Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Aquaman #1 review

It's a day in the life of Aquaman, as the hero stops a robbery, fails to have a peaceful lunch at a diner and tells wife Mera he has no wish to rule Atlantis. Meanwhile, down in the depths, something is stirring. Something with very sharp teeth. And a newfound appetite for human flesh ...

I like this first issue a lot. For one thing, it points out that as a hero able to survive in the deepest pits of the ocean, Aquaman is no milksop on land - his skin is tough enough to take bullets, his strength great enough to toss trucks around and his legs powerful enough to leap tall buildings at, well, not quite a single bound, but no more than a couple. Safe to say, the police of Boston are impressed, and the criminals cowed.

Job done. Aquaman is, as they say, a 'badass'. He's stopped some bad guys and earned his lunch, fish and chips at the diner his dad used to take him to. And that's when the book takes a misstep, though not a fatal one. Writer Geoff Johns is so keen to demonstrate that Aquaman deserves his place in the big leagues, alongside the likes of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, that he overeggs the pudding. He has a thoroughly annoying blogger (no, not me) interrupt Arthur Curry's lunch to put it to him that, actually, he's rather lame. That's after the guy's pal has forced him to explain that he doesn't talk to fishes, he pushes them telepathically to do his will.

Suffice to say, Aquaman puts the blogger right, but the scene is altogether too meta. It's Johns answering the lazy comedians who maintain that 'talking to fishes is lame'. We've already seen that Aquaman is impressive, now's the time to let the rest of Aquaman 101 emerge along with the rest of the story.

The scene doesn't wreck the book, I enjoy seeing Aquaman among ordinary people, but it feels thoroughly unnecessary. Showing is good, as in the earlier scene, telling, rather less so. Plus, why would Aquaman be considered a joke in the DC Universe? Is 'talks to fishes' any dafter-sounding than 'dresses like a giant bat' or 'has a magical glowing ring'? At this stage in Aquaman's career he's been a hero for years - the general public would not consider him a laughing stock, they'd see him as someone who regularly saves their skins.

Aquaman's scene with Mera, at their lighthouse home, is much better, demonstrating - with the aid of Ivan Reis' superb pencils and Joe Prado's luscious inks - the love between Mr and Mrs Curry. And the arrival of the toothy hybrids seen on the cover is chilling - Reis and Prado really know how to make a scene work.

And they surely know how to draw a formidable Aquaman. He's a big, confident guy with as much presence as any of his fellow Justice Leaguers. And as coloured by Rod Reis, he shimmers like a god. The talented Reis employs a wide variety of tones to set off the artwork. I especially like his naturalistic daytime colours, and the background used to show Aquaman's mood darkening.
As Aquaman #1s go - and it feels as if I've read dozens - this is up there with the best of them, setting the scene for interior and exterior conflicts that look likely to be compelling. Just don't try so hard, OK Geoff?

9 comments:

  1. So it's good? That's great news. I'm a fan of Geoff Johns work so this series seems like a good thing for me to check out. However, my local bookstore only selects certian titles (As such, most of the new Dark titles are not available for sale and a couple of regular ones as well) so I may not end up being able to get it if they deem Aquaman not interesting enough to order. *Sad Face*

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  2. Given DC's decision to ditch the "red underwear," it seems as if much of the nuDCU strategy is to serve as a retort to "lazy comedians."

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  3. Once again, DC shows us that when it puts the effort into refreshing an old character, its well rewarded. Aquaman was enthralling thru and thru; Ive always found Arthur far more fascinating than Marvel's big girls blouse Namor. Aquaman has a certain naive integrity to his raison d' etre; King or super-hero? He straddles both worlds with ease and only the conflicts of the other supporting characters throw him off his stride. This run clearly takes that as its dropping-off point and only the prescence of the blogger threatens to take this into farce. It may not help Aquamans image with joe public to have this man mention what a joke he is compared to others. This opening issue is a decent start, though.

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  4. I liked this quite a bit, especially for a book I hadn't planned on getting at all. It's going on the pull list, at least for a while.

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  5. i tell ya Martin i'm actually compelled to buy this book after reading your review.

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  6. I'm making a sad face with you, Information Geek. I don't know why your shop isn't trying everything, given DC is sale or return on the New 52.

    Scary thought, Snell. I see Hawkman has lost his trunks too.

    Looks like Aquaman will be a hit this time, Karl. How long before he becomes the centre of a crossover?

    It's good you enjoyed it too, Rob - I love having an Aquaman book around.

    Hope DC sends me commission, David!

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  7. i liked this issue. in general i like what DC has done with the Aquaman character (more bad ass) since he first lost his hand which has been something i've never been able to get quite used to. i don't know about the whole bullet proof thing though. as someone who's physiology is adapted for the intense cold and pressure of the deep sea i certainly see him having superhuman strength and durability but not to that degree ya know? like he should be able to flip over a car on his own fairly easy but picking it up off the ground and throwing it might be a bit too much fro him.

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  8. by the way Martin i saw your comment on Siskoid's blog i have the follow up panel where read uses "ROM's neutralizer" on some Dire Wraiths on today's posting on the ROM blog in case your interested.

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  9. I'm not really big on the whole 'bad ass' thing, David. I rather like gentle heroes, I'd love to see Arthur come riding in on a giant seahorse!

    Thanks for the Rom tip!

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