Geoff Johns has really impressed me with this relaunch. I know I’m in the minority, but I found Blackest Night and Flashpoint to be borderline incomprehensible messes, poorly paced and largely lacking in fun. I was beginning to worry that the guy who did such a fantastic job reinventing Wally West and his Rogues would never again produce something that I’d enjoy. But Justice League #1, Green Lantern #1, and Aquaman #1 were all enjoyable books, free from many of the problems that have turned me off his work lately. Though I decided against following Green Lantern (which seemed destined to continue to get involved in endless crossovers), I stuck by Aquaman and Justice League. Earlier this month, I called Justice League #2 an improvement over the opener, and while Aquaman is still enjoyable, it doesn’t improve over Johns relatively solid introduction in the same way.
Meet the Trench. They’re hungry, they’re strong and they’re not very bright. Only recently discovering the surface world, they’ve been chewing through everything they can fit their mouths around. And while Aquaman and his wife are contemplating building a life on the land, the pull of the depths is strong: the scene of a shocking mass murder/abduction along the coast prompts local authorities to call him in to find out just what’s going on at the harbor.
There are some storytelling issues. Between the Trench vomiting on things to mark it as food and the Red Lanterns, I’m beginning to think Johns has something he’s trying to tell us, and it took a lot for me to get over my fundamental frustration with the idea of a bunch of creatures living so deep in the sea they’d never even known the surface existed coming up and walking around on the surface without issue. Not to mention the fact that the police had time to call in the Navy, the Coast Guard and Aquaman… but never once checked the abandoned, crashed ship at the crime scene in which the creatures were apparently hiding. And though he backs off just a bit from last issue’s need to bash us in our face with the fact that Aquaman is no joke, it still makes yet another appearance here.
But, surprisingly, what redeems the issue is Aquaman, Mera and their relationship. I’m on the record as disliking Johns’ handling of most female characters, but in Mera he’s found a regal, slightly overbearing woman who nonetheless loves her husband and struggles to do good. And in Aquaman, Johns has found a character who has had such small growth in recent years that Johns’ love of DC’s past really shines through with the character. Reflecting back to his past, with the vacations he took with his father, is a solid character scene, particularly Mera’s enthusiasm to relive those days.
Aquaman may never be a great book, but it is a moderately enjoyable one. If Johns and Reis can tighten the plotting and delve even deeper into their characters, they could have a real winner here. Right now, it has strong central characters and some memorable monster design from Reis and not much else going for it.
– Cal C.