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Friday, October 19, 2007

Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #57 - Dec. 2007

sg...and so its come to this, yet another final issue of an Aquaman book. I can't say have I haven't been here before(many times, in fact) but every time I feel like its one more strike against the character, the concept. How many more chances will "Aquaman"(whoever he is) get before he's assigned to the trash heap of comics history, along with Sugar & Spike, Mr. District Attorney, and Space Ranger?

Anyway, as we saw last time, Aquaman, Aquagirl, Cyborg, and Cal had just defeated Krusivax and Vandal Savage. This final issue opens with Aquaman and the team rushing off to now save Keysha and Topo, who have been kidnapped by the weird, creepy doctor guy who worked for Black Manta.

He's on a quest for answers(in his own weird way) and he has Aquaman take a drug that taps him into his own subconcious, where he is escorted by the ethereal Lady of the Lake and sees his true origins.

Here we get a cameo by the original Aquaman, and we find out that Aquaman II's father duped the original into stealing some of his blood, but not for the purpose he stated--in truth, it was one last, desperate attempt to save his son.

Turns out that the original Aquaman, in his attempt to raise Sub Diego, died in the process, but a portion of his soul found its way to the body of Arthur Joseph!

So, essentially, there is a part of the original Aquman in the new one, sorta like how Spock was in McCoy in Star Trek II(I'm not trying to denigrate the concept by making a similar pop-culture reference; I'm trying to simplify and explain an idea that reads much more smoothly in the comic itself than I ever could here).

After Aquaman II saves the group from Creepy Purple Guy, he is enraged at learning the truth about himself--that he is here because of his father's deception, and that he is merely a shadow of the original King of the Seven Seas, Aquaman, who gave his life saving others.

He leaves Aquagirl and Cal behind to help rebuild Sub Diego. He and Topo head for Atlantis, their first step on a quest for Arthur Joseph to make right, and, as he says:
sg...I'll admit, maybe it's just because I knew this was the last issue and nostalgia immediately kicked in, but as I got to this last page, I actually stopped eternally wishing for Aquaman 1.0 to come back, and wanted to continue reading the adventures of this new one.

Setting up Arthur Joseph on this quest I think is a classic way to go, the kind of boy-becomes-a-man-by-becoming-a-hero story that gives the hero a place to go, and hopefully you enjoy watching him get there.

Don't get me wrong--deep down, I still believe that replacing the original Aquaman, the one with all the history and was--is---an essential pillar of the DCU--was a mistake. I still think DC has yet to give us a straight-ahead, classic Aquaman book, the kind of back-to-basics approach Mark Waid and George Perez are doing so well every month in The Brave and The Bold. There hasn't been that kind of Aquaman book in a long time. I'd love to see it, and I know I'm not the only one.

DC has been running those three full-page ads for Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman in their books for awhile now, and the subtext is that these three are classic, iconic characters--there's no reference to current storylines or even current creative teams; just the character's logo and the word "Monthly" underneath. DC is telling us these are the foundations of their universe, and they'll always be there.

I know Aquaman does not have the status of those three, yet I'd argue he's more iconic and well-known than pretty much the rest of the entire DCU. Ask anyone you meet, and they've heard of the character, even if they've never read a comic book. He's part of every toyline, because manufacturers recognize him as an essential part of any line of DC superhero merchandise.

Boy, I've gotten off track here...let me sum up by saying I thought Williams and McManus did pretty well with what they were handed. The fact that they were able to make this work at all for this obsessive Aquaman fan is a testament to their storytelling skills. When they took over I was still shaky on this new guy, but over their run I came to like him, and by the end I wanted to see where he'd go from here. I plan to buy the new Outsiders title if Arthur Joseph is indeed in it.

...but I'd still love to see Aquaman, the Aquaman, get his shot at being the cool, exciting, iconic hero I know he is.

Bonus: We'll be featuring a brand-new AquaShrine interview with Tad Williams on Monday, and a page of original SOA art by Shawn McManus on Tuesday!


Anonymous said...

You definitely have a way with words, Rob. I agree with everything you say...I tried the first issue of this by Busiek and Guice but hated it and left it. Then when McManus and Williams came on board, I gave it a try and, like you, actually ended up enjoying it (a little). I hate Judd Winick's art, but if Joseph is in OUTSIDERS I, too, will pick it up.

Anonymous said...

And I don't understand the cover. I find it odd that the first cover of the previous AQUAMAN series was drawn by Kevin Maguire, too. I wish he would have drawn the inside...that would have brought in a few more readers!

Scurvy said...

I am sorry to see this series go after the set up we got. If they stay true to form tho, there may be another series In a few years... I hope. I have to say that I have actually grown fond of this character as well, yet I miss the original more. I wish there was a way for them to coexist, but for now I guess it is what it is.

See you in The Outsiders Arthur Joe.

I love the covers done by Maguire too! He IMO is the master of facial expressions.

rob! said...

i think the problem as to why this didnt sell is the same one that plagued WW for decades...constantly revolving creative approaches.

WW as a book was a sales dog for decades, until George Perez rebooted it and gave WW years of creative consistency. that has fallen by the wayside too, but at least for a few years you had just a small team of writer(s) and artists guiding WW through a new age.

Aquaman has had A LOT of reboots in just the last 10 years, and even more than that in the last 20:

1986--Hamilton/Pozner mini
1989--Giffen/Swan mini
1991--McLaughin/Hoover series
1993--David/Egelund series, and then several diff creative teams during that book's 75-issue run
2003--Veitch/Guichet series, and then ditto

...and almost all of these series ignored and/or drastically changed what had come before, so i think to the avergae comic reader, they have no idea who Aquaman is, and i think thats part of the reason they stay away.

i think if you started a new Aquaman book with a writer/artist team who were fans or at least understood the basic strengths of the character AS HE EXISTS, not using him as a template for some other idea, and could try and maintain a long run on the book(Ennis and Dillon did every single issue of Preacher, for example, so it can be done!), you could give Aquaman as a book and as a concept a new, iconic direction, and i think that would be a big help.

Anonymous said...

Right you are, Rob! The constantly changing creative teams really screwed up poor Arthur.

Consider these very basic questions: what do Atlantean military unforms look like? Do Atlanteans employ mechanical vehicles or sea creature mounts? And what is Atlantis' tech level?

It seemed that every new artist on the feature brought their own vision of Atlantis and Atlanteans. While some of them were quite wonderful (Hamilton comes to mind) the inconsistency was really annoying.

I was always hoping that some creative team would come in and explain these discrepencies as residual fall-out from Crisis or something. Y'know, just have someone address it in some way.

But it hasn't happened yet.

Diabolu Frank said...

I won't get my copy for a good 2-3 weeks, and I decided not to read the previous issue yet either, so all I got off the blog today was "interview tomorrow," which I probably also shouldn't read. Dag, but I regret mail ordering comics every now and again-- at least until I see the bill. Paying 1992 prices for 2007 books will do that...

rob! said...

i try to only hits the highlights with my reviews, since i dont intend these to be a substitute for reading the books themselves.

and the interview with tad is monday, so you're safe for the weekend, frank!