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Saturday, December 05, 2009

Aquaman (Vol.1) #58 - Nov. 1977

Comics Weekend "Through A Past Darkly" by David Michelinie and Jim Aparo.

I thought we'd continue with the Shrine's look at the second, brief, and final run of the original Aquaman book, which started again with #57.

At the end of the last issue, Aquaman had his chance to exact "eye for an eye"-type revenge of the man who murdered his son, Black Manta. But in the end, he found he couldn't do it, instead turning Manta and his henchmen over to the authorities.

Little did Aquaman know, Manta wasn't his only foe currently causing trouble. The Fisherman was in the middle of a plot to find an experimental spy sub, lost somewhere in the Marianas Trench.

Aquaman makes his way home, looking for his wife Mera. But she isn't there, rather:
...I think The Fisherman chose the exact wrong moment to get in Aquaman's face.

Aquaman wallops The Fisherman one, but he uses one of Aquaman's own trophies against him, by dropping a giant metal net over the Sea King.

Normally that wouldn't stop Aquaman, but The Fisherman has re-wired the net so, upon the pressing of a button, the net creates a depressurized field and gives Aquaman a near-fatal case of the bends!

He then tosses a gas grenade, knocking Aquaman out. When he comes to, he finds himself trussed up, high in the air, onto a lighthouse:
...you know, The Fisherman may be kind of a dorky villain, but that hovercraft is one kickin' ride.

Anyway, after The Fisherman takes off (not before taking orders from a mysterious voice, via a radio communicator), Aquaman finds that his telepathic powers are so weakened he can barely communicate with any of the sea creatures just a mile or so away.

Feeling defeated, Aquaman begins to give up, and thinks this may be the very spot where he dies. But then he notices something--this isn't any old lighthouse, it's the lighthouse--the one his father manned, all those years ago!

We then get a re-cap of Aquaman's origin, as the lighthouse's beam makes it way around to Aquaman, where it will burn him to a crisp.

Aquaman thinks of the moment he buried his father, and something in him stirs: he realize he can't give up. He has an obligation, an honor to uphold, so he has...to...keep...trying!

Using all his might, he sends out a telepathic signal, which is picked up by some hermit crabs:
Jim Aparo, always at the top of my list of Aquaman artists, really pulls this sequence off: you feel the searing heat coming off of the lighthouse, just as Aquaman frees himself.

Even though this story is only eleven pages, a recap of Aquaman's origin makes it feel a little padded: did we really need to see that story again?

Although, on the other hand, one of the things I think superhero comics have lost over the decades is the accessibility of their stories to non-long time readers. Recapping an origin brings any potential new reader up to date, so maybe this story is fine the way it is. Plus, we get to see Aparo's take on the iconic moments from Aquaman's origin, and that's good, so...forget what I said in the previous paragraph!

But this issue isn't done yet! Starting with this issue was a solo Mera back-up strip, written by our pal Paul Kupperberg and drawn by Juan Ortiz and Vince Colletta.

This first installment kicks off with Mera desperate for any chance to save her son:
Their old friend Vulko says the only chance to save Arthur Jr. is from a man named Xebel, a scientist from Mera's home dimension that Vulko has been communicating with.

Xebel has spoken of "an amazing healing device" that can be built using some rare elements from Mera's dimension. Vulko points out, though, that it would take an enormous influx of energy to open the portal between the two dimensions, giving Mera the chance to get the necessary elements.

Mera doesn't care about the risk, or the remote chance it will even work--all she wants to know is where this portal is. Vulko tells her, and she takes off. Using her hard water powers, she forces open the portal:
Mera finds herself back in her home dimension, but in the throne room of the royal palace!

Two armed guards rush her, and one them blasts her with a laser, knocking her out. When she awakes, she finds things have changed back in her dimension, not for the better:
...to be continued!

Aside from Mera's debut as a solo star, this issue also features another Aquaman first, sort of: book editor Paul Levitz mentions a first ever Aquaman Annual:
...sadly, Aquaman was cancelled before any such annual could be put together. That sound you hear is me, sobbing.

Before we sign off, I just wanted to mention two things concerning this issue--first, these shots of the interior of Aquaman's headquarters:
Re: Panel 1--what's with the double beds? What is this, The Dick Van Dyke Show?

Re: Panel 2--I love Aquaman having his own Batman-esque trophy room, filled with mementos from previous adventures. I still say Mego could've made one hell of a playset based on this!

Secondly, we get to see Jim Aparo's take on the classic Aquaman origin story. It features a shot of Aquaman's mother looking out over the sea, a moment that seems most artists tackling the origin feel the need to replicate in their own way:
The top right panel is by Kurt Schaffenberger from a Pepsi-produced place mat, the one at the bottom right by Ramona Fradon, from Adventure Comics #260, and the bottom left by Don Heck, from Action Comics #519 (who went a slightly different way with it).

There must be a version by Nick Cardy around somewhere!


Russell said...

One thing I NEVER liked about Atlantis and scenes like this of Aquaman's home was the idea that it was just a world like ours but under water. Can you imagine actually trying to SLEEP in BEDS at the BOTTOM of the sea!?! It's outrageous. I hate those scenes in Aparo's run where he shows Atlanteans WALKING around the city which is supposed to be underwater. It's just wrong, people. (not to be confused with the era when the city was pumped full of air and they WERE walking). I never have seen a good presentation of what Atlanteans etc should really look like moving underwater...

IADW said...

It's great looking back on Mera starring solo now in a back-up strip, in contrast to today where she's co-starring in arguably the hottest book of the decade.

Somehow no matter what twentyten has in store for Aquaman I doubt Mera will fade from sight for a long while yet!