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Friday, March 14, 2008

Aquaman (Vol. 7) #15 - April 2004

sgA few Comic Fridays ago I talked about a solid issue of this, the most recent Aquaman series, written by John Ostrander as a fill-in between the end of the previous writer's (Rick Veitch) run and the beginning of a new one by Will Pfeifer, which started with this issue.

One of the nicest treats DC gave to us AquaFans also starting with this issue were some really kick-ass covers by none other than Alan Davis!

Davis, of course, was the original artist chosen for the 1986 mini-series until Dick Giordano handed him Batman and the Outsiders instead. Davis was (and, as far as I know, remains) an Aquaman fan, so I wonder if doing these were his request. Whatever the case, Davis gave us(IMO) the coolest looking Aquaman in years.

This is the first chapter in the "American Tidal" storyline, written by Pfeifer and drawn by Patrick Gleason and Christian Alamy. Aquaman is surveying the damage done to San Diego after a chunk of it has been submerged underwater. As he swims through the wreckage, he finds no one left alive.

There's a impromptu press conference on the beach, and its up to Aquaman to deliver the grim news
As the mayor tries to reassure the citizenry with a promise of moving on, a young man, gasping for air, crawls out of the water and lands on the beach, where he is discovered by the police and rushed to the hospital.

He unfortunately dies on the way there, and later on two doctors discuss that an autopsy must be performed. And one of the doctors has called in an expert
In a fairly gruesome sequence, the two doctors and Aquaman perform the grim task, and they find digested whole fish inside the young man. Aquaman has a hunch and they check the neck, where they find...gills.

Aquaman announces that this kid didn't die in the ocean...he died because he was out of it. To be continued!

One of overall beefs with this series--and superhero comics now in general--is that they're so grim. There's very little sense of fun and/or adventure. This issue starts with a major disaster with thousands dead and ends with an autopsy, and Aquaman's biggest moment in the book is the announcement of no survivors. Sheesh!

But...Pfeifer was picking up the pieces from previous storylines, so there's a certain amount of grim built in, and he definitely tried his best to ligthen it up a bit with later issues. As far as characterization (something a lot of Aqua Writers have had trouble with) goes, Pfeifer's Aquaman is serious here, but not a jerk, and he's in turn treated with the appropriate respect by the surface dwellers.

Art-wise, Gleason and Alamy's work is solid; their Aquaman has a truly heroic visage and the storytelling is direct and well-paced. So overall a decent start.

And I like mentioned above, nothing beats an Alan Davis cover!


Anonymous said...

Yep real hard to beat Alan Davis. His Aquaman covers are beautiful!!!
I was never as impressed with the interior art, though it did get better as the book went along. It was an interesting storyline, but I thought they never got a good grip on Aquaman's power level. It seemed to be all over the place.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, they did have some great covers on this series.....BUT, that's also one of the major bones I have to pick with it. The covers were always WAY more exciting than what was going on inside, and they often lied through their teeth. It's always CRAZY ACTION, fights between these two heroes, or stuff like that. Inside, we find, maybe a page of action, and the two heroes SPEAK to one another. It really annoyed me.

Anyway, that being said, I think this is the start of one of the best Aquaman runs we've had in a long, LONG time. It has serious flaws, but despite them, the stories were very interesting. The setting is incredible, a sunken American city...I mean, that just sings with potential stories. The art was alright, sometimes doing a fantastic job with the underwater setting, and sometimes not. Aquaman was always portrayed as very powerful, even if they did seem to waver a bit on exactly how to define that power. Also, the stories and mysteries they set up were compelling and interesting. They had TONS of great storylines....but, and here's where the flaws come in, they also ran through those storylines at breakneck pace. I'm not sure, but I'd reckon that there were other factors in this than a lack of writing skill. I'm fairly certain that the "events" going on in the DCU had an effect on the pace.

So, flaws, since I know y'all are all dying to hear my review...well, too bad.

As Rob said, this series is dark, REALLY dark. We've got underwater serial killers, betrayal, a really high body count, and just about endless tragedy. I think that it would have behooved the writer to try and inject a little joy in Aquaman's life, a little wonder in the underwater setting, and I think they could have done it while still telling the complex, compelling stories they wanted to tell.

There was also anemic action. What action there was to be found was usually pretty good, but they had so much story to get through, and they were flying through it so fast, that fight scenes which should have been spread out over two or three issues were wrapped up in two or three PAGES. I'm thinking of the fight with all his villains, the battle with Ocean Master, and many others.

Add to that the lack of a good supporting cast, and you have a lot of strikes against it. The new Aquagirl didn't have much of a personality, and his love interest on shore was a pretty big waste of comic space. Gone were Aqualad, Vulko, and especially Mera, and their absence is felt in the very hollowness of Arthur's portrayal. There isn't much to him other than his role as hero. Not always, they try to bring his humanity to life, but I just feel like they'd have been more successful if he had a better cast to react to.

Anyway, all that said, I'm really looking forward to your reviews of the rest of this series. Despite all its flaws, I really enjoyed it.