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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Guest Post by Andy Luckett

sgWelcome to another Aquaman Shrine guest post!

A while back, I was conversing with F.O.A.M. member Andy Luckett and I mentioned that someday I wanted to get around to doing some Comics Weekend posts on Alan Davis' excellent, uber-fun Elseworlds mini-series The Nail
. But since I didn't have copies of the series, it would have to wait.

Since Andy had copies of them in his collection, he offered to do a "guest review" of the three-issue series. I thought that was a fine idea, and Andy sent me a review and a bunch of scans in no time at all. That was last November.

For some reason, I kept forgetting to put the post together and get it ready to go, so everyone could enjoy it. I'm a bad blogger sometimes is my weak excuse.

But since we're in between the Shrine's long stretches of Golden Age Aquaman stories (first with More Fun, with Adventure Comics soon to follow) I finally got off my butt (metaphorically) and made use of Andy's fine effort.

So without further ado, here's Andy Luckett on Justice League of America: The Nail:
For want of a nail
the shoe was lost,

for want of a shoe
the horse was lost,

for want of a horse
the knight was lost,

for want of a knight
the battle was lost.

So it was a kingdom
was lost –

- all for the
want of a nail.

- Colloquial Adaptation of a Verse by George Herbert (Jacula Prudentum 1651)

Hi everyone, my name is Andy Luckett. I'm a proud member of F.O.A.M. and a lifelong Aquaman fan, ever since my dad introduced me to DC Comics at an early age (I was the perfect age for the Super Powers phenomenon). Rob has graciously allowed me to review for you what is one of my favorite DC stories, and definitely one of my favorite Elseworlds tales as well, not the least reason of which is the ample role Aquaman plays in the adventure. So, thank you very much Rob for this opportunity!

Justice League of America: The Nail was published by DC in 1998, originally serialized in three issues. The version I am reviewing is the trade paperback edition, featuring a new "all-out battle melee" wrap-around cover and an essay in the back entitled "Barry Allen Has a Big Head and a Skinny Neck: An Afterword to The Nail". As I'm sure you've already guessed, Alan Davis (Alan Moore's Captain Britain, Will Pfeifer's Aquaman covers) was the artist for this series, but also took on writing duties as well. His artistic team consisted of Mark Farmer on inks, Patricia Mulvihill on colors, and Patricia Prentice on lettering. Needless to say, Alan Davis is an immensely talented artist, and this series served to make me a bigger fan of his kinetic, graceful art as well as his story construction.

Our story opens on the farm of a loving young couple by the name of Jonathan and Martha Kent, who are delayed on their trip into Smallville by a flat tire caused by an ordinary nail. As they return to the farmhouse, a very familiar unidentified flying object passes close by...

Cut to roughly twenty years later. Metropolis, the City of Tomorrow, is in the grip of ecstasy after having easily reelected mayor Lex Luthor, who won in a landslide victory under a platform of anti-metahuman rhetoric (surprise!). All of your favorite heroes and teams exist, including the Justice League, the Doom Patrol, the Outsiders, etc., but everyone seems slightly...off. Less hopeful, perhaps even a little lost. The League is not what it once was, still hurting from a battle with Amazo that left Hawkman dead and Green Arrow crippled and bitter.

As news footage pours in of Luthor's victory speech alongside an anti-superhero interview with Oliver Queen, we see the members of the Justice League watching from their orbiting headquarters 22,300 miles above downtown Metropolis:
They debate Oliver's accusations, as well as their own feelings as things get a bit heated between them. The meeting breaks up and each member splits off to contemplate the current situation, a situation that seems to be spiraling into something greater than simple intolerant hysteria. Hawkwoman in particular is angst-ridden over her beloved Katar being no more than a footnote in the public's perception of their work, and she has a helpful discussion with Aquaman about acceptance and duality:

As the conspiracy unfolds, more and more players are brought into the fray, and the casualties begin to hit close to home. The spreading darkness reaches into each heroes’ sphere of influence, including Aquaman's ocean realm:
(Notice the return of the Double Dolphin sub?)

...Now that's a splash page! (Pun only slightly intended)

The first two panels of this page make another great addition to the "Aquaman is a badass" file.

That is such a great classic Aquaman sequence that I wanted to include it in its entirety. From there, the story continues to unfold the rest of the conspiracy, with an unlikely mastermind and a lot of surprises. I'm leaving the plot synopsis generally vague because this is a story that should be experienced fresh, taking each deviation from the established DC norm as it comes. But, as I said above, it is one of my favorite stories and I can't recommend it higher.

And now to spotlight the stuff we're all here for: how does Artie fare in the story? Well, as you can see, he gets quite a few great moments: the discussion with Hawkwoman on the beach, the excellent confrontation with Ocean Master and the Marine Marauder (but no Manta, which is odd), and a couple of nice shots during the final big battle.

His characterization is nicely balanced by Davis' script: proud yet wise, gentle yet forceful, a thinker and a fighter. And I never get tired of Davis' visual rendition of our boy Arthur, the way he uses smooth, flowing lines to indicate the grace of a man used to moving through water with the greatest of ease. The lithe swimmer's body he gives Aquaman is in my mind a continuation of the great Jim Aparo's conception of the character, showcasing the power and grace of the Sea King.

To me, with this, its sequel Justice League: Another Nail, and those beautiful Will Pfiefer-era covers on the regular title, Alan Davis is on my list of top Aquaman artists alongside Jim Aparo, Nick Cardy, Ramona Fradon, and Alex Ross. Oh, and may I also say that Davis draws some of the finest-looking women this side of Adam Hughes? His Mera reminds me of Nick Cardy's, which is high praise in my book.

Anyway, once again I want to thank Rob, who works hard to provide us with our daily Aqua-fix, for allowing me to "swim in his pool" a bit, and thanks to all of you for allowing me to share my thoughts on this great story. Until next time Aquamaniacs, remember: never trust a guy in a crazy-looking helmet (even if he's a relative), and always keep some finny friends close by.


Josh Hill said...

nice work, Andy! and I have to say, JLA: THE NAIL is one of my all-time favorite comics. I was just saying the other day to a friend of mine how one of the things I loved best about that series and its sequel was the splash pages that highlighted each of the major characters. This Aquaman page was no exception. Alan Davis is without a doubt one of the best Aquaman artists ever. It would be great to see him provide covers again, when Arthur gets his own series soon.

Russell said...

I read this series when it came out in three issues, and I can still rememember thinking at the ends of parts two and three, TO BE CONTINUED!!!!! It was one of those "sitting on the edge of your seats" type stories, and where you thought it was going...wasn't really where it went. Great, great story and great job on the review, Andy! Welcome to the Club!!!

Wings1295 said...

Great guest post! I remember liking The Nail when I read it, should dig it out and re-read.

Joe Slab said...

I loved the original Nail (it is available in Trade format now Rob). Another Nail, wasn't as good IMO.

Anyone have a scan of the final page? I thought it was great to see Aquaman and Mera alongside of so many other Silver Age classics at the Nail's conclusion.

Andy Luckett said...

Thank you sincerely for all the praise, guys! This post was so much fun to do. And thank you once again Rob, not only for allowing me to share my thoughts but also for creating such a friendly, intelligent, and fun place to share them in! Viva la Shrine!

rob! said...

Andy--You're very welcome, thanks for the post. Sorry I took so dang long to get it on here!

And I agree: Alan Davis draws a kick-ass Aquaman and Mera. What I wouldn't give to have him draw a new Aquaman book...

Aquamariner! said...

Davis should've been hired to do an Aquaman Monthly (on script and art!) There isn't, IMHO, a more heroic and Iconic representation of Aquaman! Not even in his own title.

This Mini is worth while for many reasons, but it is truly a treat for any Aquaman fan.

The Strenght and stamina of this Aquaman and the beauty of Davis' art makes this a must have for us Aqua-dudes!

@Rob!: I feel the same way. I feel that no other artist (not even Mr. Reis in the current Brightest Day) makes Aquaman look as cool as Davis!

Shellhead said...

It was a great series. Really hit the Silver Age vibe while updating it at the same time. Question, though, was the Marine Marauder an original creation? I don't remember seeing her in any of the classic Aquaman tales.
The twist ending was also well done. Too bad they made a sequal, though. It was mediocre at best.

HollyH said...

Thanks for this post! Because of it, I ran right out to pick up the TPB, and wasn't disappointed. I became a big fan of Davis back when he first started doing "Excalibur", so my respect for him as an artist and writer knows few bounds. I too can think of nobody I'd rather see take on an Aquaman book. (Especially with the current era's advances in coloring, which makes Davis's art look even better.)