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Friday, July 24, 2015

Aquaman (Vol.8) #42

Comics Wednesday "The Other Atlantis" by Cullen Bunn, Trevor McCarthy, Jesus Marino, Walden Wong, and Guy Major.

This opens with Aquaman recalling how a friend of his tried to get him into playing Magic: The Gathering in high school. In other news, I am old:

This second issue contains the back-and-forth-in-time format that the previous one did. After fighting more of these Atlantean interdimensional beasties, we are back with Aquaman Classic and Mera, where Arthur tries to convince his wife that she can rule Atlantis in his absence. He is only marginally successful.

Arthur promises his wife he will be back "before you know it", but as these issues show us, that clearly didn't work out. Back in the present, Aquaman is showing the small sect of people he saved their new home. He is praised for this by them, but Aquaman is dissatisfied. He grimly says that he's going to have to destroy this other world, and its people.

After another flashback, we see bits of these Atlantean "invaders" popping up all over the world, in the most unusual of places, potentially destroying whatever life is already there. Aquaman tries to anticipate these attacks and deal with them, but he's outnumbered.

While dealing with one location, he is attacked by a small band of Atlanteans, sent by Mera. One young Lad looks an awful lot like a certain kid sidekick from continuities long gone(?). Aquaman manages to fend off most of them, except for the aforementioned young man:

Suddenly the ground begins to shake, with giant stone spires shooting out of it. This causes Aquaman and--let's just say it, Tempest--to stop their battle long enough to see what's happening. And it ain't good:

...To be continued!

I found reading this issue to be a very bipolar experience. As I said with issue #41, I love Trevor McCarthy's work--I find it idiosyncratic but also very dynamic and unlike most Aquaman artists that have come before. The flashbacks with Aquaman Classic are wonderfully exciting, and this weird giant monster on the last page has a Ray Harryhausen/Mike Mignola/Paul Pope mashup look that I really like.

Unfortunately, parts of the issue seem not to be drawn by McCarthy, or at least less so than the rest. To my eyes those pages are very off-putting in their stylistic inconsistency, almost cartoony. And just at the point where DC is trying to sell this "bold new direction" of Aquaman, the last thing they need is not have McCarthy handling the whole book. I know too well how tough deadlines can be, but I would have rather seen Aquaman come back a month later after Convergence than deal so soon with fill-ins. In the days when comics were a quarter, fans had to expect "M. Hands" sometimes showing up on the art credits. But now that comics are $4 a pop, creators are not so easily substituted. If you're selling me on the new Aquaman by Cullen Bunn and Trevor McCarthy, then by Neptune's Beard I want Cullen Bunn and Trevor McCarthy.

On the writing side, at some points it seems like Aquaman is either lying to Mera or willfully stupid. She is completely correct about running Atlantis--some members of the upper guard tried to assassinate her just a couple of issues ago--and for Aquaman to dismiss her fears so off-handedly does not paint him in the best light. Also, and I know that I harp on this every few years, so for those of you who have been reading the Shrine for years, you must be sick of this--but, why oh why does every Aquaman writer feel the need to drag Arthur back to the Atlantean throne, only to (inevitably) have him have to take off on a mission, causing the whole "My citizens are mad at me for being a half-time king" again and again and again? Steve Skeates was using this plot seven Presidential administrations ago! For some reason, Aquaman writers just don't want to keep him being a superhero--even Geoff Johns, who has done so much for the character(s), spent months and months giving Aquaman all the trappings of a classic superhero, to which comic fans---many more than expected--responded enthusiastically, only to have him back in Atlantis by the time he left the book. Somebody bring in The Spectre and have him step on these water-breathing crybabies and be done with it already!

Despite that long rant, I am still enjoying this new iteration of Aquaman. I continue to have faith that this dark path will end up being worth it, and my enthusiasm for McCarthy's work has not dimmed. But as I said last month, I am wondering, was this trip really necessary?


Joshua Rainey said...

I totally agree with you: Get Aquaman off the throne and keep him off. He needs to be a fulltime superhero and not a sometime king. Atlantis is what kills his character. Ive been an advocate for him returning to New Venice and having a surface city to protect like Batman does Gotham and Superman does Metropolis. I dont like this new direction and I dont like the art. It reminds me a lot of Swords of Atlantis in the way it looks, which was another story run I didnt like. This story isnt really compelling. And I dont like when they put him at odds with Queen Mera. Now also with Garth. I do like that Garth has made a return. I hope to see more of him. But I dont see this run getting better. We had a nice long run with Geoff and Jeff and now were hitting rough waters. Maybe itll get better I dont know but I doubt it will the way its going now.

Anonymous said...

"There’s a serious danger in comic books that take themselves too seriously; Aquaman in particular is not the kind of title that can accommodate pretentiousness masquerading as wannabe high fantasy" -- The Onion AV Club

Why is DC going back down this road? Did Geoff Johns show Aquaman doesn't need gimmicks to make him cool, he just is? Next issue: Where did Aquaman get these toys? I don't care.

Lucien Desar said...

I really liked this issue a lot. I liked the art, it's different and original. The script had everything in it. It had romance, it had chaos, it had super heroship (new word), it had action sequences. I also felt like there was more to this issue than some previous issues where the whole plot was like - Big monster! bash! boom! destroyed! what is that? -- and that was it after reading the issue in about 4 minutes. I really liked the motley group of Atlantis Cops that appeared to capture Arthur. I think they could have a one shot issue just about them. There have been a lot of duds of comics coming out lately (Black Canary I hated - ugh!) but this one is really really good. Aquaman fans are lucky to have another talented team working on the series.

BTw - Great synopsis!!! I always look forward to reading them after reading the issue.

Ander said...

Ok, so here are my thoughts on the latest issue of Aquaman. I thought it was better than the last issue, but only slightly, we didn't really learn all that much since #41 other than the fact that Aquaman will have to make a choice between this old Atlantis or his own. Bunn's writing is still iffy but it's getting better, but what's really missing from this series now, is the presence of Mera. She only shows up in the brief flashback scenes when she used to be a big part of the series with Geoff Johns and Jeff Parker's run. Now, we haven't seen her present day self at all, and it lacks the heart of what made the New 52 Aquaman run so incredible and such a fun ride. This plot could be interesting, but really, it's nothing ground breaking as it feels a lot like Sword of Atlantis, and the whole "Aquaman running from Atlantis" theme again. McCarthy's art really does not shine at all in this series. It looks sloppy, almost like it was hastily put together. It's very disheartening after seeing the greats like Ivan Reis and Paul Pelletier on the title before him. The creature designs are intriguing however, and the return of Garth was great. Overall, it's an improvement from #41, but it has a long way to go to become the amazing series that it used to be.


Mauchline said...

I want him to be a full time king! If Tempest, Orm, Mera and Arthur commanded Atlantis to protect earth, you could tell the Justice League to "you focus on the small stuff, call us when Darkseid invades again". But enough of that.

I definitely get a Frank Miller feel with this run. I have no complaints about this run. Geoff started with Arthur wanting to find his mother, Jeff finished it with that happening. Start-Finish. Altantean exiles have surfaced, what does an Altantean King do? Deny and destroy them? Or does he do the regal and responsible thing and investigate?

Joe Slab said...

I am at a loss here. I really want to like and be positive about it but after 2 issues and a prologue I am growing increasingly anxious that this creative team has been totally mis-matched on AQUAMAN.

The plot is has scarcely advanced since the 8 page preview and remains convoluted and incongruent with the history of Atlantis and the Seven Seas mythology that the series has been based upon since #1. Bunn's writing of Aquaman comes off as adolescent and even douchey. I know Bunn writes like 8 monthly books, perhaps he thought he could phone in Aquaman scripts and DC editorial would rubber stamp approve them?

And the art! These are not natural positions for the human body to be put in and Aquaman in the flashbacks has a completely different facial structure than He-Man -- I mean Aquaman -- in the present day. These murky, scratchy heavy pencils coupled with a lack of detail ink-lines are turning one of the crown jewels of the New 52 into an eyesore. I am at the point where I am praying DC limits this team to one volume of Aquaman and quickly replaces them with a writer & artist better suited to the title.

KJ Sampson said...

Last issue was better than I expected. This issue was worse — way worse.

The story didn't really gain much traction after last month's intriguing start. And the art really, REALLY suffers from the multiple hands.

I'm all in because I'm a diehard Aquafan and Cullen Bunn is generally a good writer. But man, do I see this title shedding readers if it doesn't turn around fast.

Gareth said...

This week I have purchased both Aquaman Volume 6 (featuring the Chimera arc, Maelstrom and the Aquaman & Mera Secret Origins stories) by Parker, Pelletier, Parsons (the Killer P's!) and Rain Berado, and also Aquaman #42 by the new creative team. This gave me a good chance to really look at both side by side and man the contrast is stark. Firstly the artwork in the Pelletier books was beautiful. Gorgeous colours, great detail in the characters faces and expressions, nice clean lines and his Mera was stunning. #41 & #42 though have looked murky, heavy handed and have turned the formerly regal looking king of the sea into a poor caricature of a rugby league player, especially the cover of #42. I get art is subjective, but for me the art in the first two books of the new team has really detracted from the story. The costume change doesn't help either btw. The gold scale armour visually was a great contrast against the vibrant blues of the Atlantis setting.
The writing... I'm not going to say Cullen Bunn is a bad writer because he's not. I quite like some of his work (Sinestro in particular) but I have serious doubts as to whether he's the right fit for Aquaman. Bunn does bad guys and anti heroes really well, Aquaman is neither of those things however. The dialogue doesn't fit the character, would Arthur really be so flippant as to shrug and say 'whatever' over destroying a realm and killing people? And the lack of a decent fleshed out Mera so far is a worrying sign. One of the things that Johns & Parker both seemed to get is that Aquaman is at it's best as a team book with Arthur & Mera side by side. A strong Mera makes for a strong title. I don't want or need gimmicks like a collapsible trident/sword thing or new ice powers. I want to see Arthur and Mera out there kicking arse together. To me it seems like Cullen Bunn is trying to make Aquaman fit his style of writing which doesn't seem compatible to Aquaman.
Guys I apologise for the long rant (again) but we as Aquafans have seen our favourite hero go through so many changes and endured so much crap because of the ignorance of people to the true greatness of Aquaman. So when we get a truly great run like we had the previous 40 issues we cherish it. DC had an Aquaman series that was not only critically acclaimed but also raised his profile past being the butt of jokes on crap like Robot Chicken or The Big Bang Theory. What's strange is that DC appears to be moving in a new more adventurous and dare I say fun direction. Kind of like what Aquaman WAS before this new grim, dark sci fi horror style direction it's heading down. I know Bunn asked for 3 issues at least before judging the book, but the first 2 have been ordinary.
Great job on the site btw Rob, wish I could be as optimistic about the new direction of the book as you and thanks for giving us Aquafans an outlet for our voices to be heard.

Gareth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gareth said...

Agree 100%

Anonymous said...

The art is flat, everyone looks ugly and it just comes across as half ass.

Bunn's writing comes across as a typical writer from Marvel comics. Meaning, ignore what past writers did with the characters, like actually character development and write as if it's your own fan fiction written for teens and 20 year olds.

Anonymous said...

It's too bad Orm had to get knocked off the throne. (New52) Orm seemed like he was holding things together well while Arthur was out being a hero for the surface, until things got all jumbled in ToA.

Joe Slab said...

I think it's important to note that nobody's trying to make a bad Aquaman comic here. Bunn and McCarthy are just doing what they were asked byDC Editorial. Hopefully fans' response will reach the right ears and they will adjust course as needed. Its pretty clear from the DC Aquaman FB page that people are clearly not happy at this point.

Straight To DVD said...

This was an improvement on the last issue, but purely for the cast of bad guys, some of whom I haven't seen in a while.
And then there's Garth! He was a very welcome addition albeit in a very typical token bad guy role.

Anonymous said...

The artwork is just sloppy, everyone looks like there made out of clan. It's sad to see the characters reduce to such a level of poor characterization writing that makes no sense and comes out of nowhere. This not who you write a story of characters changing and having completely different personalities, attitudes, and beliefs. Does Bunn really that think Aquaman needed over the top dramatic tension and Oh My God movements???? What a sorry excuse of a writer.