] type='image/vnd.microsoft.icon'/>

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Adventure Comics #446 - Aug. 1976

sgComics Weekend Aquaman takes on his most deadly foe in this Bicentennial issue of Adventure Comics!

Before we get to the story, let's take a moment to admire this cover--there's a lot of stuff going on here, but to my eye its very balanced and works quite well, despite all the clutter. Plus that shot of Aquaman on his steed holding an American flag should have been made into a 1976-era t-shirt.

Ok, inside the issue--we left off last issue with Aquaman and Mera returning home after a failed kidnapping (and ritual sacrifice!) of Mera. Presumably waiting for them is their son Arthur Jr., who got left behind during the melee.

But as we saw, Arthur Jr. has been violently grabbed by Aquaman's octopus pal, Topo! What's going on here? Well, let's see--first up, another wonderful Jim Aparo splash page:
Turns out Topo was instinctively trying to protect the suddenly-alone Arthur Jr., but was using a little too much force in the attempt. Arthur tells Mera Topo "isn't the brightest creature in the sea."

Then, Aquaman gets a video-call from Robin, the Boy Wonder, who tells him that he can't find their mutual friend, Aqualad, anywhere! Aquaman says he'll search for Garth as well, but warns Robin about what has happened in Atlantis, saying if he runs into Aqualad first, to tell him to stay away from the city.

So where is Aqualad? Well, nothing mysterious, at least at first. He's on a date with Tula, aka Aquagirl. But of course, there's more to it than that:
...I simply love Aparo's shifty, pencil-mustached mob guy and gun moll. They should get their own comic.

Aqualad gets dragged into the boat's kitchen, where he gets roughed up, until he's accidentally dunked with a pot of water. Big mistake!

Suddenly refreshed, Aqualad punches one guy's lights out, but then is knocked out from behind. When he wakes up, he sees an old foe waiting for him...Black Manta!

Manta then knocks out Tula, trusses her up, and dunks her overboard tied to an anchor, not realizing who she is. Manta is shocked to see Aqualad seemingly so indifferent to his date's fate, and throws him in the brig.

For a moment, we cut back to Atlantis where we see Karshon aiming to "teach Aquaman a lesson once and for all", whatever that means...

Back with Aquaman, we see him find Tula while on the hunt for Aqualad, and he frees her. They then prepare a frontal assault:
We find Manta dunking Aqualad in a tank of lobotomized marine life, so that even if--when--Aquaman shows up, he won't be able to call them off.

But Aquaman shows up earlier than expected, and suckerpunches Manta in the throat!

Manta recovers, mentioning Aquaman's recent exile ("How does he know---?" Aquaman wonders), thinking that while all this is happening, Aqualad is being killed by the killer fish.

But he doesn't see that Tula freed him, so that he can join in on the fun:

...I'm guessing Aquaman is pulling his punch in panel 1, since I don't see his green-gloved hand popping out the other side of Manta.

Manta jumps out an escape hatch into his Manta Ship, but Aquaman is ready with a giant squid to stop him! Unfortunately, Manta's ship is too powerful, and he does manage to get away.

As Aquaman and Aqualad hand over Manta's thugs to the police, Garth marvels that, in just the last few weeks, they've run into The Fisherman, Ocean Master, and now Manta! What's going on?

Aquaman thinks he knows--inside a crate dropped from Manta's ship is a laser rifle, the same kind that Karshon's men used on him (back in Adventure #444)! Black Manta is gun-running to Atlantis!

To be continued!

Jim Aparo was always so good at fight scenes--he really gets across how painful these superhero punches can be. How Black Manta--who doesn't have any real superpowers, especially--survives getting punched in the stomach by Aquaman is something that's beyond me. That's how Houdini died, you know!

Of course, this series ends very grimly, but these issues--the first half at least--really need to be collected into a trade. C'mon, DC, get on the stick!


Anonymous said...

Well, y'see, Manta's got this pressurized suit that's designed to survive the crushing depths of the ocean so ...

Not buying it, are you?

I agree that DC should definitely collect these stories in a trade. I'll even speak the ultimate heresy and comment that I don't mind the grim tone on which this series ended.

The hate-filled responses can now commence! :-)

rob! said...

you know, the death of arthur jr is such a tricky thing, because it has such downsides to an act that i can see making sense to do.

as a writer, after a while it would get hard writing a superhero who constantly has to come home to the wife and kids. sure, bob haney wrote a lot of stories with the kid in them, but they were fairly repetitive.

steve skeates, for instance, practically ignored arthur jr, so that aquaman could go on missions all over the earth, other dimensions, etc.

so i can see why at some point you'd want to not have arthur tied down so much, but unfortunately i think the event comes across so much nastier when you see it drawn than maybe when it was just words on paper.

plus, right after that event, aquaman changed creative hands so much that no one writer got the chance to say "ok, we're gonna get him past this, and move on", so aquaman remained a mopey bastard for many, many years.

shaun mclaughin, in our interview, said he thinks superhero universes should be "blown up" every 15-20 years or so, and everyone should start fresh, free from the decades of baggage.

i'm starting to agree with that--i'd love to see an Aquaman book free from all the back story he's collected over the decades.

so no hate here, vince. :)