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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Aquaman: Death of a Prince TPB

So yesterday saw the release of the Aquaman: Death of a Prince TPB, the first such collected edition of Aquaman stories since the Showcase books and the first in color since 2006's Sword of Atlantis book.

The book reprints the Aquaman stories from Adventure Comics #s 435-437, 441-452, Aqualad back-ups from Adventure Comics #s 453-455, and Aquaman (Volume 1) #s 57-63.

sgThese stories, written by a fantastic group of talented comic book storytellers (Steve Skeates, Gerry Conway, Paul Levitz, David Michelinie, Martin Pasko, and Paul Kupperberg) and drawn (mostly) by two of the best comic book artists ever to pick up a pencil (Jim Aparo and Don Newton), represent, in the Shrine's opinion, some of the Sea King's finest adventures, stories that have been crying out for some sort of permanent collection.

After years of having to tell people who were looking to get into Aquaman that most of his best adventures could only be found in dusty back issue boxes, this book is a great step in the right direction. All of Arthur's compatriots have multiple TPB collections in their name; he needs to catch up!

There are a couple of things that I wish had been done a little differently, and these comments are expressed solely for the purpose of making any future Aquaman TPBs a little better. For instance, a small introduction, aimed at any potential new Aqua-Fans lured to the book by his high profile in Blackest Night, Brightest Day, and Flashpoint, would have been nice. Any of the writers whose stories were collected in this book could have done a fine job. If none of them were available...well, DC, you have my number.

Also, while the book is called Death of a Prince, choosing to end the collection with Aquaman #63 makes for a really downbeat finale. Too bad there wasn't room(?) to keep going, and reprint some of the more up-beat stories that followed that book, which started off with Adventure Comics #460.

Finally, I don't get the whole glossy paper thing. I actually find it a tad distracting to read old 60s and 70s comics--which were originally done on newsprint, of course--on this super-high glossy stock. I'm not sure whether it would have made a price-point difference or not, but I think using that nice white, slightly rougher paper stock a lot of the more pre-fab TPBs are printed on would have been just fine.

But those are pretty minor considerations. Overall Death of a Prince is a fantastic collection of Aqua-adventures, written and drawn by some of the best people ever to handle the character. These were some of the first Aquaman stories I ever read: Aquaman is a brave, heroic, kind, and loyal man of action; Mera is his beautiful, intelligent, and devoted wife, and his Rogues Gallery (well represented here) are wonderfully colorful and nasty. These comics lodged a place in my brain so deep that, decades later, they eventually led to the thing you're reading right now.


Jakethy said...

I've been so excited for this ever since it was solicited. I'm sure it's all about marketing because of his recent high profile in the DC storylines that you mentioned, but nonetheless, it's a refreshing change to see stories from this era and by these writers/artists get featured in a TPB rather than another flavor of the week that was just on the racks a few months ago.
And it would've been AWESOME if you'd written the introduction!!

wich2 said...

With on the "non-glossy" front, Rob!

Also not a fan of the "candy-colored" printing.

Or, of the "let's print Gold & Silver stories SMALLER than the originals!"

This all adds up to a format not only not faithful to the originals - but one that makes the art look less like a representation of "the real world." (Which, last time I checked, is neither shiny, gaudy, nor small...)

The best Archive-style work I've seen yet is the large Simon & Kirby stuff from Titan. It has none of the above drawbacks, and should be seen as template for all reprinters.


Aaron said...

Might have to get my fins on this as I have never read any of the stories of the actual death, only stories that were in the aftermath.

Outsider73 said...

As a kid, Aquaman #62 was one of my first comics.

I read a few of Jim Aparo's other issues, but never the entire run, so I've been looking forward to this collection for a long time and can't wait to re-discover it.

As soon as my Amazon gift card arrives, I'm placing my order!

David J. Cutler said...

Sort of disappointed to hear about the glossy paper (it really kills some of Marvel's older-era focused Marvel Visionaries volume hardcovers) but I guess I expected it anyway. I've actually never read ANY of this, so I'm all the more excited to finally pick up the trade.

Tempest127 said...

"Aquaman is a brave, heroic, kind, and loyal man of action"--which is all fine and good until we get to Adventure #452 when he is anything but these things. Maybe the one reason I'm glad that these tales are being reprinted is that fans who think of Arthur as only this noble and honorable man will finally understand why a so-called "whiny" Garth came to see him so differently during his latter teen/early adult years. These stories totally changed my views on Aquaman as a "hero" as I followed them at that time. Other than the McLaughlin run in which he was redeemed for that short period, I've had a hard time seeing him in the same light as in his 1950-60s outings. (But yes, I'll buy this, if only to keep them re-printing Aquaman stories).

David J. Cutler said...

Hahaha do you like Aquaman at all, Tempest? I mean, you know this stuff didn't actually happen, right? Aquaman's not a real guy who makes his own decisions. He's only whoever's writing him construes him to be. Maybe I'll feel differently when I get to read the books, but my other favorite superhero is Spider-Man, who hit his wife during the stress of the clone saga in the 90s under the control of bad writers and editorial interference, and I don't hold it against the character today.

Maybe I'm being too extreme, but I have so little love for Garth as a post-silver age character, I'm all the more anxious now to read these and see if it changes my viewpoint at all.

Russell said...

Ordered mine! I got four: two for my nephews, one for my friend, and one for me. I'll take 'em to Baltimore Con and get Mike Grell etc to sign 'em!! :-)

Joseph Brian Scott said...

I can't wait to read these over again. I think the only one I never had was Adventure #444. I was 8 yrs old when these came out; I used to lie on the floor of my bedroom and pretend Aqualad and I were floating in the surf off the shore of a beach, spying on bad guys. I even came up with a first name for Aquababy, as this was before he was officially christened Arthur Curry, Jr.; I called him "Leonard." I don't know why; Leonard just seemed like a cool name to me.

Anonymous said...

It is a great thing that these stories are being reprinted, but the inclusion of the death of Arthur Jr. is actually something that I'd prefer not to see. The printing of this book certainly looks like a marketing move. "Hey, let's show all these new fans from Brightest Day and Flashpoint who Aquaman is and where he comes from. We can do that by showing these great old stories."

That's good, no matter the motivation, but here's what troubles me. If they're going to do what I've always wanted them to do with Aquaman, take him back to a clean slate, then they wouldn't include the (negatively) defining moment of his history in this collection. I already don't have much hope for the DC Re-Whatever, mostly because however they dress their characters up, and whatever changes they may make, it has become obvious that they aren't going clean slate, and they still aren't telling the kinds of stories I want to read. Now I suppose the "new" Aquaman is still going to have this in his history.

Michael Town said...

This was the peak of Aquaman. Jim Aparo was incredibly prolific (if only Neal Adams worked as much) and this story was like a punch. Aquaman vs Aqualad and their relationship would never be the same.

Tim V.O. said...

I'm excited to report that this is selling well, at least locally where I'm at. The LCS chain was sold out, as of yesterday, except for one store in the DFW (Tx) area that had one copy (which will be mine once it arrives).

Andrew Kolvek said...

I was curious about the type of paper they were going to print it on, because my copy won't get here until next week. The paper they use on most comics and trades is just about the cheapest available(same or near the paper they use for newspaper coupon ads). It would be nice to have on a toothy stock of paper, but I understand the economics of printing nowadays.

John said...

On a side note about the Mera side-story: At what point did "Xebel", the name of the leading scientist from her home dimension become "Xebel", the name of her home dimension? Or is that one of those retcon things we're not supposed to notice/talk about?