There’s a lot to like in Aquaman #1. I think the book delivers a lot of what Aquaman fans want from a first issue. Geoff Johns and company go to great pains to make Aquaman cool. And they largely succeed. Unfortunately, Geoff Johns does this will all the subtly of a sledgehammer to the skull.
Things that are awesome: The art. The art in this book is freaking awesome. I have been impressed by the overall look of the relaunch. There have been some beautiful books. I don’t think any book is going to live up to Batwoman #1. But Aquaman #1 is a really gorgeous book. I have long been a fan of Ivan Reis. And he’s doing some of his best work here. But I was equally impressed by the colors which popped off the page. The art team were the stars of this book.
Aquaman. Yes, Aquaman is awesome. If you had any doubt, Johns reminds you in every panel. When we first see Aquaman in Aquaman #1 he’s kicking ass on land. But Aquaman sucks on land, you say? No, sir. You are wrong. Aquaman kicks ass by land or sea. If you dropped him out of a plane, he’d kick ass by air too. Aquaman is finally cool.
I really liked this sequence. Yes, it is clearly intended to shut up fans who think Aquaman is a joke. But it does so by showing us how cool Aquaman is rather than telling is. In the course of foiling some common criminals, Aquaman displays an impressive array of powers any super hero would be proud to possess. He’s super strong. He’s nearly bullet proof. And he can leap tall buildings in a single bound.
The scene ends with a cop thanking Aquaman and asking him if he needs any water. Aquaman scowls in disapproval. It’s a meta moment. Johns himself is scowling at readers who think Aquaman has such silly weaknesses. Aquaman leaps away Hulk style leaving the cops to muse, “Can you believe we just got shown up by Aquaman?”
Johns isn’t even attempting to be subtle. You think Aquaman is a joke? You’re as wrong as the cops. Aquaman is awesome dammit!
Things that are not awesome: Johns’ overuse of meta commentary. I was completely willing to forgive Johns beating me over the head with a message during this scene. Yeah, it lacked subtlety. But some people need to be convinced. And since the majority of convincing was done by showing, I could forgive a little telling.
But Johns was just getting started. He really, really wanted to stick it to those jokesters who have been clowning Aquaman since his Superfriends days. So the entire middle section of the book features Aquaman being interviewed by a dorky blogger while he’s trying to have lunch.
By the way, Aquaman orders fish and chips. Why? Because some of you clowns need to know that Aquaman is man enough to eat fish and chips! What’s wrong with you people? You think Aquaman won’t eat a fish? Well, Johns is going to clear that up in issue #1, thank you very much. He even has an on-looker comment, “You can’t order fish and chips. You’re Aquaman!” Just in case you missed the point that Aquaman is so bad ass that he will order seafood. Granted, Aquaman storms out before he actually eats his lunch. So we’ll have to wait till next issue before we get the answer to the burning question: vinegar or tatar sauce.
Johns has a long history of making fun of his critics in his books. Superboy Prime is the most obvious (and tiresome example). This blogger is practically the second coming of Superboy Prime. He’s an obnoxious jerk who stands in for all the fan boys Johns can’t stand. The entire scene drags on entirely too long. And it’s the laziest crutch you can imagine for a writer.
The greatest crime for me is that Ivan Reis is positively kicking ass on this book. And what does Johns give him to draw? Aquaman arguing with a fan boy in the booth of some seafood joint.
I’m running the risk of belaboring the point. So I’ll move on now. This sequence doesn’t sink the book. But it comes pretty close. Given the high price of comics these days, it is unthinkable to spend 1/3 of the first issue of a book on something this pointless.
From there, Aquaman visits the lighthouse his dad kept. He’s contemplative and gives new readers a brief recap of his origin. Mera joins him so the flashbacks can continue in the form of a dialogue rather than internal monologue. It’s not the most elegant handling of exposition. But it’s a decent introduction to the character for any new readers out there.
The book begins and ends with a tease of the new menace Aquaman will face in the first story arc now that the introductions have been taken care of. The toothy fishmen look interesting enough. I look forward to seeing Aquaman in action against them.
But please, from now on just show me how totally bad-ass Aquaman is. No more meta, Geoff. You used that trick up long ago.