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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Aquaman (Vol.7) #14 - March 2004

Comics Weekend "Story" by John Ostrander, Tom Grummett, and Wade Von Grawbadger.

Using Comics Weekend to cover Brightest Day and the Golden Age era of Adventure Comics still leaves an occasional Saturday open, so I thought the Shrine should go back and try and fill some the remaining gaps, in terms of Aquaman series.

I've talked about this seventh iteration of Aquaman before, recapping issues 13 and 15-20, for whatever reason skipping over this issue. So let's fix that right now!

Like the previous issue, this is a fill-in by John Ostrander. Regular writer Rick Veitch had just left, and it wouldn't be until #15 that new regular Aqua-scribe Will Pfeifer came aboard, so Ostrander had two issues to fill.

And fill them he did: I thought he did a tremendous job in issue #13, delivering a self-contained adventure that (IMO) was one of the Sea King's best stories of the last decade or so. Let's check out how he followed it up.

This issue opens in the offices of Meta magazine, where a columnist named Vince Wolfe has just had his piece on Superman bounced by his editor. He's assigned a piece on Aquaman, which Vince dreads because he's so hard to get a hold of.

While talking to his sister, she offers an angle on the piece: asking kids--like the students of her grade school class--about Aquaman. Vince, having no better idea, goes along with it. A few days later, he talks to the kids, and he gets a wide variety of impressions on the Sea King:
Another kid has some actual useful info, courtesy the official JLA website. Vince's sister offers some more help, in the form of her girlfriends whom she's having lunch with later in the day.

One of the women, a ravishing redhead named Nicole, offers her own, decidedly more adult take on Aquaman:
Everyone refusing to believe Nicole's story angers her, and when another friend, Amanda, puts the lie to Nicole's story when she doesn't know what color Aquaman's eyes are (something Amanda seems to know quite well), Nicole storms off. But another lead presents itself: another friend has an uncle who is a fireman--maybe it'd be interesting to learn what these heroes think of superheroes?

Vince follows up, and learns that one of the firemen actually met Aquaman. During a fire that threatened to collapse a building down around those still trapped inside, Aquaman arrived and commanded the firefighters to turn their hoses on him:
The people are rescued, and then the building falls down on top of Aquaman! The firemen are shocked to see him stagger out from the wreckage, a true hero.

Vince then makes one more stop: at the apartment of Amanda, who Vince is guessing had a very personal experience with Aquaman. After some cajoling, she tells the story of how, after the violent death of her fiance, this woman prepared to kill herself by jumping off a bridge.

Feeling completely alone on one cold windy night, she jumps. But before she can hit the water, Aquaman appears as if from out of nowhere, knocking her to the shore. Aquaman is at first enraged at someone willingly throwing their life away, but when she reveals her pain, the Sea King calms down, and they begin to talk about loss:
Vince can't help but be moved by the story, so much so it convinces him not to write the piece. Instead of working for tabloid-esque magazines like Meta, Vince decides to go back to what he's always wanted to do: tell real human-interest stories for a newspaper.

He and Amanda also talk about how his sister wanted the two of them to get together. Amanda wasn't ready then, but she is now: they make a date for Friday night.

Ignore the cover, which has absolutely nothing to do with this story, another winner from John Ostrander. In these two consecutive issues, he explores other people's views on the Sea King, who in many ways has remained an unknowable character even after seven decades in comics.

Its also fun to read two self-contained stories like this: almost a lost art when it comes to superhero comics nowadays. Tom Grummett, an expert at superhero action, is asked to do something a little different here, since this story is almost entirely just people sitting around talking. But he does a good job here, and of course the two-pages of kids drawings were a nice touch.

I enjoyed Will Pfeiffer's run on Aquaman, which immediately followed these two issues, quite a bit. But Ostrander did such a nice job here I would have loved to have seen him continue with the character.

Bonus! Later on today the Shrine will have a short chat with John Ostrander about his two Aquaman stories. Be here!


Joe Slab said...

Great review. I really loved this 7th Aquaman series, lots of great writers and artists made their mark on the Sea King during this run.

And while I initially thought the Secret Sea-hand was lame, I grew to really like the way it was portrayed and even miss it from time to time.

My own personal wish is that Aquaman would have magic canceling and healing powers internalized.

Wings1295 said...

Great review & a perfect post for Aquaman's big day! Just awesome.

KJ Sampson said...

That issue was the finest comic book I read that year. Excellent, excellent work.