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Friday, April 16, 2010

Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #40 - May 2006

Sword of Atlantis Friday "Once and Future" by Kurt Buisek and Butch Guice.

With Classic Aquaman now back in current DCU continuity, I thought it would be worthwhile to take a look back at DC's last attempt to start fresh with the character.

Of course, DC tried this many times--Aquaman has had more new #1 issues and new creative teams (promising a "bold new direction" almost every time) than I care to count, but this was certainly their most dramatic attempt--this would be an entirely new Aquaman!

Part of DC's "One Year Later" company-wide event, Aquaman (Volume 7), changed its name to Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis, and we're thrown into an unfamiliar new world:
This young man isn't certain where he is, although we see he's being watched by...someone.

This someone speaks to the young man--named Arthur Curry--and helps guide him to a dark part of the ocean called The Carassian Hills. Once he gets there, he sees something startling:

Under the guidance of the voice speaking to him, Arthur Curry helps the being known as King Shark fend off his attackers.

Arthur Curry fights like a wild man, taking on several of the fish-like beings at once. When some blood is spilled, King Shark realizes some of the shark brethren he called in for help are going to go crazy. He grabs Arthur and they escape.

King Shark also hears the mysterious voice, which asks King Shark to bring Arthur Curry to him. He does, and we see the being is called The Dweller in the Depths, who offers food and rest.

As The Dwller tends to King Shark's wounds, he tells Arthur Curry to don "the proper garments" waiting for him in a nearby cave. Curry does, and when he emerges, he's:
King Shark flashes back to a time not that long ago, when the Aquaman he knew ran a spear through him. King Shark mutters he "Don't like Aquaman, that's all..."

The Dweller asks Arthur how he came to be able to survive underwater, and we learn that he was the subject of his father's experiments. Born several months premature, the only way baby Arthur would have survived was being injected with a serum that enabled him to breathe water--a last, desperate move.

Young Arthur Curry grew up, kept in a tank until a massive storm hit Miami, sending him falling into the ocean. All Arthur cares about right now is getting back to home to see if his father is still alive.

The Dweller tells Arthur of his prophecy, which seems very, very familiar, both to him and to us:
He talks of a storm at birth, winning a great beauty, a band of noble warriors, the loss of a son. The Dweller says Arthur will "travel a hero's path" with he and King Shark at his side.

Arthur, for his part, thinks this is crazy. Even King Shark thinks the Dweller is nuts, since there already is--was?--an Aquaman!

As Arthur and King Shark sit down for some food, the Dweller contemplates his prophecies:
...to be continued!

I have to admit this up front: when I first heard about this series, I was really, really, really against it. I felt like Aquaman got the short shrift from DC so many times that replacing him with a new guy just seemed like one more kick in the head.

Also, not being a fantasy guy, the idea of an Aquaman more firmly steeped in that kind of setting put me off. I remember before this issue came out, fans online mockingly dismissed this as "Aquaman the Barbarian" and that's what it looked like to me.

In fact, I was so sure I wasn't going to like this series that when I bought this first issue, I barely gave it my full attention--I didn't even realize, after one or two look-throughs, that The Dweller was, in fact, the original Aquaman (other news in 2006 that shocked me: Soylent Green was made from people, Bruce Willis is dead in The Sixth Sense, and that chick in The Crying Game was a really a dude!).

Sure, I kept buying the book--it was an Aquaman title, after all--but I told myself I didn't like it, and nothing was going to move me from the pre-ordained opinion.

The funny thing is, as Sword of Atlantis kept going, I realized I kinda liked what I was reading. I was still irked that DC felt the need to replace Aquaman at all, but this wasn't too bad. I grew to like the book enough that I was very disappointed when it was canceled, less than two years after it started.

Reading these issues over again, I'm struck by how much I really enjoy them. Busiek and Guice create an interesting world (Guice's work here is really phenomenal, and completely different than the usual superhero stuff you saw come out of DC or Marvel) and the book's tone is unlike anything else DC was putting out. Pouring over this first issue made me eager to keep going and follow where the story was going, even though I already knew!

Since I don't want to tie up the Shrine's Comic Weekend segments with another long series, I've decided to kick off "Sword of Atlantis Fridays"--but we're going to be doing these recaps a little differently than way we normally do.

I've been a bit dissatisfied with how long some of these series recaps sometimes take (it feels like we've been talking about the late-70s Adventure Comics run for about five years), so I decided that the Shrine will feature two successive issues of Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis every Friday--one posted as 1203 am and the following issue at 1203 pm.

That way we will cover all ten Kurt Busiek-written issues of the series
in just five weeks, which I think keeps everyone from getting too bored. So be back here at 1203 pm for the very next issue of Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis!


David J. Cutler said...

I really liked this series at the time, although wished it could be a de-aged original Aquaman instead of a replacement. Actually, my pet theory at the time was that Arthur Joseph Curry was the Earth-2 Aquaman from the Golden Age, displaced after the cataclysm of Infinite Crisis (or, uh, whatever it was).

I still sort of wish that was his origin, but try explaining that one to a norm.

CouponWebz | UPrinting Coupons said...

I did not follow any aquaman books, but I remember an Aquaman title and the way I remember it somehow falls under the sword and magic fantasy genre.

Josh Hill said...

For me, I was happy to see something, anything, being done with Aquaman at the time and was willing to go along for the ride. Like you said, the new status quo was at least interesting and the Butch Guice art was gorgeous. The thing was, as soon as Butch started not doing every single issue, I found myself losing interest fast. The rest of the comic did not hold up without him, IMO. Anyways, it never mattered, as look at where we are today :) Aquaman is in a much better place today!

Russell said...

I was so un-thrilled with the whole idea of this series that I didn't even start picking it up until a few issues in, so I've never actually read this issue.

I now see that this is indeed part of The Aquaman Experience so I am slowly but surely buying all the back issues. So these five weeks should be fun for me. :-)

Joe Huber said...

I liked this series,and it really had to read in its entirety to make some sense. I enjoyed the art on the first few issues, but McManus's art was almost too cartoony for me towards the end of the run.

In an odd sort of way, this was the de-aged version of Aquaman since his body was converting thanks to infusions from the healing hand.

Count Drunkula said...

Kurt Busiek is a great storyteller and there are some terrific gems in his Aquaman issues, but... Man, I just hate the premise of this story. Guice's art looks dark and wonderful and sets up some great revelations, and I love his design for Ocean Master in a later issue (minus the cybernetic hand).

But really, nothing about this seemed like it was the right move to draw in new readers to a failing title.

Wings1295 said...

I think maybe, in hindsight, it would work better as an Aqua-elseworld? Or maybe a future tale of an Aqua-descendent? I dunno. I think we were all too invested in OUR Aquaman.

But they were interesting issues, at least.

Wonder when and how the real Aquaman will encounter this other Aquaman/guy. Hmm...

Jason G. said...

My experience was similar to yours, Rob. Initial trepidation followed later by respect and interest. By the time I had acclimated to the new Aquaman and had even begun to maybe like him just a little bit - BLAM! - the series was canceled faster than a speeding marlin. And like all Aquaman stories, I don't feel that we'll ever get proper closure to this one. Okay, enough negativity - Brightest Day! Woo!