Thursday, December 15, 2011

DC NEW 52 TRIALS: AQUAMAN is not all wet and soggy

AQUAMAN #1 – 3  (DC)  Geoff Johns, writer.  Ivan Reis, penciller.  Joe Prado, inker.  Rod Reis, colorist. Nick J. Napolitano, letterer.  Aquaman created by Paul Norris.

I’m sure there were a lot of readers who groaned (like I did) after reading the DC NEW 52 preview book and learned that DC was re-launching AQUAMAN yet again.  However after considering the dynamic duo writer/artist team and a synopsis that seemed interesting, I decided to give it the 3-issue chance. I’m glad I did.  So far, this is one of the best written and absolutely best illustrated of the NEW 52 titles. Ivan Reis is a superstar artist!, and Johns’ script here seems more organized and fluid than his work on the new JUSTICE LEAGUE does.

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So, what happens in this series? . . . . . .

This is a more aggressive, no-nonsense Aquaman as shown in the opening of Issue #1 where he majestically (full page) stands in the path of a stolen armored truck, lifts it with his trident and flips it onto its’ roof, wheels up and ready for apprehension of the criminals inside.   A more dangerous threat lurks in the depths of the ocean.  Something has occurred that arouses a previously unknown race of dagger-teethed gilled and webby humanoids ( like a cross between THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON and PIRANHA) living in the deepest areas of the mid-Atlantic Trench.  They are extremely hungry and seem to be obsessed with the quest for food.  They meet up with humans on the surface and discover their new favorite delicacy.

Aquaman has never felt as if he belonged among true Atlanteans, due to his parentage ( 50/50). So, he’s made a decision to make a new life on land with Mera and leave Atlantis to find itself a new king.  A local police officer somewhat familiar with the legend of Aquaman searches every lighthouse near the Boston harbor until he locates him and recruits his help against the sea creatures.  What follows is very violent and bloody and Aquaman responds with equal ferocity and resolve.

What did I like? . . . . .

1) I’m enjoying how Geoff Johns brings up every single speculation as to why AQUAMAN isn’t as popular as other DC characters, and answers them in very humorous fashion.  He bashes as many stereotypes about Aquaman  as possible.  He even  includes the fictional objections and misconceptions from characters in the story (law enforcement as well as civilians) and squashes those as well.  It seems like even the general public as portrayed here doesn’t take AQUAMAN seriously.  These are very amusing and lend the book a light-hearted tone that helps offset the grimness of The Trench storyline.  Criminal: “Bye bye, tuna man.”  Policeman: “You need a glass of water or something?” Civilian: “Aquaman talks to fish. Everybody knows that.”  Blogger:  “How’s it feel to be nobody’s favorite super-hero?”  Police officer to Mera: “Or are you only a mermaid in water? Is that how it works?”

2) Ivan Reis!  Ivan Reis!  Ivan Reis!  Need I say more?  If you need convincing flip through any issue and spend some time admiring the full page, two-page art and inspect the intricate and realistic detail.  He is a master of depiction and leaves nothing out.  This just looks so real. 

What didn’t I like? . . . . . .

1) I’m perfectly okay with things as they are now.  I’m just wondering if the bashing of the AQUAMAN stereotypes is going to continue every single issue, which would turn it into a tired script device rather than a refreshing concept.  If that happens,  I won’t be sticking around.  I’m also curious what direction this book will take once the threat of The Trench is resolved.  Will Aquaman meet more monsters, start fighting crime, or become the champion and protector of the waterways and oceans?  I’d be most interested in that last direction, and not so much the other two.

2) I’m also a little concerned that the creatures from The Trench may be a little too one-dimensional to sustain a lengthy story arc.  They communicate to each other and sound like seals to the human ear. But their translated dialogue is very simplistic and centered solely on the quest for food. However, their attempt to entrap some humans in cocoons and transport them back to the Trench adds a little mystery, so we’ll see.

3) I like the way that Johns is slowly fleshing out the back-story of Aquaman’s origins, revealing a little piece at a time.  In addition to being raised mostly by his father  the lighthouse keeper there is a mysterious third party who helped Aquaman develop his powers but also threatened his life at some point.

My rating of this series . . . . . .

I’m having fun with this book.  I really like the story and love the art.   It’s a strong B+,  and worth checking out every month at this time.

and, another NEW 52 book that I abandoned before I got to Issue #3 . . . . .

VOODOO  #1 – 2  (DC)  Ron Marz, story.  Sami Basri, art on #1, with Hendry Prasetya on art for Issue #2.  Jessica Kholinne, color. Jared K. Fletcher, letters.  Voodoo created by Jim Lee and Brandon Choi.

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It’s a little bit of  a shocker to find out in the opening pages that the main character is a beautiful pole-dancer and spend the first five pages admiring how the artist illustrates her stage routine.  And DC rates this T+ Teen Plus (which ought to bring the junior high crowd into stores to pick this up). What a disappointment for the government agent who arranges for a private dance behind the curtained area to learn pretty Voodoo is an alien shape-shifter. Wait, he already knew that because he and his female partner have been working surveillance on Voodoo.  (Guess he really wanted that lap dance.) 

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The soft, teasing adult content continues in Issue #2 as the two agents become bed partners.  But is one of them Voodoo?   After all the down-to-earth chit chat between government agents and real life / street life depictions the addition of super-hero forces in the latter part of Issue #2 feels out of place, like a real intrusion.  And next issue, Green Lantern gets involved?   Just sounds like an alien version of The Fugitive to me.  Not that this book isn’t written properly.  Ron Marz is no hack.  I just expected more from him.  See ya.  Not coming back to VOODOO. 

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