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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Tempest #1 - Nov. 1996

Comics Weekend "Prophets & Kings: Dead Ringers" by Phil Jimenez and John Stokes.

I completely fess up to the fact that, as Shrines go, this site has generally given short shrift to the Sea King's former junior partner, once known as Aqualad but now Tempest.

That's because as a kid reading comics, I was never that into junior partners: I didn't identify with Robin, or Speedy, or Aqualad: no, it was Batman, Green Arrow, and Aquaman (not necessarily in that order) that I thought were cool, and kinda regarded junior sidekicks as annoying tag-alongs.

To make matters worse, I always thought Garth was written, often as not, as whiny and ungrateful; constantly insecure about his powers and mad at Aquaman half the time. Go away, kid, ya bodda me!

But the Shrine is trying to make up for a bit now, with a look back at the 1996 Tempest mini-series, written and drawn by Phil Jimenez--the first real attempt by DC to make Aquaman's junior partner a fully realized "marquee" character all his own. So let's get started!

This first issue hits the land, er, sea, running...er, swimming:
Poseidon, looking for his brother Hades, is imprisoned alongside Neptune in some sort of magical "trap", created by some mysterious being who feeds off their energies. This being's body is so old and dessicated that it can't take in all that power, but he--it?--has a plan to find a "vessel" that can.

Meanwhile, back in the Hidden Valley, Tempest, Atlan, and Letifos continue battling the band of marauders. Garth is perplexed when one of his energy blasts immolates his attacker, killing him. Garth knows he's not capable of such force, nor is he happy he took a life.

The mysterious being, watching all this, laughs to himself. He then explains to his captives who he is pursuing: the young man once known as Aqualad:
Garth continues to fight, taking off for the city of Shayeris, trying to lure some of the marauders into following him. They do, and he then ambushes them, trapping them in a tight, barren part of the city and using his powers to encase them in ice. Having subdued them both without killing them, he heads back to the battle.

He returns to find most of the marauders dealt with, and Atlan and Letifos squabbling--over him. He breaks it up, demanding to know where the usual residents of the valley, known as The Idyllists, have gone.

Atlan says they are searching for the key to a "ritual spell" that will help Garth tap into his the powers of his ancestors, and "seal" them into him forever. The mysterious being, still watching, reveals that he(again, ?) is tied into that same birthright.

This being then commands more of the marauders to attack, and bring Garth to him. One of them grabs Garth and begins to drag him away, only to be stopped by:

Garth, completely overjoyed, instantly embraces Tula, wanting to know if what he's seeing and feeling is real. "Tula" claims it is, but before she can explain, they have to rescue Atlan, who is being dragged into a dimensional portal. But before they can reach him, he's gone.

The marauders follow suit, and soon Garth is left alone with Tula and Letifos. Garth feels like he's failed his master, and heads into the city to search for him. Meanwhile, Letifos lets Tula know in no uncertain terms that she thinks Tula is part of something sinister, and vows to expose her. Tula merely grins and blows Letifos off.

They then rejoin Garth:
...to be continued!

A solid start, with Phil Jimenez doing a good job as writer and artist. He even takes over the letters page, offering details and history about Garth/Aqualad/Tempest, and explaining who all the other characters are--a nice detail, since there's a lot of back story covered in this first issue. The bad guy explains a lot of it in Classic Bad Guy Style, but after a few pages that's all out of the way and then it's time for the big reveal: the return of Aquagirl! Or is it?

We'll be covering two issues of Tempest today, so come back in a few hours to find the answers to that question!

(One last thing before I sign out: before any of you Tempest fans form into a mob and storm Shrine Central in protest that I tag any and all Tempest-related posts with the "Aqualad" label (see below), be advised that's mostly because I have so many sidebar buttons now that Blogger rebels when I try to add more.

I didn't know there was a limit, but I guess there is, because now every time I want to add a new one I have to delete an old one--so I create new sidebar labels a lot less frequently. Adding a whole other label just to signify Garth's new superhero name just didn't quite seem worth it to me.)


Tempest127 said...

This series was such an intense part of my life at the time that I'll admit surprise whenever I read that "Aquaman" fans are unfamiliar with it. Of course, that's because Garth and the other original Titans were my childhood heroes, not their "senior partners." I grew up thinking of Arthur as a neglectful bully where Garth was concerned; there were times when Atlantean Child Protective Services should have gotten involved (not like anyone there cared). Aqualad still managed to become a solid hero and a noted political entity despite a woeful lack of parenting. Sad that it took Wonder Woman to first express to Garth that Arthur actually loved him (but no surprise that Garth was surprised to hear it).

This was Garth's second mini-series outing, though he shared the first with Superboy in Adventure Comics. Both covered previously unknown aspects of Garth's life and added some much needed attention and character development. It was also great to see the long-maligned King Thar get an image overhaul here; Garth had a right to be proud of his father. So much to love; so little space!

JD said...

I really enjoyed this mini-series, Jimenez's art is fantastic, albeit George Perez inspired, and he is underrated as a writer too as he really isn't afraid to go for it when it comes to mystical and mythological type stories, which is why he was a great match for Wonder Woman too. Anyone who liked this Tempest mini-series and is also interested in Wonder Woman should check out Jimenez's run. I wish a second Tempest mini-series would have happened, and hope this mini gets collected someday when Garth returns, hopefully like Donna Troy material was collected when she was resurrected.

Wings1295 said...

I enjoyed this series when it came out, too. I always loved Aqualad and was glad that he was growing up and becoming his own person. Fun stuff.

David J. Cutler said...

I have to admit, I'm not familiar with the comics where Aquaman is a bad father. I've never read much beyond the death of the prince, and then my reading picks up again in PAD's run where Aqualad is grown up and their relationship is already strained.

I edit continuity a lot in my head, so for me, whatever went down between them was more the fault of the late 70s and 80s turn to seriousness--a sudden embarrassment at the concept of the teen sidekick and a desire to pull away from it in the hero's main stories, leaving the titans a neglected band of unwanted red-headed step children in their own series.

This first issue seems good--the art is certainly rich, and the voices sound right. Two big areas of Aquaman boredom for me though are mysticism and Atlantis, so between that and my general dislike of Tempest's name, costume and powers, this series is going to have an uphill battle to win me over. It's certainly very polished and well done, though.

Tempest127 said...

Most of Arthur's major offenses against Garth actually came prior to issue 40 of the original series, not during the "teen angst" years. Still, I don't think there's a lot worse than having his mentor use a trident as a tenderizer to gore him several times before trying to kill him.

The Irredeemable Shag said...

I really enjoyed this mini-series as it was coming out. I was devouring each and every gorgeous panel. I still think "promoting" Aqualad to Tempest was the right move. It's a shame he's currently dead.

Perhaps they can figure out a way to use him in the upcoming Aquaman series. Since he's dead, maybe he could be the new Water Elemental. Just a thought.

In regard to your Blogger button limit... there's always the darkside of Wordpress. ... Rob, join the Wordpress side, it's your destiny.

The Irredeemable Shag

Joseph Brian Scott said...

Really enjoyed this mini as well, and was even fortunate enough to be able to get issue #1 signed by Mr. Jimenez at a convention in KC, Mo. It was fun while standing in line to listen to him discuss w/ other fans who(m?) he would cast as Garth in a movie; I remember that despite similar hairstyles, Fred Savage was NOT on the top of his list.

Yeah, as far as superhero/sidekick combos go, it seems Arthur and Garth have had the rockiest road. I like Mr. Cutler's comment about editing continuity in his head; I do that too, and it seems to me that they were fine when they were just two guys alone out fighting crime on the open ocean. It was when they settled down to life in Atlantis with all the attendant baggage and responsibilities that came with it that the trouble began. Still, makes for good drama, though.