Monday, April 23, 2012

New 52 in Review - Aquaman

So I’m pretty sure we picked this one up because my fiancé wanted to read it.  So I didn’t have any preconceived notions going into this one really.  Aquaman…sure why not?  Spoiler below as always, you have been warned.

First off let me just say that this is the first out of the new 52 series to really impress me.  I really enjoyed this one and will say right off the bat that this is a keeper.  It was fun and interesting and the pacing was really good. 

Aquaman isn’t quite the same character as in Justice League.  I guess he’s had 5 long years of jam packed DC action to bring him a bit more down to earth (seriously, a crap ton of stuff that is still apparently in continuity happened in those 5 short years…).  But he is very similar to the version that popped up in Brightest Day in the old DCU.  I never finished Brightest Day (still intend to, but I want to get caught up on current series first) so I wasn’t sure if things were resolved there or just ignored like his telepathy thing controlling dead fish, but it really didn’t matter.  Everything I needed to know was explained in the comic so I didn’t feel I had any giant lingering questions about who Aquaman was.

The first issue does a great job of showing us what a badass Aquaman is, which I really appreciate since a lot of comics tend to tell us characters are so great without ever really showing us why.  Here we have the opposite though, as we see how awesome Aquaman is and everyone around him is saying that he is lame.  And it’s true that in pop culture Aquaman gets picked on a lot, so I’m okay with this being a reality in the comics as well.  Especially if Aquaman spent a lot of time in Atlantis previous to this, his powers would probably be misunderstood by the general public. 

I could not have given you a list of all of Aquaman’s powers, so I appreciate that they are being introduced to us as they come up naturally in the story.  No info dump or anything, just as things happen you get a sense of what he can do.  I’ve also enjoyed the bits of his backstory we’ve had.  It is all presented in a genuine way that fits into the story without being too intrusive.  It helps a lot since I’m sure I’m not the only reader who knew very little about the character before this series. 

The first arc is only four issues long, which seems short compared to the other new 52 series I’ve read.  But it was really as long as it needed to be and any longer would have been padding.  The first issue introduced the main character and the enemy.  The second issue had the two getting into a direct confrontation.  The third issue ended that first direct encounter and set up the goal of the arc (saving the towns people).  And the fourth issue had the big finale.  And all along the way we learned more about Aquaman and Mera and the Trench, who I suspect we will see again at some point.  The fifth and sixth issues were basically one shots that continued the larger story, but had self contained problems to be solved (which I really enjoyed) and then the seventh continued with the threads from the previous issues and introduced us to something new.  Each issue felt like a rewarding read to me, which doesn’t always happen since many monthlies are now written for the trade paperback release.  They each had a nice cliff hanger to keep you coming back the next month, but none felt over the top.  Just great pacing all around.

I like Mera.  She’s a strong female presence with her own powers and problems.  I love that he has a dog that can’t swim.  I’m happy that although he wants to stay on the surface and protect the people who live on the shoreline he is still very much connected to Atlantis.  I hope this back and forth with things relating to Atlantis and thing on land will continue.  Although he wants to be connected with humans, Aquaman’s connection to Atlantis makes him somewhat unique among superheroes, so I’m glad we’re not ignoring Atlantis entirely. 

I was kinda mad when the second issue had a cute little kid pointing at the incoming boat full of hungry Trench.  I thought that they were introducing the kid just to be killed off so it was even more sad.  I was thrilled when the kid came back at the end, safe and sound thanks to Aquaman.  Even though there was death in these issues, there was also a great rescue and that was really the focus.  It made the whole thing less grim and depressing than it could have been and I appreciated that.  It was also nice to see that Aquaman felt sympathy for the Trench.  He had his priorities and would not sacrifice human lives, but he clearly wished that there was some way they could work things out without killing an entire species.  He was a king and it stands to reason that he would look at problems with a larger viewpoint.

It’s interesting to me that Aquaman doesn’t have any real secret identity.  It makes for some interesting storytelling since anyone can just drop in to see him and he can’t exactly go anywhere without being recognized.  Which also means that villains can find him too.  I’ll be interested to see what they do with that.

All in all, it’s a very good comic.  Definitely recommended and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next.

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