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Saturday, November 08, 2008

World's Finest #262 - May 1980

sgComics Weekend Aquaman returns to World's Finest!

Aquaman spent most of the 1970s bopping around from title to title, never settling in one place for very long.

After kicking off the decade with his own title being canceled (right in the middle of arguably its creative peak), Aquaman only appeared in Justice League of America for a short while. Then he got a brief run as a back-up star in Adventure Comics, then got promoted to headlining that title, only to get promoted again into his own book again.

Unfortunately, Aquaman was victim of the DC Implosion, so the Sea King once again only showed up a member in team books--two this time, Justice League and the new book Super Friends.

But Adventure Comics was like an old girlfriend of Aquaman, who keeps taking him back after he strays, and he returned to the title when it became a dollar book in Adventure #460, only for that strip to end a mere six issues later, leaving Aquaman "homeless" yet again!

But changes were afoot at another of DC's longest-running titles, World's Finest Comics, so Aquaman was given a slot there (after having been a sporadic back-up in title from issues 125-147 many years earlier). Ok, got all that?

Anyway, this issue's story opens up like this
...after receiving the distress call from the JLA, Aquaman heads out to search for this missing senator, last seen going overboard.

When he gets the area where the senator should be, he sees a ghost-like woman who leads him into a sort of whirlpool. He follows her all the way, until he arrives in a very strange place:
Aquaman is told this is the Sargasso Sea, the legendary graveyard of ships. The mysterious woman is Atlena, who lived in an Atlantis from many eons ago, and now resides in an alternate dimension, with the help of a machine that she invented.

The machine is now malfunctioning, opening up portals to "our" dimension randomly, grabbing anyone who happens to be going by at the time. Atlena has been trying to communicate with the other side, to get someone to turn off the machine so everyone trapped here can escape.

Aquaman uses his tremendous strength to escape the whirpool, and is met by Aqualad and Mera. He calls the JLA for assistance, but they are no help:
Aquaman then gets a pod of whales together, and has them grab a massive chain which he then connects to a battleship inside the vortex.

It starts to work, but the opening of the vortex is too small for the ship to pass through, so he has the trapped people start to climb the chain, one by one. Unfortunately, the people waste time fighting over who gets to leave first:
Despite the "I will fight on" ending, I found this story creepy as a kid--all those people trapped, and they blow their one chance to escape because they couldn't work together. Very Twilight Zone, and I still find it works really well.

And of course, if Jim Aparo wasn't available to draw Aquaman anymore, DC could have hardly done better than to replace him with Don Newton, whose work I always thought was superb. He gave Aquaman a grace of movement, making him look truly underwater.

This was Newton's last Aquaman story, and the end of Aquaman's run in World's Finest was already in sight, as soon as it started. Be here tomorrow to see what happened next.


Luis said...

"But Adventure Comics was like an old girlfriend of Aquaman, who keeps taking him back after he strays"
Hmmm... I wonder what Mera had to say about this "old girlfriend"?

Anyway, I'm glad you brought up Don Newton's art. His drawings were always very classy and with a style all their own. Great stuff.

Michael Jones said...

...a school of fish...a pod of whales...
That being said, excellent review as always!

rob! said...

"a pod"?

wow, i didn't know that, duly corrected! thanks!

Anonymous said...

Rob, I'm shocked that you, an abide Aqua-fan wouldn't know that. :)

This looks like a good issue, and that art is just plain beautiful. There is something very heroic in Arthur's efforts here, even though he isn't facing a traditional foe.

I think that your summary of Aquaman's publishing history illustrates a very important point, one that I like to bring up whenever someone claims that classic Aquaman, green and gold cannot hold his own book. His worst enemy isn't Ocean Master, Scavenger, or even Black Manta, it is the DC editorial staff. With him being bounced from book to book, meddled with endlessly, and suffering from being in the wrong place at the wrong time (implosion), his book hasn't gotten a fair shake in a long, LONG time.