Perhaps one of the biggest surprises of The New 52 is the sudden swell of goodwill directed at Aquaman, arguably the biggest underdog in all the ranks of super heroics. Most writers had trouble figuring out what to do with him outside of the ocean. He was saddled with a silly weakness, the need to immerse himself in water every 24 hours. (Don’t we ALL immerse ourselves in water every 24 hours? It’s called a shower!) On ‘The Super Friends,’ he had to bum rides off Wonder Woman every episode. And for whatever reason, people seem to find his orange shirt scorn-worthy. The man doesn’t like to blend in! Give him a break! As a lifelong Aquafan, I’ve had to endure the relentless “talks to fish” jokes. But could redemption finally have arrived?
Geoff Johns lovingly returned Aquaman and his wife Mera to prominence in ‘Blackest Night’ and ‘Brightest Day,’ and fans were impressed at the new no-nonsense Marine Marvels. Mera, never a headliner on her own, became a fan favorite with droves of Mera cosplayers suddenly appearing at every convention and an unprecedented number of Mera toys popping up on store shelves! Johns, along with star penciller Ivan Reis, continue that tradition here in Aquaman’s new first issue.
[Woop-woop-woop-woop! Spoilers from here on!]
In Boston, the police are chasing a stolen armored car. Aquaman intervenes to the confusion and amusement of not only the crooks, but the police themselves. One officer comments, “Aw hell. What’s Aquaman doing here? We’re not in the ocean and I don’t see any fish around…” Aquaman SHOWS them exactly what he’s doing there when he halts the car chase with minimal effort.
Johns promptly illustrates the range of Aquman’s powers in quick succession. In order to survive in the depths of the ocean, Aquaman has super human strength and is practically bulletproof. His legs are incredibly powerful, strong enough not only to send him rocketing through the ocean, but on land, allowing him to *ahem* leap tall buildings in a single bound. Also, considering that pretty much every Aquaman action figure ever has included a trident as an accessory, I was always annoyed that he so rarely actually carried or brandished one in the comics. That’s alleviated here as his trident-weilding is used to great effect!
Like with several other New 52 titles, that’s about it as far as the action goes. The rest of the book is background, establishing Aquman’s new status quo. Johns humorously uses an obnoxious blogger character to clarify some misconceptions about the character. #1, he eats fish. #2, he doesn’t “talk” to fish, exactly, he telepathically “pushes” them. The blogger reveals that Aquaman’s reputation on DC’s new Earth is basically the same as it is here in the real world (are we still considered Earth Prime?), specifically mentioning his being lampooned on Saturday Night Live. I know this scene is supposed to be funny and serve to make fun of the haters, but pointing out all the ridicule Aquaman has endured in the real world felt a little depressing, which I think is the opposite of what Johns was going for.
Fans of Mera may be a bit disappointed that she doesn’t appear until close to end of the book, and it’s a brief scene basically establishing that Aquaman wants to remain on land and start a fresh life, rather than take back the crown of Atlantis. Good! The last thing Aquaman needs, if he wants to continue his mainstream success, is to go disappearing beneath the waves for adventures in some strange realm (which is what the underwater world is, essentially). I mean, I get the appeal, especially for fans of fantasy, but Aquaman needs to do whatever he can to stay as straight-forward as possible.
Finally, Johns establishes what appears to be Aquaman’s first major threat, horrific, human-eating, piranha-like creatures, from the ocean’s depths. With their long needle-like teeth and dark black eyes, Reis renders these things as SCARY!
Overall, I’m happy with this jumping on point. Johns clearly defines Aquaman, his powers and the book’s direction. The big threat is nicely teased. And probably most importantly, he addresses what many consider Aquaman’s shortcomings head-on and doesn’t shy away from the jabs. Hopefully, this will be the last time he has to do that, though, since like I said, it felt a little like old scabs being reopened. Ivan Reis has established himself as one of the BEST artists out there in recent years and his work here is STELLAR! A long shot of Aquaman’s lighthouse is particularly breath-taking. His facial expressions are also excellent, as a lot is conveyed silently by the book’s star. (His glare may be his strongest weapon, at this point!) I’m curious how other fans will react, but this is one happy Aquafan!
Written by Geoff Johns
Pencilled by Ivan Reis
Inked by Joe Prado
Cover by Reis, Prado and Rod Reis