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Saturday, September 01, 2012

Aquaman (Vol.8) #12 - Oct. 2012

Comics Weekend "The Others Chapter Six" by Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Oclair Albert, Andy Lanning, and Rod Reis.

We have reached the almost-conclusion of "The Others" storyline. The issue opens with Mera rummaging through the debris of Shin's house when a phone rings. She answers it, and it's The Operative. He asks her to meet them, and asks if she can swim as fast as Aquaman. Her answer?
Mera propels herself out of the water onto The Operative's jet. After a brief spat with Y'Wara, they get down to business--finding Aquaman.

We then hop over to the island where Manta and his goons have discovered the tomb of Atlantis' first king. After mouthing off one too many times, Manta orders Shin to be killed. One of them aims his rifle at Shin, only to be skewered by Aquaman's trident through the chest (hey Arthur, what happened to the whole "We only kill when we have no choice" admonishment to Y'Wara a few issues back?)! Manta responds by grabbing the scepter and slamming into the ground, causing a massive quake:
Despite just having his fat pulled out of the fire by Mera and The Others, Aquaman continues to argue that they should have stayed away. Mera is hurt by her husband keeping her at arm's length, and Aquaman hints that there's more he hasn't told her. Hmmm....

Y'Wara stumbles over Shin, and prepares to let her pet tiger have a snack. Vostok steps in and tells her he can sense Shin's guilt at what he's done. They continue searching for Manta, who has disappeared. But when Aquaman has his back turned, Manta steps out of the darkness and brings the scepter down on him, only to be saved by Vostok:
As Manta takes off, Aquaman stops to comfort his friend. He's almost mad at Vostok, even as he holds his hand, for getting himself killed on Aquaman's behalf. But Vostok isn't sorry; in fact, he's thankful that his "greatest fear has been vanquished and greatest hope granted":
To be continued!

Woo! This issue was so chockablock with action it felt like it could have been the final installment, but no--Black Manta lives, for another month at least. Which leads me to thought: it's an interesting box Geoff Johns has put himself in--this issue ends with Aquaman tearfully declaring that he's going to kill Black Manta, full stop. So either, in #13, A)he does, robbing us of the Sea King's #1 villain, or B)Manta gets away, which undercuts Aquaman's dramatic pronouncement just a bit--writing checks he can't cash, and all that.

Of course, there are lots of roads to take between A and B--Aquaman might kill Manta, only to have someone else take up the name, or whatever the other big secret Aquaman has been hiding changes his mind about ending Manta's life. We'll see, of course.

With this issue, this new version of Aquaman is a full year old, and it's been quite a journey. When it announced that the team of Johns/Reis/Prado/Reis would be going right from Brightest Day to Aquaman, I knew that it meant the book would be something of a sales success, simply from the heat those gentlemen have created through their work. As the Shrine has said many, many, many times before, all Aquaman ever really needed to succeed was an honest shot, a real fighting chance. He got it with this new book, and it's been a bigger hit than I think anyone imagined. By a few fathoms, Aquaman is the biggest breakout star of the entire New 52 line, a critical and financial smash, reaffirming the Sea King's rightful place in the top tier of the DC Comics pantheon.
The Shrine has bashed DC Comics a lot when it came to how they treated one of their longest running characters, but they deserve praise for giving this new book such a push. With their nearly-unprecedented marketing efforts (advance previews to non-comics-news outlets like USA Today and TV Guide, for instance), they have gotten Aquaman more press than he's had in my lifetime.

Of course, none of this would mean much if the book itself wasn't good--and luckily for all of us it is. Aquaman has managed to stay very consistent creatively, delivering the goods month in, month out. Considering all the creative shake-ups that have already happened in the New 52 line, having Aquaman be by (essentially) the same people every month has, I think, been a key to its success. On the writing side, Geoff Johns has expanded Aquaman's world, sprinkling in elements we're all familiar with, but adding lots of new stuff that will help future Aquaman writers, whoever they might be.

And the art...well, what's even left to say about it? The Shrine has run out of superlatives when talking about the work of Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, and Rod Reis. Their work, when put together, manages to be more than the sum of its parts, making Aquaman a pure pop pleasure to look at every month. Excelling at both superhero action and quiet character beats, these guys have, in my opinion, officially placed themselves in the pantheon of Great Aquaman Artists, alongside people like Ramona Fradon, Nick Cardy, Jim Aparo, and Craig Hamilton. Even if this was their last issue on the book and they never drew Aquaman again, they have delivered a string of indelible, iconic images of Aquaman and Mera that will probably be used as reference for future artists for years to come. Sometimes I think it'd be better to scrap a live action Aquaman movie and animate it instead, and base the look of the movie on what Reis/Prado/Reis have done.

After towing the line for Aquaman for so many years, it is enormously rewarding to see ol' Arthur be such a big deal again. Looking very forward to Year Two of Aquaman!


Oscar Olalde said...

As I finished reading it at work (during lunch hour, honest!), I was so looking forward your review Rob, great stuff!

Russell said...

The only sour note I have for this whole thing is the "I'm not the man you think I am" stuff between Artie and Mera. COME ON! Can we please get rid of the secrets and lies (?) between these two characters and just let them be a happily married super-hero couple?

Other than that....enjoying the ride immensely!!!

Anonymous said...

Hey guys,

I don't know if you have heard the news of Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis leaving Aquaman after #16. It is not official, merely a rumor but a high high possibility of being true.

I can't imagine Ivan Reis not drawing Aquaman anymore! Plus with Pete Woods as a guest on #14, the issues of Ivan Reis' Aquaman is counting down. (Not that I don't mind a guest artist, just not exactly a fan of Woods art)

Who do you think should or will be going to write and draw next year issues of Aquaman?

(I'm hoping Scott Snyder would come on eventually!)

Ryan Daly said...

I loved this issue, but I continue to feel like this story line is being dragged out longer than it needs to be. There better be a damn epic payoff in the next two issues.

On a completely different note, while reading this issue I started to think that the Ocean Master is either going to be a resurrected form of the First King of Atlantis, or Doctor Shin, or perhaps some combination of the two. Thoughts?

Michael Holloway said...

I've LOVED every minute of Aquaman's journey in the New 52, and I can't wait for a second year. These new storylines would make for an exciting Aquaman animated or live action movie or the basis for a new TV series.

David J. Cutler said...

Anonymous--I've never heard that rumor. I wouldn't be surprised if Reis was pulled off Aquaman to replace Jim Lee on Justice League, I'm surprised DC let him stay on Aquaman for so long really, but if Johns abandons the character so quickly I really would be taken aback. We'll see though I guess.

A great issue, despite minor quibbles (killing the manta man being one of them, seems like he could have got him in the arm just as easily). Also I wish I didn't have a problem with this, but I do--Mera faster than Aquaman? I hope she was exaggerating. Hydrokenesis is already a better power than aquatic telepathy, if she can out do him in feats of strength and speed too it seems weird he's not the second banana.

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to see your review on JL#12 if you do one. I partly was worried about Aquaman killing that henchman(maybe he couldn't figure out another way to save Dr. Shin in time or something) but it wasn't that big of a deal to me. Otherwise it was a great issue and Vostok die and part of me hopes Black Manta escapes somehow. I'll be mad if Geoff leaves the Aquaman title get canceled or if Geoff leaves(unless the next writer is better and know how to portray Aquaman right). Can't wait for Ocean Master. #14 can't come soon enough in my opinion

rob! said...

The Shrine will be covering JL #12 next Saturday, though there's not much to say.

Joseph Brian Scott said...

@David Cutler: Ha ha, you've put your finger on the elephant seal that's been in the room for the last 50 years: Mera IS more powerful than Aquaman, no two ways about it. I doubt she's physically stronger than he is, but it stands to reason that having control over water would allow her to move more speedily through it. I have no proof, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if it wasn't this very issue, that she "outclasses" the lead character, as being the reason behind why her hard water powers were eliminated for about a year in the original Aquaman run, and why they're entirely absent in the Filmation animated series. And perhaps even why Mera was persona non grata for a big part of Aquaman's 80s-90s revival. I've always felt that this must be particularly challenging for writers dealing with Aquaman; how do you make people want to read stories about the guy when his "better half" is, in some ways, very much his better half. Aquaman has to kind of power through on strength of personality. I think it helps a lot for Aquaman to remain a wide-ranging ocean protector, with strong ties to land-based communites, rather than a king dealing with Atlantean politics. The current series has been pretty wise with the way he's being handled.