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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Aquaman (Vol.8) #4 - Feb. 2012

Comics Weekend "The Trench Part Four" by Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, and Rod Reis.
The story of The Trench ends with this issue, starting with Aquaman and Mera alone in the deep, deep dark:

Mera at first wonders if The Trench are extraterrestrials, since they have come across some sort of underwater craft. But Aquaman discovers ancient Atlantean symbols on it, figuring out that its from Atlantis before it sank. He wonders what Atlanteans were doing this deep underwater, but those thoughts are interrupted by Mera, who notices that their fish companions have peeled off, their fear overriding Aquaman's telepathic commands. Not a good sign!

The two have a debate over The Trench, which Mera offering that they are simply "mindless creatures" who can't be allowed to survive, but Aquaman is not so ready to, as he puts it, "kill off an entire species."

A spawn of the Trench swims by, a sick, mutated creature clearly the result of endless in-breeding. They follow along, and it leads them to a pretty horrifying discovery:

The walls of the cavern are covered with the pods containing the Trench's future meals. Since the human captives cannot be freed so far underwater (only Aquaman and Mera are tough enough to survive such depths, yo), Arthur quickly decides that the whole wall needs to be brought to the surface.

The Trench doesn't like this one bit, so they attack. Mera needs time to get them to safety (lest the pressure changes kill them all), so that means Aquaman has to keep the Trench from catching up to her. Aquaman shows a surprising amount of compassion for these creatures, even as they attempt to eat him alive.

The Queen Trench then makes her move, leaving Aquaman little choice:
Mera worries about her husband, but within moments Aquaman comes tearing out of the conflagration. Having triggered a volcanic eruption, Aquaman follows that up with an example of tremendous strength: he pushes a huge chunk of sea floor into the crevice, crushing the surviving Trench and sealing the fissure forever(?).
On land, Aquaman frees everyone from their icky pods. The cops are impressed that Aquaman and Mera managed to rescue so many people, and apologize (somewhat) for their earlier super-dickery. Aquaman is then approached by a young fan, expressing a sentiment most of us endorse:
Back at the lighthouse, Aquaman is still feeling unsure about killing so many of the Trench. Mera tries to cheer him up, and they are interrupted by the sheriff's deputy. Along with Deputy Wilson is the dog that Aquaman rescued from a pod, who now has no owner since she was one of the few people killed by the Trench.

Aquaman and Mera agree to take in the dog, and Wilson suggests a name:
The End...for now.

This issue also comes with a one-page teaser for upcoming events:
...to be continued, of course!

After complaining for three issues straight about how slowly this story was being told, I am know doing a 180 and suggest that this wrap-up goes too quickly! (That sound you hear is Geoff Johns pounding his head on his desk. His giant, gold-plated desk) In a lot of ways, Johns and Co. did their jobs too well: The Trench seemed like such amazing, menacing bad guys that watching them get so soundly defeated so quickly feels a bit anti-climactic.

That aside, there's a ton of stuff to like, if not love, in this issue: I personally loved Aquaman's attempt at showing mercy, even to creatures that almost all of us would consider complete monsters. I loved the detail of Aquaman's finny friends high-tailing it out of the trench, suggestions from their king notwithstanding. Also, as someone who has suggested many, many times that Aquaman's superhuman strength needed to be more emphasized, seeing him push an entire cliff face off a ledge made me go "Wow!", something I don't find myself saying much anymore. Finally, I love the addition of the dog: a nice, humanizing element for the characters, making them even more of a traditional "nuclear family." Just don't let it near Black Manta, that's all I ask, Geoff.

And of course, the art is top-notch. There are not one but two double-page spreads, giving us some real spectacle. Rod Reis' colors are phenomenal, darkening the whole Trench sequence but still managing to make the visuals clear, not an easy trick. The whole first 2/3rds of this issue feel dark, claustrophobic, and remote, a reminder that Aquaman and Mera are far, far away from anyone else who could help them, which (to me) adds to the tension. We're still early on in the run, but I'd say the team of Reis/Prado/Reis are on their way to joining the pantheon of The Great Aquaman Artists, which is no easy feat, considering some of the legendary figures who have had runs on the character.

One final note: I really loved the final "teaser" page. Its not really part of this issue's story, and that's what I liked about it--it felt very old school comic books, and had a kind of a "gee whiz, isn't this exciting?" feeling. I'd love to see this kind of thing in other DC books--though if its a feature that remains specific to this book, that's fine with me too. It'll just be one more thing making Aquaman arguably the best book of the New 52.


IADW said...

that preview page is a great tease! hopefully Geoff keeps it running here.

happy new years Rob and team!

Simone said...

I was so excited to buy this issue.

I love how the book is going so far, and I have to agree with Rob in saying that I think Aquaman is the best book of the New 52, for sure.

While reading #4, I couldn't help but admire Aquaman's struggle to find a way to "save the day" that didn't involve killing an entire underwater race. His referring to the deformed Trench spawn as a "child" was also a masterful touch. I could almost hear the sympathy in his voice. It's perfect for the character.

I look forward to reading more! And I'm anxious to see what name they give to their new canine friend. :)