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Friday, November 02, 2007

Aquaman(Vol.1) #40 - Aug. 1968

sgI decided to go back a bit for this week's Comic Friday, and talk about a historic issue--Aquaman #40, "Sorcerers of the Sea", the first issue by the new creative team of Steve Skeates, Jim Aparo, and editor Dick Giordano!

If I had to pick one, I'd say the seventeen issues the "SAG" team did constitute my all-time favorite Aquaman run--Aparo's Aquaman is the Aquaman to me, and Skeates' stories were full of high adventure and drama. Multi-issue storylines were used for the first time, giving the book(to me) a more gripping sense of drama that the previous single-issue stories(as great as they were) didn't quite have. Yet, unlike a lot of multi-issue storylines done in comics nowadays, the stories don't feel padded or incomplete--you get an actual story, with a beginning, middle, and end, that just happens to fit into a larger mosaic.

We open with Aquaman, Aqualad, Mera, and Arthur jr. on a stroll through the ocean floor, when a mysterious wave sweeps over them all, making them feel groggy and dazed. Aquaman gets separated from his family, and as he gets his bearings, he sees some silhouetted figures kidnapping Mera! As he heads toward them, a ringed hand appears and punches the Sea King out.

Aquagirl comes by to help, and they take Arthur jr. back to Atlantis to form a plan. They leave the baby with Aquagirl and he and Garth head out to find Mera. They soon come across a hazy, walled-off castle, and they sneak their way in. Once in, they see the people's queen who looks just like...Mera!

As they get closer, they are knocked out(you've heard of a glass jaw? Arthur has a glass head) by some of the Queen's goons and locked up. They come to, but Aquaman can see that Aqualad is very weak; to make matters worse, the water starts getting pumped out of the room! Aquaman decides to use his telepathic powers, and communicates with one of his finny friends. Its here that Aparo uses the the double-page spread to really convey the awesome might of:
sg...a giant blue whale!!

It smashes the cell, and Aquaman, carrying Aqualad, escapes. He returns the weakened Garth back to Atlantis, and heads back to the castle, where he is attacked by a giant sea monster!

Aquaman fights back, but finds it is only a mirage, cooked up via sorcery, Aquaman concludes, to scare people away from this mysterious city. Aquaman finds the royal chambers and encounters some sort of wizard(who could pass as Abra-Kadabra's twin brother) who emits energy from his hands, rendering Aquaman immobile.

But Aquaman, through sheer force of will, takes slow, agonizing steps forward, until he gets close enough to punch Chad Kadabra out. He makes his way into the chamber and finds Mera, except...it's not Mera! She's an exact twin of the Sea King's Queen, but its not her! Aquaman determines it was a monstrous coincidence that he came across this mystical village right after Mera's abduction, and he finds himself right back where he started!

As Aquaman head off on his steed, he looks back the shimmering city, and wonders what he will do next...to find his beloved Mera!

A really fun beginning to the SAG era, and Aparo was in top form here. His Aquaman is heroic and dynamic, and his off-kilter layouts worked well in giving the feel of being underwater, where anything could come at you from any direction. Sure, Aquaman gets knocked out--a lot--but that didn't bother me when I first read these stories, and it still doesn't. Aquaman's familial loyalty is at the forefront here, and the Hero on A Quest theme is classic storytelling.

One last thing: the letters page("Aqua-Mail") is also fun, where a reader(Roxanne Cintron of Jersey City, NJ) asks if DC can provide back issues. The answer(presumably from new editor Giordano, though he has yet to identify him as such) is the snarky "Perhaps you can trade two of our competitors comics for Aquaman #37 with one of your less discerning friends." Oh snap!

sgI had originally wanted to talk about this issue of The Super Friends, #28, since I'm posting more Halloween-related stuff over the weekend(I know it's November, but if its good enough for The Simpsons...), but a quick search of my comics revealed I don't have a copy anymore. Where in Neptune did it go?

I guess it's all for the best, since this issue really peaks with the cover(one of my all-time favorite covers ever, courtesy Ramona Fradon)--the issue itself is a bit of a let-down.

The Super Friends do not, in fact, battle Bizarro, Swamp Thing, The Demon, Solomon Grundy, and Man-Bat, but merely ordinary people wearing Halloween costumes(yeah, like its so easy to find an Etrigan The Demon Halloween costume) who get zapped by some mystical rays and think they are the characters. Oh well.


Anonymous said...

Man, that Spread is just beautiful; God rest Jim Aparo, on this day-after-All-Saints.

(The Cardy cover's no slouch job either...)

I know I've said this elsewhere, but check out Jim's wonderful early stuff over at Charlton, JUST before this DC gig - especially, his short run on THE PHANTOM.
Very similar full-page stuff with twisty foliage, etc.

Great weekend, all!
-Craig W.

(P.S.- As far as Halloween books: I always try to hit a few Charlton Horrors, with stuff by Sutton, Ditko, Boyette, Staton, & Zeck.)

Plaidstallions said...

I read that Superfriends story to my kid occasionally what a bait and switch!

hobbyfan said...

No, it's not as much of a bait & switch if you follow the plot of the story. I had this issue. Good story, with a guest appearance by Jimmy Olsen.