Aquaman – This Ain’t Superfriends
Aquaman, Arthur Curry, gets a bum rap, usually from people who haven’t read the comic, or at least have not read much of the comic. Typically, the jokes involve talking to fish or not being out of water very long. I also think a lot of it comes from the Aquaman cartoon and his portrayal in Super Friends. The cartoons were aimed at kids under ten so of course all the heroes on these shows were simplified. The recent Brave and The Bold cartoons, while awesome, probably didn’t help much with the general take on the King of Atlantis. While being a hero and good in a fight he was also given a gregarious demeanor. I liked it and laughed out loud but again, not a true portrayal of who the character is now and has been for the last 15 years or more.
My first real exposure to Aquaman was in the early 1970s when I would agonize weekly how to spend $1.25 on comics, either 4 twenty cent issues or add a 100 page spectacular for sixty cents and change the math. I usually bought brave and The Bold and Justice League so I saw a lot of Aquaman. I eventually started to buy Adventure comics because I like the character but part of what drew me in was the art by Mike Grell. I was a fan and saw Aquaman as more than the water guy talking to fish. His fights were epic and the action was great. Over the years the quality of how he was written would fluctuate but at no point do I recall thinking it was bad, though to be sure there were some low points.
In recent years, in which I include the New 52 and of course now Rebirth, Aquaman has been down right amazing. Yes, he “talks” with fish, but he is also the King of Atlantis and has incredible strength in addition to being a great leader. The writing has been playing into his combined heritage of being half human and half Atlantean with neither side 100% sure they can trust him. The writing is more of today and is dealing with things like diplomacy and politics and at the same time his foes have evolved and are no longer just water based bad guys.
The latest run which is now in two trades, (Volume 1 THE DROWNING and Volume 2 BLACK MANTA RISING coming April 19th) has been a joy to read. Dan Abnett is really doing a great job and seems to not only like the character he has respect for the history of the character. In the current run Aquaman in has role as king and hero is trying to bring his two heritages together by making surface people less afraid of what they see as a hostile unknown nation and ironically doing the reverse for the people of Atlantis. There are fringe forces in Atlantis working against him to prevent this and it is making hard for Aquaman to keep a balance. On top of the diplomatic problems that keep recurring he is getting flack about his plans to marry Mera as she is not Atlantean and he has a villain with revenge on his mind. Black Manta is no weirdo in a strange scuba suit here. He is a man with an understanding of the sea and he feels Aquaman is responsible for his father’s death. This leads to some pretty bad mojo and just one more thing Aquaman has to deal with. Along the way he has a bit of a confrontation with the Justice League, and Superman in particular so he no longer feels he can call on them for help.
The writing here is so good, you can feel Arthur’s frustration and even a bit of helplessness at times. He just keeps pushing through and trying to do what is right for everyone and it’s obviously getting to him. There is going to be a big confrontation coming and I can wait to see what Dan Abnett does next.
The artists, Scott Eaton, Brad Walker and Phillippe Briones have been doing a great job. I love the look of the book and the coloring (Gabe Eltaeb) makes it even better. Considering my high point in Aquaman art is Grell and Aparo these guys have a high bar to reach and I think they have.
So if you haven’t read Aquaman in a while, or ever, clear those cartoon images form your head and give this book a go, you will be hooked.