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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Aquaman (Vol.3) #1 - June 1989


Comics Weekend "Aquarium" by Keith Giffen, Curt Swan, Robert Loren Fleming, and Al Vey.

I've never gotten around to taking a look at this series, Aquaman's second mini-series after the Pozner/Hamilton books in 1986, other than one half-hearted attempt a few years ago--something the Shrine is rectifying this weekend.

Originally DC had planned to have Pozner and Hamilton back doing a follow-up series, but do to a number of snafus this never came to pass. After a one-shot special, it was almost two years before Aquaman would return as a solo star:

This new series opens with Aquaman in a hurry to get back to Atlantis. Having discovered three sentries dead at an Atlantean outpost, the Sea King is eager to investigate.

On his way back to the city, he discovers another outpost destroyed. But he also finds a clue--some tissue from what looks like a jellyfish, but no species of jellyfish he is familiar with.

He reaches Atlantis, only to see that the entire city has been captured by some invading armada. Some of his subjects have been put to work, watched by some alien ships floating directly above them. Aquaman tries to sneak into the city, but:
Aquaman pauses for a moment, then figures the best way to get into the city is by being right out in the open. Swimming right past a tower, an alarm goes off and some alien machines are sent out to snare him. They do, zapping him with some electricity in the process, knocking him out.

When he awakes, Aquaman is where he wanted to be: in Atlantis' prison! He talks to another inmate, who is aware of their new cellmate's true identity. He catches Aquaman up on what's happened while he was gone:

(...I love that Aqualad panel. It just makes me laugh.)

Anyway, after a skilled and trusted general is killed in battle, Pletus seized power. Unfortunately, he was an incompetent and ruthless leader (sounds familiar), and under his reign Atlantis was conquered by the invaders, with Pletus himself being put to death.

Aquaman's cellmate is less than impressed with his former king, blaming Arthur for all that has happened in his absence. Meanwhile:
In a room, far away Mera awakens from what looks like a long sleep. She mutters "He's here" and then tries madly to escape this room she's being confined in.

In the middle of the night, Aquaman tries to escape the prison, only to be stopped by his cellmate. He blames Aquaman for the death of his wife (killed by the invaders) and lashes out:
...to be continued!

When I first read this series, I didn't like it very much. Never having been a fan of Curt Swan's work, I found going from the intricate, dynamic art of Craig Hamilton to this to very jarring.

There are many old-hand comic book artists whose work I didn't like as a child, only to come to appreciate--if not becoming a fan of--as an adult (Jack Kirby, Mike Sekowksy, and Frank Robbins, to name three), but Curt Swan just isn't one of them. The cover to this book (by David DeVries) seemed to suggest DC was going to continue with this contemporary take on the Sea King, but the interiors tell a very different story. That said, I find Al Vey's inking on Swan's pencils to be fantastic--he brings a crispness to it that I think looks great and helps work against the...generic-ness that bugs me so much when it comes to Curt Swan.

Speaking of the story, this plot isn't getting any better over time, either. Aquaman's costume actually being a sort of prison uniform is an okay touch, but how many times can Atlantis be conquered? In the DCU, Atlantis is a major industrial complex, complete with ambassadors and treaties with other nations--as well known as New York, Paris, or Moscow, and yet its been taken over by an alien race in what has to be just a few months? Where the hell was the JLA during all this?

With those complaints out of the way, I'm going to concentrate just on what happens in the rest of the series.
In an effort to try and present these stories as coherently as possible--and not stretch the posts out forever--I'm devoting this whole Comics Weekend to this series. We'll be talking about issues 1,2, and 3 today, and 4 and 5 tomorrow, so come back in just a few hours!


Siskoid said...

I very much had the same opinion of the series when it came out. I really loved the cover, but not the retro-ness of the interior. Curt Swan's fine on Silver Age Superman comics, but it doesn't work for me in modern comics.

This really seemed a step back from the fluidity of the Craig Hamilton series, both in art and story.

Joe Slab said...

Agreed rob! and Siskoid.

This was a real step back for the Sea King both literally and figuratively.

Whereas the 1st post-Crisis Aquaman series was beautifully rendered and looked like it was laying the foundation for an updated Sea King, headed for the 90's, the Giffen/Swan series took it about 5 steps backwards.

And the story of the aftermath of Arhtur Jr.'s death had already been told so I was always confused about why they decided to revisit it so unsuccessfully in this mini.