with a mermaid-ish wife from another dimension, giving him a son then killing him, taking his hand, bringing back his hand in numerous forms, growing his hair/cutting his hair… have really made it plain that DC Editorial has no clue what to do with this character which is bizarre since he is so embedded in the public consciousness and recognized even by people unfamiliar with comic books.

When I heard of the New 52 project and that Aquaman was going to fall under Johns’ watch I was gearing myself up for a revamp or retooling a la the Rebirth comics he had written for both Green Lantern and the Flash. However, in this case, we are seeing a different, more subtle approach that has the character define himself by his actions through an adventure story rather than the story wrap itself around his origin. It’s an inspired decision but leaves me wondering if this is really the best idea as Aquaman is in such dire need of a revival.

The first storyline is a quirky one that involves Aquaman and his wife Mera attempting to live a ‘normal life’ away from Atlantis among humans. Aquaman had only just recently returned from the dead in the amazing maxi-series Brightest Day and deserves some time to find himself, especially given his track record with his underwater kingdom (at one point they chained him to a rock in the sun and left him to die). Through the reactions of the locals, we see that Aquaman is not regarded as a ‘heavy hitter’ by any stretch of the imagination and he handles the lack of respect with a stiff upper lip without looking brooding or intense.

The seaside town comes under attack from an ancient race of carnivorous beasts and only Aquaman and Mera stand a chance of stopping them. They discover a vast civilization under the waves that has become awakened (much like Godzilla) from a long hibernation and are seeking food for their queen. The ‘food’ in this case, consists of people preserved in gelatinous sacks on the cave walls. Unfortunately, the queen’s brood are mainly stillborn and the cave is littered with dead infants (pleasant, huh?) that are in turn eaten by the adults (thank you, DC Comics).

Understandably disturbed, Aquaman nevertheless feels compassion for the creatures and wants to aid them but in the end cannot help but damn them to a death under the sea, trapping them within an underwater volcanic eruption. Once more on the surface, Aquaman is accepted into the town as he and Mera take up residence in Aquaman’s father’s lighthouse. The closing scene where they are united with the stray dog was touching and showed simply that this is the beginning of a new life for the sea-faring superhero.

It’s not quite up to the quality of his previous work and the cannibalistic monster things were incredibly horrific (why do most DC Comics feature these nightmarish visuals???), but it’s a good start and I hope that the creative team stick to it as the series gains more momentum.

Daredevil #7


By Mark Waid, Paolo and Joe Rivera
Across the street, Mark Waid is showing how to reboot a hero without killing him or starting him over from the beginning in Daredevil. Sure, the previous series saw DD transform into a massive demonic creature that led an army of ninjas… but Waid was not faced with a solid reboot when he arrived to bring the magic back to the Man Without Fear.

Stripping away the grim drama and intensity from Daredevil may strike most readers are an impossible task that would remove the title’s core qualities but it has resulted in one of the most acclaimed superhero books on the stands and for good reason. Back to practicing law, Matt Murdock and Foggy Nelson attempt to shake the curse of Daredevil and rather than enter the courts and be mocked instead advise their clients to represent themselves. Openly denying that he is the man without fear, Murdock lives a somewhat normal life with the occasional supervillain battle. A writer without parallel, Waid’s work on Daredevil has shown that if the stories are solid and the art good, the book will make it. In the case of DD, the art has been nothing short of jaw-dropping, joining the ranks of series like Batwoman and the Flash as breath-takingly gorgeous.

The latest issue feels very much like a television program and operates as a stand-alone story. Murdock is leading a class of blind ‘trouble’ students from a private school on a trip to the Catskills. On the busride back, they encounter a snowstorm and the bus turns over, stranding the kids and Murdock in the wild all alone. Even with his radar gift, Murdock is almost as blind as the children due to the heavy snow blocking his second sight but he is determined to save and protect the children. Pulling them along with his billy-club’s extended cord, he leads them through the hip-deep snow drifts to safety… and then things get worse.

DD #7 is a fantastic issue that serves as a guide for anyone interested in telling a compelling story in the comic book medium. The characters are solid, the action well told and the drama strong. Not a single punch is thrown, there’s no sign of a super villain and no one dies only to return an issue later. It’s just a great comic.

The Flash #4

By Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
I have a lot of respect for Francis Manapul. His work on the Flash with Geoff Johns was very good and reminded me of the secret formula that makes the Flash such a great read; an inventive story and spell-binding artwork. Previous artists such as Scot Kolins, Howard Porter and Alfredo Dos have taken the baton left by Carmine Infantino and run with it, filling the pages with that weird rippling line and lightning bolt combo that is the character’s trademark.

The modern revised Flash is a new character in many ways, while he retains the qualities of Barry Allen; a clumsy bachelor with an inventive mind and a heart of gold. The new series sees Allen in the early days of his speedster career, still finding new ways to tap into that mysterious ‘speed force.’ The issues to date have seen him vibrate an airliner through a bridge and out-think his enemies.

Despite my praise, this opening storyline ‘Mob Rule’ feels like it is dragging on for far too long. There have been some very clever ideas, but much of the plot involves a new character who requires so much development that this issue is almost entirely about him!

While Barry Allen lies dead (apparently) from a point blank gunshot wound, we are finally told the origin of Mob Rule and his relationship to Barry Allen. It’s a good story and well told… I just have a hard time ignoring the fact that the star of the book was only in the last few pages!

Honestly, Manapul kind of wrote himself into a corner here as so much of the story was unclear that an entire issue needed to be set aside for exposition. However, he’s a very talented artist and his layouts and design make the experience a stunning one. Images drip and branch from panel to panel, sometimes with characters literally leaping from the confines of one moment to the next.

When it comes time for best series to come along or best break-out talent, Francis Manapul deserves some consideration. He has made the Flash comic into a must read series by pouring all of his talent into every issue.

Quick review: Aquaman #1 & 2

Aquaman #1 & 2

By Geoff Johns and Ivan Reiss


The King of the Seven Seas traditionally gets no respect. Despite the fact that he is one of the longest lasting superheroes (first appearing in 1941) and acquiring a solo cartoon, a starring role in the Super Friends and the most downloaded pilot (un-optioned for a series) program on iTunes… he’s still the silly guy who talks to fish. This reputation holds true within and without the comic book realm.

Numerous attempts at reviving and ret-conning his origins and back-story only compounded the problem. Aquaman was not cool. Deep in the comic book consciousness there was a furtive mind at work. Geoff Johns, the man who re-lit Green Lantern’s lamp and taught Hawkman to fly again would bring new depths to the oceanic ruler. The hard part was not to approach the problem of Aquaman’s uncoolness in a direct way by making him edgy and violent but instead create a unique comic book that made readers look at the character in a new way.

In the first issue, Aquaman comes into dry land and thwarts a crime with the use of his massive trident. Proving his immense strength, he also braves wild gunfire and takes down the thugs with a solemn face. Even so, the cops on the spot can’t help but feel awkward around him. Does he need a drink of water? Is he drying up? No one is really sure how Aquaman’s abilities work or what he can do.

This continues to an unsuccessful lunch at a nearby seafood shack Aquaman had frequented with his dad as a young boy. An obnoxious blogger berates Aquaman with all sorts of stupid questions including how it must feel to be the most unpopular superhero. Disgruntled, Aquaman leaves… making the reader wonder if this series is a dry sort of sitcom instead of an action series. Outside, Aquaman and his wife Mera decide to renounce the throne of Atlantis and live among the land dwellers, taking up residence in the same lighthouse once owned by his father.

Meanwhile, strange creatures lurk beneath the waves, scenting food above.

The second issue sees Aquaman trying to introduce his wife Mera to his past life as a land dweller. Mera is charmed by the snapshots of ice skating and the like, but Aquaman is finding it difficult to connect to his human past as Arthur Curry. The reminiscence is cut short when a local policeman calls them to the docks where the unthinkable has taken place.

Right by the docks, people have been taken beneath the waves by the bizarre carnivorous creatures that scent food by spraying their targets with numbing venom. Aquaman and his bride give them a good fight but in the end it looks like Aquaman is up against a threat from the ocean that is alien to both humanity and himself… and he is powerless against it.

To be honest, I have mixed feelings about the new Aquaman series. I collected the previous run (where oh where are those collected editions?) and really enjoyed it despite the bizarre twists and turns that it took. I was gearing myself up for a soul-searching mini-series ala Flash: Rebirth or Green Lantern: Rebirth and frankly I’m happy that’s not what we have here. The series is still holding its cards close to its chest on where it will take Aquaman, but it is clear that this is a new path, one that does not involve the regal palaces of Atlantis and instead will chart a new path.

The artwork by Ivan Reiss is outstanding. Along with the Flash and Batwoman, this is possibly the most beautiful of DC’s new 52 books. The action is still slow coming and the plot seems to be taking its time getting started but I have high hopes that given time this could be an interesting take on Aquaman that should attract new readers.

Aquaman #1 has sold out in comic shops but can be purchased in second print and downloaded at ComiXology for your iPhone or Walkman or whatever you kids use these days.

Aquaman rises from the depths

Alongside Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, DC Comics has several second and third-tier heroes; Green Arrow, the Flash, Hawkman, Green Lantern and of course Aquaman. These heroes have their cult following but have never really broken through to the same level of popularity that the trinity of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman have. In an attempt to raise these characters to their deserved places of recognition, several attempts have been made to revitalize, re-write or replace them outright.

Most recently, writer Geoff Johns has successfully brought Hawkman, the Flash and Green Lantern up to superstar status (Hawkman has since fallen, sadly). In his ‘rebirth’ comics, Johns not only improved on the past but acknowledged the large body of work that preceded him on these characters.

In an interview last year, when asked what character he’d like to tackle next, Johns indicated that Aquaman was on his radar. The underwater monarch has undergone several revisions in his career but each time his series was canceled and the changes, from a hook hand to a water hand to being a sorcerer squid were undone. These changes were undertaken by some of the best and brightest in the industry, I should point out, from Peter David to Kurt Busiek, yet each time it failed to catch new readers.

Part of the problem, in my opinion, is that these other heroes had strong concepts backing them up while Aquaman was essentially a man who could talk to fish. Either a mutant bred by his father or a mutation of Atlantean genetics, it is unclear what the real point of Aquaman is. Rather than re-interpreting this character, Johns may have to start from scratch or dig deep to find some quality that not only makes Aquaman function but reveals how awesome he is, and always has been.

(check out my earlier article on Aquaman if you are interested in my 25 cents on the character)

Talking to Newsarama, Johns indicated that he envisioned a lighter touch for Aquaman. Given that his Hawkman, Flash and Green Lantern books were predominantly gritty and fierce, this should come as a relief to fans of the character fearful of a gruesome book centered on as brooding lead.

I think that he’s the ultimate underdog to me. I think that’s a good thing. He’s underestimated by everybody, except Mera. Balancing the perception of what Aquaman is, and trying to break that perception, is what the book’s all about.

We certainly don’t get goofy, but we do have fun with it.

The stakes are real. The Trench are nasty. And the things he faces are really tough, and what he deals with is serious stuff. But at the same time, I didn’t want to run away from the perception of him.

I’ve read a lot of comics with Aquaman in them, and they really go for the throat when trying to make him cool, sometimes. And I think Aquaman is cool. I don’t think you have to work that hard to make him cool.
But what you do need to do is address why people don’t think he’s cool. And just accept that — hey, you’re writing an Aquaman comic book.

I think that’s what I’m trying to do on Ivan and Joe (Prado].

And Ivan and Joe on art — you know how great they are. They bring a big, regal, epic, powerful feel to these characters. And I think that also legitimizes the character.

The goal is to find a good balance, and not run away from everything that people think about Aquaman.

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Aquaman is this guy who, on land, he’s kind of laughed at. But in the ocean, he’s supposed to be the king of this huge underwater society, so there’s a weird juxtaposition between those two roles. And he prefers to be on land, and his job is to protect the land from sea and the sea from land. So he’s literally caught in the middle of all these things.

I think everyone will be able to relate to Aquaman. I think he’s very, very human, because of all that. But he’s also admirable because he does step up and take care of business, and he doesn’t let what anyone says stop him. He lets it roll right off his back like water.

So I think the character himself, of Arthur Curry, is a very compelling character. It’s a very grounded, relatable take on Aquaman. But it will all take place within a struggle against The Trench and other epic backdrop stories as we go forward.

I think that it’s interesting Johns is taking the absurdity of Aquaman on board straight away rather than denying it. The short preview (below) is a prime indicator that Aquaman is going to be a heavy hitter, but even so the man on the street still views him as a ‘fish out of water.’

As Chief Creative Officer and one of the architects of the new DC, Johns has a lot invested in these creations. Talking to CBR.com, he revealed more details about his vision of the DC Universe and its various heroes. As someone who has revised not only Hawkman, Green Lantern and the Flash but Superman as well, this man knows of what he speaks.

“Justice League” is all about how the world perceives them as icons — but they’re people. We get to see the people behind the masks. “Aquaman” is the same way. I want to build these characters up and make them icons, but I want their stories to be big. The best thing about DC is that characters like Green Lantern and Aquaman and Flash have this massive tapestry to paint their stories across. Green Lantern has the whole universe to paint his story across, this big canvas. Flash has all of time and time travel and parallel dimensions and great villains. Aquaman has the oceans and the mysteries of the deep and the fabled city of Atlantis everyone’s heard about.

One of the big questions this first year of “Aquaman” is, who sank Atlantis and why did they do it? I think that fits the kind of epic, iconic stuff I want to capture, but at the same time, it really humanizes the character. It’s all about humanizing Aquaman and getting into what makes him tick, what he has to deal with, what he’s all about and what it’s like to be the biggest underdog in the superhero community.

I wager that Johns has been planning this one for some time and am excited to see how it pans out.

Aquaman #1
By Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis and Joe Prado

The superstar creators from BLACKEST NIGHT and BRIGHTEST DAY reunite to take AQUAMAN to amazing new depths!

Aquaman has renounced the throne of Atlantis – but the sea will not release Arthur Curry so easily.

Now, from a forgotten corner of the ocean emerges… The Trench! A broken race of creatures that should not exist, an unspeakable need driving them, The Trench will be the most talked-about new characters in the DC Universe!

(Preview via CBR.com)


Is the King of the Seven Seas finally getting the 4 star treatment that he deserves? Find out today as the first issue hits the stands… but be fast.

For more information including character design, I highly recommend visiting The AquamanShrine.com

Aquaman: American Tidal

Aquaman: American Tidal
Issues 15 – 20

by Will Pfeifer, Patrick Gleason, Christian Alamy, (Alan Davis and Mark Farmer- covers)

Aquaman has always been a troubled superhero.

A character ruling over 3/4 of the planet, you’d think that Aquaman would garner more respect than he does. The problem may arise from Aquaman’s frankly muddy origins that are conflicted on whether he is a mutant experiment of his fathers or a hybrid of an Atlantean and human. Another problem is that his powers  are regarded as mostly uninteresting; talking to fish and swimming. His persona is practically a blank slate, leading some to simply use his Marvel Comics counterpart Prince Namor as a basis (as seen in the Justice League cartoon).

Reading the early comics, the series functions quite well as a young adult adventure series with educational underpinnings related to biology and science. The manner with which Aquaman communicates with sea life is rather exciting and portrayed as his primary ability, much the same as Hawkman’s ability to fly or the Flash’s super speed. In later issues, the character was further developed, given a wife and child only to have both taken away in one of the most shocking moments in comic book history. It is this moment that remains the turning point of the character’s development and the beginning of his darker attributes of anger.

Later still, he was further changed in both appearance and attitude. His arm eaten away by piranha, he replaced the limb with a jagged hook, grew a beard and long hair and even donned armor. The result was so dynamic that it jarred with the friendly persona famous from the Super Friends and failed to really catch on in the end.

In 2004, DC Comics had decided to completely revamp Aquaman, bringing him to the forefront of the comic book market. This involved a new creative team, a new look and a new mission statement. Rick Veitch replaced the hook hand with one made of water tying him to the Secret Sea and his new advisor and deity, the Lady of the Lake who charged Aquaman with the protection of the world’s waters. The catch was that the angry former regent had to mend his violent ways and never use his new hand in an act of anger.

I like Veitch’s Waterbearer story a lot, but I have to admit that they are rather convoluted and put even more distance from the superhero’s origins. It was a valiant attempt but after 12 issues, the writer left the series and DC was faced with the same problem of what to do with their character. It has been stated that the DC Comics superheroes are iconic when compared to the Marvel Comics heroes. When a writer takes over Spider-Man and decides to dig into the character and see what makes him stick or reinvent him while keeping certain elements, it can work. The same, however, cannot be said about DC’s heroes. This is a problem that a writer faces when writing ‘iconic characters,’ they are just not that interesting. By placing a DC hero in a different situation, you can define them by their actions rather than digging into them and looking for their defining qualities. With a character like Aquaman, it’s just not possible because it is so unclear what the character is all about.

Enter Will Pfeifer and Patrick Gleason along with a new story, American Tidal. Rather than force Aquaman into a new role, the story centered on the submergence of San Diego and how Aquaman was the only man capable of dealing with the disaster. As if the devastating destruction is not enough, the story takes a turn when a young boy is found staggering out of the surf and dies not from drowning but from being out of water. The surviving population of the disaster have mutated in water breathers.

It was an inspired move both for giving the hero something to do and further his development, but also made the series visually stunning. Patrick Gleason (later of Green Lantern Corps) brought so much skill and precision to this story that I honestly do not think that it could work without him. When Veitch took over the 6th volume of the monthly Aquaman book he talked about how he would take great care in depicting the undersea world and how its denizens moved about in it, pointing out that previously characters underwater would be depicted much the same as they would on land only with bubbles coming out of their mouths.

With an entire population of underwater dwellers to depict, Gleason was also faced with the challenge that these people were not used to living underwater, making their movements, clothing and mannerisms unique. Pfeifer (of Catwoman and Blood of the Demon) also grasps the opportunity in telling totally new stories with a character that most readers (and editors) had written off as past his prime. Placing himself in charge of the surviving citizens of San Diego, Aquaman discovers that he has much to learn about humanity as despite the fact that their loves have changed drastically, the same problems that faced human beings on land are still abundant under the waves. Crimes such as drug trafficking, theft and murder take on new faces along with a variety of new super powered threats.

Joining the supporting cast is Lorena Marquez (later Aquagirl) who remarkably is able to survive out of water for short durations of time. Pfeifer manages to make Lorena interesting and vibrant without making her out to be his own Mary Sue who miraculously manages to save the day. She has plenty of determination, spirit and intelligence that makes her the ideal supporting cast member. Another new character is Anton Geist, the scientist responsible for the mutation of the people of San Diego. Geist carries the guilt of his actions but also cannot be completely to blame as his work was implemented by a dark and mysterious corporate entity.

In the American Tidal story, Aquaman is depicted as a stern yet wise hero, a man with a temper who keeps it in check, making him an impressive and powerful figure. Pfeifer uses Aquaman’s telepathy and water hand in new ways which is lots of fun, but moreover the reader is actually interested in this undersea hero and wants to see how he will meet his next challenge. Even the filler issues by John Ostrander are entertaining because they give the character new situations to react against.

American Tidal is exactly what Aquaman needed at the time, it’s only challenge was that it arrived 12 issues too late, Veitch’s bizarre take having scared off the few readers willing to give the title a look. DC would make a similar mistake some time later when the Sub Diego story was discarded for yet another transition into another take on the character… but that’s for another story for another time.

Currently, there are very few collections of this volume of Aquaman, with Waterbearer and Kurt Busiek and Jackson Guice’ Sword of Atlantis being the only exceptions. Both are fine stories, but American Tidal is far more exciting and interesting than either in my opinion. Aquaman has recently returned to the land of the living thanks to the events of Blackest Night, so there may be more collections of this period forthcoming. Until then, you’ll have to hit the back issues for this one.

Aquaman goodies:

Click here to buy an Aquaman hoodie

Buy Showcase Presents: Aquaman, Vol. 1

Buy DC Superhero Figurine Collection #31 Aquaman

Pre-order Retro Aquaman - DC Super Heroes Action Figure

Buy The Adventures of Aquaman Complete Collection DVD