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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Adventure Comics #452 - Aug. 1977

sgComics Weekend The most shocking event in Aquaman's life in this issue of Adventure Comics!

This is Aquaman's last issue in this superb Adventure run (his first as a headliner), and as we all know it ends with the single most controversial moment in the Sea King's career.

Obviously, this run was popular enough for DC to revive Aquaman's solo title, the first time he would headline a book in six years. And as we've seen over these past few weekends, it is an excellent series od stories, featuring some of Aquaman's finest moments.

This issue's story is "Dark Destiny, Deadly Dreams" by David Michelinie and features another nice splash page by Jim Aparo
Last issue, Aquaman met two strangers, who had come from far away to find him. Aqualad apparently is in some sort of trouble...

Luckily, the city where these people hail from was in the path of where Topo had traveled after taking Arthur Jr., so Aquaman agrees to come along.

But before he gets there, they are all attacked by a group of scuba-wearing thugs. After taking care of them, Aquaman is told they are henchmen of the "usurper" who has taken control of their city!

Aquaman comes across more thugs, but this time, when he calls a hammerhead shark to help, it he who is the on the receiving end of its wrath
...Aquaman wakes up captured, trussed up along with Aqualad and the man who got Garth involved in all this!

Turns out that his son, Syan, ran (swam?) away when a group of cultists started preaching in Atlantis, and when, years later, this man saw a picture of Aqualad--who has the same purple eyes as his son--he assumed Garth came from wherever Syan ended up.

This city is where they ended yup, but unfortunately its now come under the control of...:
Aquaman manages to break free and bust some heads, but he stops when he sees that Manta has Topo and Arthur Jr. caged!

Manta then forces Aquaman to fight Aqualad for his amusement, with an added inspiration for Aquaman:
Aquaman's face takes on a grim cast, and he attacks Aqualad with real ferocity.

As the battle goes on, Aquaman realizes that Manta has been using a sonic barrier to keep fish out of the city, meaning the only one here is...Topo!

Topo busts out of his cage and grabs Manta's controller, crushing it. As the air fills the bubble Arthur Jr. is in, Aquaman throws a trident into it, smashing it open, letting the water rush in.

As Manta escapes, Aquaman learns, to his horror, that he is too late

Has any superhero, ever, suffered a blow like this? The closest you can come is The Joker killing Robin, but Jason Todd was no Dick Grayson--someone thought of as a son, and Jason Todd was a superhero playing a rough game. This was an infant, which is such a brutal, unspeakable crime that, in the larger scheme of things, you'd think half the DCU would have been hunting Black Manta down once word got out.

When I interviewed David Michelinie back in December, he really couldn't remember where this idea came from. He recalled that it was something Paul Levitz had been loosely building to, and when he took over the strip he carried it out.

This story divides Aquaman fans probably about as much anything--some see it as an important moment, something that makes Aquaman truly unique; other look at it as a moment that derailed Aquaman and turned him into a mopey jerk that he never fully recovered from.

In any case, I think the idea isn't served well by the rushed execution--one page is just not enough to convey all that has to happen, and Aqualad is being probably the biggest jerk in the DCU by whining to Aquaman at this moment. Jeez, Garth, Aquaman is holding his dead infant son in his arms--can we deal with your issues later?

Plus, like I said above, there just isn't any justifiable reason why Black Manta is still alive. Like The Joker, Manta is of course too good a villain to get rid of, but if you're going to try and put these superheroes in a (slightly) more realistic world--one where little children can be murdered--then you have to deal with that.

And with all the superheroes in the DCU, there had to be at least one or two that would've taken it upon themselves to find Manta, cut his head off, and beam it to the JLA satellite addressed to Aquaman.

Black Manta committed the Ultimate Act of Evil--comic book world or no--and to have him still be around, dogging Aquaman for years afterwards, and to me, in a lot of ways it makes Aquaman look weak, if only in an unconscious way.

Aside from this, this Aquaman Adventure run was superb, and it was nice to see it lead to a promotion, if only for a brief time...


Anonymous said...

i assumed some swift justice was on its way following that whole affair...ack-wa, along with the whole jla could have easily thrown on their wyatt earp spurs, ran me down like a humpback during whaling season and no one, not even supes, would have cried foul. well, they could have tried....unsuccessfully mind you...but they could have tried.

not to mention, what would the world be without yours truly!


Hatter J said...

You have made a really good point in stating that there is not justifiable reason why Manta would still be alive.

If we take a fast-forward leap and look at what happened to Dr. Light (which was probably and chronologically occurring during this time period) according to the events in Identity Crisis, Light had his mind wiped for raping Sue. The JLA rallied around EM and helped him out in his "time of crisis," why not Aquaman? I know that these were written a few decades apart, but it still mixes in continuity (at least for me).

What made matters worse were the series of backup stories featuring Mera trying to save Art Jr. Those made absolutely no sense to me. It's almost like they needed some sort of page filler, and that won the coin toss.

Anonymous said...

I've always heard of this story, but never actually read it. It almost seems like DC tried to have it both ways. The most disturbing blow that one could imagine happened to Aquaman, but they also covered it in one page and that was the last page of the issue. Maybe they had semi-cold feet on it, given the severity of the issue?

Either way, Garth looks like a total putz here. "I know your son's dead, but that really hurt!" It does kind of fit in to the characterization he was given by Wolfman and others immediately after Tula's death; whiny, sullen and depressed, unable to get over it. Poor Garth, he just can't get a break.


The Irredeemable Shag said...

I read this story a few times growing up. However, now that I have children of my own and can related more to Aquaman, it's just horrifying. I'm just stunned looking at the panel of Aquaman holding his dead son. Honestly, just this moment I hovered over the keyboard having trouble typing "dead son". What a horrific panel.

You all are completely right. There should have been a JLA brute squad that hunted down Black Manta and terminated him with extreme prejudice.

Maybe some comic writer could think of a way to show us in a Flashback that Black Manta was punished by the JLA severely (but wouldn't negate all the future appearances Manta made). Just a thought.

The Irredeemable Shag

Anonymous said...

You know, maybe the JLA did. After all, Manta's just a guy in a suit. It could be one of his lieutenants who had taken his place that we've seen since then.

What can I say, I'm a mom and there should only be fish poop left of Manta for what he did.

Cindy Healy

rob! said...

i like the way you think, cindy.

Anonymous said...

That's rather how I feel about the writer who penned this issue. Heh, I'm in the 'ruined Aquaman forever' camp with this story. This run up to this point looks like it was really a rarity, a solid run of Aquaman comics with out any caveats....but this started the long, slow slide of bad continuity on his end. This is why we need to get a fresh Aqua-start out of final crises...not that we will, but we really need it.