In recent years, there have been numerous efforts to inject the character of Aquaman with some chutzpah. Arthur is the King of Atlantis, one would think he’d be entitled to some dignity. Instead, he’s been the brunt of ridicule for a long stretch of his career. But this is a new universe, offering the titular hero one last opportunity to be embraced by comics fandom. Does this first issue simply tread water?

AQUAMAN #1
Writer: Geoff John
Penciller: Ivan Reis
Inker: Joe Prado
Colorist: Rod Reis
Letterer: Nick J Napolitano
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99

Previously in Aquaman: Aquaman is the King of Atlantis and has been a member of the Big Leagues for many years (Justice League of America). Born from the forbidden love between an ocean-dweller and a human, Aquaman has struggled with his place in the world, since he’s somewhat of an outsider to both. He’s been subject to physical trauma (such as losing his hand and being a biology research project in Justice) and despite the efforts of some of comics most gifted creators, Aquaman has been relegated to being the punch line of jokes.  But this time, that’s all about to change.

A Man of Two Worlds

A couple different plots are set into motion in Aquaman #1. Some formidable looking sea creatures have found a pathway to the light, electing to abandon the deep-sea trenches and head towards the surface. This will clearly culminate in an epic battle in the issues ahead. The primary storyline focuses on Aquaman’s return to his human roots within the city limits of Boston, Massachusetts. We learn that this is where Arthur spent his formative years with his father. As Aquaman looks to resolve an inner conflict of his place in the world, Boston makes for a great anchor, allowing him to sort through his thoughts and interact with the citizens of the city.

Arthur’s presence in the city is a surprise to everyone. Law enforcement appreciates his assistance in taking down some criminals, yet lament the ridicule they will later face from their associates. After all, it’s Aquaman who helped save the day.  Similar challenges face Aquaman when he visits a seaside restaurant, looking for respite and reflection. We learn that this is the place that his dad would take him when he was a boy. Unfortunately, the fashionable orange armor and huge trident preclude him from achieving any semblance of anonymity.

GOODBYE LAZY WRITING

Aquaman is one of the only books within the 52 relaunch that forgoes blocks of intrusive exposition. Instead, writer Geoff Johns invokes an elevated storytelling technique that actually shares historical context and characterization through organic developments within the story. ‘Show don’t tell’ is clearly embraced by Johns within the pages of Aquaman #1.

Public perception has not been kind, and his power-base has been significantly diluted by popular society as well as the more niche comics marketplace. He talks to fish and gets less powerful when he’s out of water. Of course, this is a gross simplification of the character that’s equitable to saying that The Flash is a dude who runs really fast.

LET’S BOOST THAT Q RATING

Aquaman #1 lets the reader share in Arthur’s lot in life, being acknowledged by the public at large as being lame. During several encounters in the book, jokes are made at his expense and people’s general misperceptions are addressed. Publicly acknowledging that Aquaman is a character with a low Q Rating Score is an unusually effective approach to typical modernization efforts in comics. Rather than come out the gates with a ‘New Grim and Gritty’ Aquaman, Johns opts for a slow build towards redeeming the strength of people’s perception of the character.

THE BEST INTERIOR ART OF THE RELAUNCH

The real hero of this book is artist Ivan Reis, whose pencils give Aquaman #1 real gravitas. If he can turn out a book of this visual quality every 30 days, I will be quite honestly, be shocked. The details in the linework, even with backgrounds, are astounding. This is without a doubt, the best looking title in the DC 52 Relaunch event.  Page after page literally took my breath away. Reis does have a bit of a reputation for stepping into the realm of gratuitousness with his compositions, but nothing like that stood out for me in this issue.

BOTTOM LINE: Buy it…buy it NOW. SERIOUSLY.

While Johns is certainly not the first creator to make a good Aquaman book (Peter David, Will Pfeifer), he’s certainly the highest profile writer to throw his hat in the ring, endeavoring to make Aquaman an A-List character. This has all the makings of a juggernaut, and for that reason, Aquaman #1 earns a very rare 5 out of 5 stars. 

Rating: ★★★★★

The Author

Mike McLarty

Mike McLarty

A San Diego native, Mike has comics in his blood and has attended the San Diego Comic Con every year since 1982. His comic interests are as varied as his crimes against humanity, but he tends to lean heavily towards things rooted in dystopian themes. His favorite comic series is Warren Ellis’ and Darick Robertson’s Transmetropolitan. Spider Jerusalem is the best character ever devised. Mike realizes those statements will alienate a good portion of his potential audience, but those are the facts. You are unlikely to find a single collector with a better Transmetropolitan art portfolio than the one he has in his possession. He is an Assistant Editor for the upcoming Transmetropolitan Charity Book.

He also occasionally freelances for various other comics websites, which he promotes through his homepage (www.comickarma.com), Twitter and other inherently intrusive forms of social media. Mike firmly believes that the best writers come from the UK. This could be because he’s of Irish descent; not so much based on physical geography as the fact that the Irish like to drink heavily.

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21 Comments

  1. Andrew O.
    October 2, 2011 at 6:30 pm — Reply

    I have to say that this was the book I was most excited for and I was far from disappointed. This was, by far, my favorite of the 25ish DCnU books I read, followed closely by Animal Man and Batman (regular).

    I loved that all of the Aquaman jokes got out of the way through this issue too; It makes for even greater next issues.

    • October 9, 2011 at 8:27 am — Reply

      Those are among my favorites as well. I never would have guessed that Aquaman would be a book I’d be excited for!

  2. October 2, 2011 at 7:13 pm — Reply

    I was kind of a fan of the Peter David run, but this looks even better so far.

  3. October 3, 2011 at 8:03 am — Reply

    One of my favorites of the 52, by far. The “show don’t tell” part is a huge part too, as why have blocks of text that an image could just show?

    “Rather than come out the gates with a ‘New Grim and Gritty’ Aquaman, Johns opts for a slow build towards redeeming the strength of people’s perception of the character.”

    This is the other reason, it builds up the character, by actually showing him being heroic and not just going the easy route of ‘grim and gritty’. Personally, grim and gritty has had it’s day, and it’s time for something new, so i’m glad to see this, with all the titles going over the top on the gore, sex and violence.

    • October 3, 2011 at 8:04 am — Reply

      Oh, and yeah, i get the bad guys are probably going to be pretty gory, but not Aquaman, the hero.

  4. Oldcomicfan
    October 4, 2011 at 7:53 am — Reply

    Seriously? Aquaman? Let’s see… we got Superman, who has amazing powers and can do practically everything. We got Batman, the world’s greatest detective and martial artist. We got Wonder Woman, the female Superman who’s into bondage, bracelets and invisible airplanes. And then – tada! We have the Man Who Talks to Fish! Color me unimpressed. Whenever Aquaman comes on the scene, I keep seeing the “Under the Sea” music video going though my brain. It sort of spoils the mood.

    • October 4, 2011 at 8:44 am — Reply

      Did you read the issue, sir? I think you would be quite surprised, just as I was.

      • darklighter1
        October 4, 2011 at 6:26 pm — Reply

        I know right? This was probably my favorite issue of all the 52. Well written and exceptionally drawn. If you think all he can do is talk to fish and SuperFriends is all you know about Aquaman then you’re seriously missing the boat (pun intended).

      • ikdks
        October 7, 2011 at 3:03 pm — Reply

        This must be the guy sitting next to Harry Knowles in the diner.

    • Damascus
      October 8, 2011 at 3:34 pm — Reply

      They even address the fact that he doesn’t talk to fish in the book, that fish don’t have brains large enough to hold a conversation, dolphins on the otherhand…..

      They’re addressing the fact that he’s been a joke for years, even referencing the Saturday Night Live clips that can be seen on YouTube. This is an attempt to bring a good character back into viability. I’ve always been a fan of Aquaman and I’m happy to see an honest take on him. Then again, I wanted to be the Beastmaster when I was a kid more than anything, so take that for what it’s worth.

      Read the books people, then make a decision. Too many preconceived ideas and worse yet, reading a blurb about the book and making your mind up off of that. This relaunch is going to hopefully effect some good change into books that clearly need it. Books that have a winning formula aren’t being tweaked too much, but a character like Aquaman needs to be seen in a different light. Give that a chance. At least read the book first.

      • Damascus
        October 9, 2011 at 12:05 am — Reply

        Hey, Oldcomicfan, apparently I’ve recently come across a little aggressive or antagonistic in another post; so I wanted to preemptively clarify my above post, just in case. The top two paragraphs were meant to address what seemed to be concerns on your part, his long history of being a joke and an undervalued character in the DCU. The last paragraph was meant more for all the people across the internet (yes, they are all coming here to read my one not-so-insightful comment :/ ) to try reading the issues before passing judgement. On your count, I did overlook the large fact that your statement seemed more to the point of, “Due to X, Y, Z, this doesn’t seem up my alley” instead of the alternative which is, “I don’t like where this sounds like it’s going or I’m not a big fan of Aquaman, so this book sucks.” Big difference there. I definitely felt a similar way about Hawk and Dove, I’m semi-interested in the characters but Hate Liefelds art with a vengeance. I did read the book and honestly did not enjoy it even a little, but I read it, so passed judgement as such. I probably should have gone more with your route and knowing that I probably wouldn’t like it, I should have just skipped it. Granted, I actually thought I wouldn’t like Aquaman before I read it, I’d heard some good things and I thought “Surely not Aquaman, he’s kinda lame, okay really lame” and I do like the character, just not lately, I guess I like the concept of a guy who can speak to animals, limited to aquatic though he may be. I read the book and kinda loved it. Wow, this is a long ass way for me to say, I definitely wasn’t directing an attack at you. Something I said elsewhere definitely came across that way and I stuck my foot in my mouth a little and I don’t like coming across as a dick, so here I am.

  5. TaZ
    October 4, 2011 at 3:39 pm — Reply

    I LOVED this issue. I just got a chance to read it (see, I found out that it’s a lot better to comment on comics as much as possible AFTER I get a chance to read them. Can’t always do it but I’m trying…) and I am ALL for someone finally realizing that Aquaman’s physiology would have to be in the same strength/agility/muscle-bone density as Marvel’s Submariner. Thank heaven they didn’t add those stupid ankle wings but having him replace Superman in the “able to leap tall buildings in a single bound” arena and keeping the trident were good moves.

    My only regret is that he did not “prod” a school of jellyfish to come out of the harbor and sting the hell out of the “blogger”. I was a writer and journalist (yes, I actually WROTE FOR A REAL NEWSPAPER) before I moved into public safety and I agree that “I have a blog” is NOT the same as a press pass nor a writer’s credentials!

    Also, thank goodness we’ve gone back to the Silver Age origin of Aquaman. I also like him being close to Boston, which is one of my favorite northern cities (love the scrod and fries in the Irish pubs). And I agree…now that we have all the Aquaman jokes out of the way I’m looking forward to the “classic” Aquaman kicking ass and taking names without giant seahorses, a spear for a hand and a bad Thor haircut and beard. I think I’m still in shock that they left him and Mera MARRIED!

    I guess we’ll see what changes stayed the same for the “Aqua” family (is Garth still dead? Is the Aqualad from the Brightest Day series still around, etc.). This title is a keeper on my list.

  6. Jacob Garvey
    October 5, 2011 at 4:24 pm — Reply

    Aquaman was amazing, I’ll be picking it up every week

    • October 5, 2011 at 4:59 pm — Reply

      Aquaman was amazing, I’ll be picking it up every week

      You’ll have four or five of each issue, then. :)

      • Damascus
        October 8, 2011 at 3:37 pm — Reply

        That took me a minute to get that one. lol. Nice.

  7. Justin Wawrzonek
    October 7, 2011 at 9:29 am — Reply

    I just read this any you hit it on the head. This is definitely in the top 5 of the DC relaunch for me.

  8. Damascus
    October 8, 2011 at 3:41 pm — Reply

    One thing I’ll disagree on from your review, which up front is completely subjective and in no way are you wrong, I think Batwoman’s art was better. I do feel that this book has some of, if not the best, more traditional sequential art of the relaunch. Batwoman’s art was artful in it’s layout and it’s flow and the things that you see during repeated readings that you didn’t see on the first run through. Aquaman was a more straight-forward comic book in terms of art, but the pencil work and coloring were very well done. Those deep sea creatures are going to be in my nightmares tonight, I’m sure of it. Let’s take some creepy ass Angler fish and make them ambulatory….nightmare achieved.

  9. October 9, 2011 at 8:34 am — Reply

    JH art is wonderful to behold, but I give Aquaman a notch above Batwoman’s visuals. Batwoman’s visual narrative has moments of incoherency and I find some of the ‘innovative layout design’ to be borderline self-indulgent.

    Having said all that, Batwoman’s art was my 2nd favorite of the relaunch.

    • Damascus
      October 9, 2011 at 9:27 am — Reply

      Yeah, I can see that, and if all the books had art and layouts like that I’d probably hate it. But having one book be set up that way just throws a speed bump my way and makes me slow down and really devour the book more slowly.

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