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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Aquaman (Vol.8) #6 - Apr. 2012

Comics Weekend "Deserted!" by Geoff Johns, Joe Prado, Ivan Reis, and Rod Reis.
Almost as if we planned it, this month's issue of Aquaman focuses on Mera!

At the end of last issue, Aquaman came home from being stranded in the desert to find Salty the Aquadog home alone, with a note from Mera saying she went to town for dog food:

Great Neptune!

This issue opens, as it says below, "Four Years Ago":

sg sg
We flash forward to present day, and Mera has indeed headed into town to pick up some dog food. Inside a small grocery store are two people, a boss named Mr. Rovner and a young female employee.

Rovner is a bully and a thug, sexually propositioning the young woman in crude terms. His entreaties are interrupted by Mera--in full costume--who is baffled by the sheer variety of choices in the area of dog food. Rovner steps forward, and immediately assumes he can romance her. Mera tells him to keep his hands to himself, and when he doesn't, retaliates:

sg sg sg
Cops and paramedics arrive, and Mera surrenders. She offers to be placed in the police squad car so they can rush off to another emergency.

The next emergency involves a man holding a gun at his young daughter, after having killed her mother. When he threatens to kill her, Mera snaps the cuffs with no effort and strides toward the man, using her powers on him in a way we haven't seen before:

The young girl begs Mera not to kill the man, and she relents, confused and angry with humankind. She leaps into the air, leaving everyone behind. Back at her and Arthur's home, she flashes back to the time when she disobeyed her father, telling him that her mission to kill Aquaman is wrong and that she won't go through with it. Branded a traitor, Mera is cast out by her father, destined to be forever alone.

Her dark thoughts are interrupted by the young woman from the food store, who has brought something for the dog:

To be continued!

We've all been eagerly awaiting this Mera solo story; the character richly deserves this chance to shine and that's a testament to the work of Johns, Reis, Prado, et al. They have made Mera such an equal character that she can carry a whole issue of a new series by herself--while reading it the first time, I was glad to see Aquaman didn't show up halfway through; and I can't think the Shrine would ever find itself saying that.

The story is a little on the nose in places; Mr. Rovner is such a pig that he's a little hard to take seriously as an actual character; but of course he's not meant to be anything other than a plot device (I doubt we'll be seeing Rovner come back as a member of the supporting cast; at least I hope not).

The one element that really jumped out at me was the opening page, which sets the flashback at four years ago--that means that the sum total of Aquaman and Mera's relationship has taken place in less than four years' time. To this point, DC and Geoff Johns has kept it vague just how much rebooting the Sea King post-New 52 has undergone; I'd say this issue establishes quite a bit. After all; it now seems unlikely (to me, at least) that Aquaman and Mera ever had a son, which means the death of Arthur Jr.--the single most dominant theme in the characters' history in the last quarter century--is now null and void. And while I'm not saying that's a good or bad thing, that seems like a huge development.

(Not to belabor this: of course it's possible that this event is still in Aquaman's history; but Arthur and Mera getting married, having a son, Arthur Jr. dying, Arthur and Mera split up, and eventually reconciling all taking place in less than four years seems extraordinarily unlikely)

Inker Joe Prado takes the reins of the art in this issue, drawing over Ivan Reis' breakdowns. And while I did notice some stylistic differences, overall I thought this issue maintained the artistic standard the series has set; in a number of ways I thought it was an extremely clever idea to let the book's inker take over for an issue; it gives Reis the month off but still makes this issue feel like it's part of a larger arc, as opposed to getting a fill-in artist whose work is entirely different than the one we've come to know and love. I look forward to Joe tackling another issue, maybe if/when they bring back Aquagirl?

And as usual, Rod Reis does a wonderful job on the colors--he doesn't get as much flashy stuff to take on this issue, but consistently makes Aquaman one of the nicest-colored of all the DC books. But don't take my word for it: while reading this issue on my iPad before I went to sleep, Darlin' Tracy looked over at it and said "Wow, those colors are really beautiful." As a great man used to say, 'Nuff Said!

One final thought: this issue reminded me a bit of those classic early 60s issue of The Fantastic Four, where The Thing would venture out onto the streets of New York and encounter the teeming masses who considered him a monster. Things (sorry) would eventually get out of hand, leading ol' Ben Grimm to wonder why he bothers saving these bigoted and ungrateful people. As a longtime of fan of Mera, it's almost kind of unpleasant to watch her be so adversarial towards the people she's committed to save; but of course it'll mean that much more when she finally makes peace with them.

Okay, one final final thought: when this issue was released on Wednesday, a number of people suggested Mera is ready for a solo series of some regularity; and while she deserves the compliments those comments imply, I would say I hope that doesn't happen. Mera is such a solid, strong character that having her as part of Aquaman is what helps make this new book so good (I dropped a number of New 52 books when it dawned on me I simply didn't care about the main characters). In a nice twist, Geoff Johns has made Aquaman the more calm, reasonable one of the two; after decades of the Sea King being portrayed as a total hothead, with Mera constantly trying to reel him in, I'm enjoying the change-up.



David J. Cutler said...

I almost feel bad saying it, especially given how much I've loved the first 5, but this issue was a miss on all fronts to me. Mera thinking that breaking a guy's arm was an appropriate response to his advances seems silly to me. And I was honestly baffled at the notion that a corner grocery store would have security guards, and that those day time security guards would have guns? I dunno DC, none of that adds up to me haha...

Mera's willingness to dehydrate a man seemed way off the mark in terms of what I want out of her as a character too. It's going to be so hard for her to ever be convincingly in danger again now that we know she can do something like that (and so effortlessly).

This was the first time I wasn't bouncing off the walls after reading an issue. I hoped for a solo outing we'd see her catch a supervillain or something. An angry woman with father issues reeking havoc on a world she doesn't understand... not for me. I'm hoping this isn't a recurring theme, but something tells me it's going to be.

O. Douglas Jennings said...

I'm glad you mentioned the Rovner character. He was a bit of an unpleasant distraction for me because of his extreme (somewhat unprobable) behavior. When I read a story in which the plot devices are so glaring, it can mar the quality of my reading experience. That being said, I enjoyed the comic overall and the development of Mera's character and powers.

I agree that the coloring is superb. Joe Prado's art was a bit of a step down in my opinion (sorry, just being honest to my perception) but hopefully, with more experience he will improve.

I am enjoying Johns' writing on Aquaman much more than his work on Justice League. I'm so glad Aquaman is getting top-notch treatment he deserves.

Orly De Gaulle said...

I have to be honest and say I've been disappointed with whole run so far. The history of the characters are so rich and the whole making him seem like a joke when it's obvious he's no one to **** with. This issue though was the most disappointing to me. Mostly because the art was so inconsistent. There were some really wonderful moments that could have happened and I feel like it was just a waste. Her story was actually better than the whole last story arc. I just wish the art could have enhanced it.

Joseph Brian Scott said...

There are some little grocery stores around here that I WISH had security staff.

I really enjoyed it! Did my heart good to see Mera getting the spotlight, even it was buying dogfood. Here's a song I came up with about it: ♪ Mermaid in a bodega, oh no, OH NO! ♫

I always suspected Mera could use her hydrokinesis in such a fashion as she did with the psycho dad; glad to see it's being aknowledged. Makes her even more formidable. With all the water in the atmosphere, Mera's never really out of her element.

@David J. Cutler: What superhero DOESN'T have daddy issues? Aquaman has daddy issues, for Neptune's sake. (Well, I guess Wonder Woman doesn't.)

Hate to be The Quibbler, but Mera's speech in the 2nd panel of her confrontation with the psycho dad is sooooo awkward! And it's "...you haven't DRUNK..."; drink, drank, have (not) drunk. Oh vell; big deal. English isn't her first language anyways.

David J. Cutler said...

@Joseph Brian Scott--It's a cliche for the angry young woman to have father issues even more than the superhero. Especially since Aquaman's father issues (in this run anyway) amounts to him missing his father's guidance. It's interesting you mention Wonder Woman, since in the new 52 version, daddy issues is the direction they went again, her estranged father being Zeus. I really find it an absurd stereotype.

I'm seriously blown away by how few of you were blown away by supermarket security guards with handguns :P That's not something my suspension of disbelief can let slide.

I'm really, really picky when it comes to my Aquaman lore, and I'm sad to say there was a ton of stuff in this I'm already hoping gets quietly carpet swept down the road. Still very much on board for the series, though.

Martin Gray said...

Great review, and I agree, Mera should stay in Aquaman rather than migrate to a solo series - this is her book too.

I loved seeing that Bronze Age Mera logo again, thank you.

Hmm, when's that dog going to get a name. How about something watery like Gil?

Joe Slab said...

@DJC -- Wow you are fired up! Perhaps the guard was a pedestrian officer and Rudy's is a part of an outdoor shopping area of the town?

@rob -- I agree with you on this. No solo for Mera yet, not so soon after Johns has established their relationship as one of the cornerstones of this book and in fact the larger DCU. A mini-series down the road is much more likely in my mind.

I don't know if anyone caught it, but Newsarama did a piece a while back identifying "the Status of the Aquakids" as one of the biggest mysteries of the New 52 DCU...and not just AJ, but Tula, Garth, Koryak (he always was the black sheep), Kaldur & Lorena -- all have been conspicuously omitted both in dialogue and panels...although yes, I am aware that Garth was mentioned by Roy Harper in Red Hood & the Outlaws #1.

I guess we shall see when we get further into the New 52, but I tend to agree with rob!, 4 years is too short a time for all of Aqua-history to be condensed into.

Kryschenn said...

Let me toss in my two cents that while Mr. Rovner is not terribly commonplace in the real world, he in fact, NOT a stereotypical plot device as far as I'm concerned - I encountered someone very much like him at a summer job when I was in college. Trust me, when things came to a crux and he literally snuck up behind me, reached around and grabbed a couple things he shouldn't have been grabbing, I only WISH I could have broken his arm like Mera did. I was all but cheering when I read that scene.

Jared M. said...

I loved this issue. This is what Johns is good at..one shots. And I respectfully disagree with you Rob, I've seen people get married after just months of knowing each other... Ive seen people have their first kid 2 or 3 months AFTER getting married, and ive seen people getting divorced barely a year into their marriage, so putting the continuity nut fanboy attitude aside, all those things CAN happen in 4 years...

The first 4 issues were weak, in my opinion, this issue at least felt a bit longer than the previous 5. They haven't been bad, but they are not spectacular either...

At least we've got hordes of non-Aquaman savvy readers liking this book, and that's always a good thing... As far as long time Aquaman fans go, and a supporter of Peter David's take on the character myself, personally I'm not blown away by what Johns is doing... But a so-so Aquaman book is better than none.. Plus, Johns IS good at teasing events and showcasing a character's strenghts... And with an amazing talent like Reis by his side, it all makes this book a good enough read...HELL, it was the most pulled book on Comixology's page!

rob! said...


Just to be clear, I'm not saying its impossible for all that to happen in four years (I say that explicitly in the post), just that its unlikely that all the Aquaman and Mera stories that have been published to date could have occurred in so short a time.

That means that Johns is consciously getting rid of some of Aquaman's history--which I'm not suggesting is good or bad, just that this is the first time that it seemed to be officially, if indirectly, stated.

The New 52 Aquaman is essentially the THIRD Aquaman in the history of that name, even if the demarcation line isn't all that precise.

rob! said...

@David--Funny, upon reading the book over, I realize you're right, those are security guards on the scene, not cops, which I originally thought they were. Yeah, that's a little much to swallow, that a small corner grocery has two armed security officers on staff!

rob! said...

Unknown--I hope my comments did not make it seem like I was turning a blind eye on the idea that there are people in the real world like Rovner. Sadly there are, of course, and many more than people would expect. I just thought he was tad a clumsily written, making him so offensive so fast that he doesn't have time to register as a real person before Mera snaps his arm.

Kryschenn said...

Hi - I'm "Unknown," sorry about that login fail. Anyway, don't worry, I know you're not trying to deny the existence of people like Rovner, and I can see how packing so much loathing in so few panels made him came across as more of a caricature than a character. Altogether, I quite enjoyed this issue and Mera's new approach to using her powers (though I too was taken aback by the "four years ago" caption). The arm-breaking scene was, to me, surprisingly cathartic, and despite Rovner, I hope that Mera is able to make her own peace with surface-dwellers in general, sooner rather than later.

Jason Garner said...

I was so-so on this issue. Loved seeing Mera getting some much-deserved spotlight. Like a lot of you, I didn't really care for the clunky writing of the sexually-harassing boss and the abusive father and husband. I really don't like how violent Johns is making both Arthur and Mera. The way they started killing the humanoid Trench with no concern was disturbing. Mera breaking a guy's arm was also a little much for me. I like my heroes to be heroic and less prone to violence and killing.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE Ivan Reis' Mera, so having Mr. Prado take over for her 'solo' was a disappointment. I really enjoyed the look we got into her powers, though! Armed security? Wasn't the town attacked a very short time ago by the Trench? It's not too unlikely the town would be on edge. The Mera we're seeing is a trained assassin with not a lot of time spent in the surface world. Her reactions make sense based upon what we know of her.
Speaking of which, the 4 year thing! DC DID say they were condensing the universe. Aquaman seemed almost as unchanged as the Bat and Lantern books, but it really couldn't be, what with the JL and Titans histories changed. Still, the marriage happened within the past 4 years. Arthur solo (or with Aqualad) could go further back. Removing Arthur Jr from the Newverse doesn't bother me. I like the idea that we're seeing the couple's early stages, and perhaps we'll see an Arthur Jr that lives somewhere down the line?