Thursday, June 26, 2014

Aquaman: The Trench by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis

Aquaman is one of the oldest DC comics characters still in play. The DC universe recently decided to reboot the setting again. This is a fairly common thing in DC ranging from their time with Infinite Crisis and Zero Hour to the latest round with the Flash of all people messing up the timeline and the readers being rewarded with 'the new 52'.

A good as any time to revise Aquaman.

Geoff Johns is one of the biggest and best known writers. Having him write the 'new' Aquaman for the 'new' 52 seems like an effort to boost Aquaman from his so-so status to a top ranking hero. Geoff was able to work wonders with Green Lantern for example.

Fortunately Geoff Johns is joined by artist extraordinaire Ivan Reis. I enjoy Ivan's work immensely. When you have comic that has great art, even if the story isn't that great, the art can 'save' it. The 90's are full of series that only got as far as they did because the art was enjoyable and top notch.

The nice touch in the book is that in addition to the standard work, Ivan treats the readers to some black and white illustrations including designs of the casts and different covers.

It doesn't do it for me.

There is an effort to make Aquaman a character while acknowledging that he's often considered a joke in the first chapter. He's eating in a restaurant and debunking how his powers supposedly work. Its trying to lay groundwork for the whole of things but really? I didn't care. When you have to start blabbing about how you don't talk to fish but take them over, you're already losing the battle to make the character cool via the whole show don't tell. We also get that Aquaman, like Namor over at Marvel, gets by through the use of 'sunken treasure ships' where he's using gold coins to pay for stuff.

And when I see that I'm like really? That's the best you can do with him? Make him have resources from teh bottom of the sea? At least when Marvel did it, Namor used it to fund a corporation and actually did something, not just you know, eat a a fish shack.

Now for those who like action? They should enjoy a lot of this volume. The name of the book, The Trench, is where a group of humanoid monsters come from seeking food for themselves and their queen. These slick monsters look like they'd fit perfectly among other aquatic nightmares. In this volume their not really built up much and I haven't purchased any future volumes, but probably decadent Atlanteans or something of that nature.

The fighting is intense and we get to see Aquaman and Mera using their abilities to the fullest and it's great. We see Aquaman as almost a reluctant hero in that he's trying to learn more about these individuals than simply destroying them. Their abilities make them dangerous including luminescence to light the dark waters they come from, massive claws and teeth, and a paralyzing paste as well as the ability to create cocoons to hold their food for later. Like I said, their cool.

But the rest of the story? It's some lead up with Mera and some lead up with Atlantis that in this volume, is all ground work and in some ways, undoes the whole Aquaman doesn't suck bit. For example, when Aquaman gets stuck out in the desert and has to be rescued? Why bother spending the first few issues showing that he doesn't suck and is a worthy companion for his allies in the Justice League?

Aquaman in a solo title is a hard sell for me at the best of times. He's not outright powerful enough to give him an interesting rogue's gallery, his wife's tale that their doing here appears to be one already done, and well, personality wise, he's not fleshed out enough to be anything but another boring DC hero, the same problem that a lot of people had with the Silver Age Flash Barry, and why they didn't mourn his loss that much as Wally West grew into his own.

Aquaman's role in the new 52 after this volume is unknown to me, but if you've got some volumes you can recommend, lay 'em on me Internet.