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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Aquaman (Vol.5) #2 - Jan. 1994

sgComics Weekend Issue two of Aquaman: Time and Tide sports a very nice cover by Jarvinen and Vancata, I especially like hazy, faded background. I think it gives the book a classy look that works well with a series designed to give a history of a classic character.

This issue opens with some dolphins getting snagged in fishermen's nets, and the cruel hunters set about clubbing their catch to death. But before the first blow lands, it is stopped by the King of the Seven Seas!

Aquaman explains to these, er, gentlemen, after they and try (and fail) to kill him that as a global citizen it is his duty to look out for all life, so they had better put the dolphins back
...Aquaman, writing about this incident in his journal, recalls the conflict he felt, defending one set of "his people" against another.

We then flash way back, to Arthur as an infant, being abandoned on Mercy Reef, and being reared by a school of dolphins. His new "mother", Porm, take it upon herself to raise him as one their own, ala Tarzan.

When Arthur is of the age where he's ready to mate, Porm informs him that he is part of another race, and shows him others like him. It doesn't go smoothly:
Unfortunately, Arthur's "brother", Drin, gets too close to the boat's rotors, and is killed by accident. The sea captain, a much kinder soul than the one's from earlier, prepares to mercy kill it, but Arthur grabs Drin and takes him under.

He is told now that Drin is gone, he is to be eaten by a school of sharks. Arthur can't abide by this, and it's in this moment that he realizes that he does not agree with all of the ways of his "people."

A fine follow-up issue, my only quibble being this is where the "new" origin directly contradicts the classic one(unless someone can explain to me how it doesn't), and I've never been a big fan of ripping up a classic hero's history for the sake of a new one(see: Hawkworld), and I think Aquaman's post-1958 origin is so perfect and timeless that it shouldn't be messed with.

That said, Aquaman as Tarzan of the Oceans makes sense from a dramatic point of view, and helps underscore the "surface dweller vs. ocean dweller" conflict inherent in the character much more than his original backstory ever did.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ahh, the infamous "Tarzan of the Oceans" story....many people like this origin....but they are wrong. Ha, I know, I know, who am I to say what is true when it comes to taste, but let's just think about what this origin does for the character, shall we? First off, it is a blatant rip off of Tarzan, down to the fact that young Orin (always hated that they gave him a new name) is of the nobility with a whole life waiting out there from him. (Which is an incidental holdover from his original origin, but none the less cheapens the whole of this version) This makes Aquaman little more than a retelling of an older story, and not just in an archetypal way, as with the entirety of comics, but in a direct, uninspiring way. It takes away his status as original and unique, and what does it actually give him as a character? Well, it gives him a reason to be in conflict with the surface world, and a deep connection to the sea and its inhabitants. This conflict creates an Aquaman who naturally possesses the anger that becomes his modus operandi, and a serious character flaw.

What does his original origin give him? It gives him deep ties to both the ocean and the land, as well as a human side that is much more appealing than and accessible than the Sub-Mariner clone he becomes in its absence. It also creates a tension between his two realms, but a tension that is in constant need of balance, and the source for endless stories as well as being a wellspring for a great depth of character as he struggles to reconcile the two halves of his soul. In addition to this, which I consider the true essence of Aquaman, it also makes him one with the sea, without making him subject to the vagaries of its natural existence. He is ABOVE the oceans, truly the king of the seven seas.

Ahh, if only we'd get a writer for Arthur who understood these truths....