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Aquaman Vol. 1: The Trench (The New 52) Paperback – May 21, 2013
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“Has breathed new life into [Aquaman]…. The series is off to an excellent start with plenty of mystery and action ahead. Anyone that ever hesitated to read a story about ‘the guy who talks to fish,’ should have no second thoughts about picking up Aquaman Volume 1: The Trench.”—Philadelphia Examiner
"Every page drips with humor and all of it is aimed at Aquaman and his considerable character heritage, be it the orange shirt, the power to talk to fish or the second-string super-hero status."—Los Angeles Times Hero Complex
"Actually, this might be [Geoff Johns's] most impressive feat to date. Genius."—USA Today
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But then the Super Friends television show happened in 1973 and well...the stigma of Aquaman began. Since then everyone has made a joke on Arthur's behalf, in all forms of media. He's been portrayed as various things over the year like cannon fodder for the Justice League, as well as simply being the guy that can swim fast and talk to fish thanks to Super Friends. Sure he's has the occasional and decent public portrayal (Grant Morrison's JLA for example or JLA Annual #2 where he lead the group), but nothing great. So it's always felt like he's a B-list character (some would argue C-list) hanging around a league of A-listers...
Until Geoff Johns 2009 event Blackest Night came about and Aquaman came back to the DC Universe as a black lantern. "Aquaman's back as a black lantern?" People thought. "Meh." But then Aquaman summons zombie sharks and kills of bunch of Atlanteans. Wait? What?! People took notice. And even Aquaman's wife, Mera got a following going due to being a main player in the event as well. And then Arthur came back to life and was a key component in the Brightest Day event. And out of all those who came back to life during that event, Arthur was probably the most popular of the bunch. Now with the New 52, Geoff Johns decides to carry on writing Arthur and his "Aquawoman" wife Mera with artist Ivan Reis and Joe Prado, to create a fresh new start on the king of the seven seas.
AQUAMAN VOL 1: THE TRENCH collects issues #1-6 and see's Arthur going about his daily life as super-hero crime fighter on the sea and on land. But the world see's Arthur as "that guy that talks to fish", and so many people see him as joke. Even when Arthur stops a pack of bank robbers, they laugh at the notion of him being a threat and the police feel embarrassed to have Arthur do something they themselves could of done. While Arthur is slowly getting back into the habit of life, a species of being from the darkest depths of the ocean come to land to feast upon those in their paths. It's up to Arthur and Mera to save the day.
Johns immediately talks about the criticism and perception of our worlds view of Aquaman and attacks it head on which makes for some great comedic use. Everything and anything you can think of, Johns answers it for Arthur. Does he actually talk to fish? Why eat the fish you he talks to? Why the orange colors? Does the A on the belt stand for Aquaman or Atlantis? Or how does it feel being the punch line of the joke? Johns even goes far enough to show Arthur's power set more fully then simply swimming fast. Super hearing, super strength and reflexes, and near-bullet proof skin are little details added to Arthur never quite seen before to establish Arthur really is a powerful being. Johns also shows a likable personality from Arthur that is well-tempered about how society treats him and just wanting to do what's right. All of these attributes make Aquaman stand out as powerful and likable character. And you don't have have read any past Aquaman material at all to enjoy the story.
Although the book is predominantly about Aquaman, you could almost consider it a buddy book, because Mera shares quite a bit of panel time with Arthur. It's one of the main themes regarding the book is Arthur and Mera's relationship together and it's handle fairly well. Mera herself has her share of powers and attributes that we get to see are quite different from Arthur (some bad and some good). Mera gets to have an entire issue of her going solo into town to simply get supplies and you see her personality (which it too is quite comedic). Either way, the dynamics between the two is nice to see happen.
Mention has to go to Ivan Reis. His art alone is amazing. Every fine detail of water and sand (!), to spash pages showing Aquaman in his shining orange outfit are stellar. You'll spend half the time looking and taking in Reis beautiful artwork. Special mention does also go for Joe Prado who does the coloring, as wall as drawing issue #6. Again, the art is stellar.
Now why the 4 star review instead of 5 you say? Two things come to mind. One of which is that the Trench arc is a mere 4 issues. Actually you can argue its 3 issues and it ends very abruptly (Though I do get the feeling The Trench will come back somewhere down the line in Johns run.). And the other thing is the issues collected which I'll explain. Issue #1 deal primarily on establishing Aquaman, while issues 2-4 are the Trench arc. Then issue #5 is the prologue to the next arc, "The Others". And issue #6 is mostly a stand alone tale about Mera going into town. See the problem here? It feels sort of scattered when you look at it, as if Johns played the Trench arc very safely (which it feels like) and just wanted to get to the next arc as soon as possible. It just feels a bit incohesive.
Overall though, AQUAMAN VOL 1: THE TRENCH is still a good start for this unexpected hit in the New 52. It has fabulous art and a capable writer behind it. This short volume may not be perfect, but the current team sure makes it feel like it does have it coming for it down the road. It's a new era for the king of Atlantis. And the fish jokes stop here.
Aquaman can swim fast and breathe water. He can talk to fish, and it's when you bring that up that people inevitably make that snorting noise. Once upon a time, Aquaman couldn't survive on land without contact with water every hour. During the SUPERFRIENDS cartoon in the '70s and '80s, it was Aquaman, more often than not, who was assigned monitor duty at the Hall of Justice while even Wonder Woman deployed to the field. Arthur Curry, a.k.a. Aquaman, is the Rodney Dangerfield of the cape and cowl community. Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis aim to change that, aim to reimagine him as a badasss hombre.
Somewhere in this volume, in the aftermath of a harrowing incursion from marauding creatures of the depths, a cop dismisses Arthur Curry: "We've got this under control, Aquaman. I'm sure your intentions are good, but..."
Seriously, can you imagine some cop giving Batman the business?
AQUAMAN Vol. 1: THE TRENCH collects #1-6 of the reshuffled series and hopefully convinces even the most naysaying detractor that it's one of the best comics DC has currently got going. This IS the catch of the day. Six issues in, Geoff Johns is already delivering one of the best interpretations of the King of the Seven Seas. Yeah, Aquaman is still the biggest punchline in the realm of superhero jokes, and Johns is quick to address that. When Aquaman drops in on a local diner for a bite, his rep is so negligible that even maggoty bloggers don't shy from bluntly asking him: "How's it feel to be nobody's favorite super-hero?" Is Geoff Johns manipulating you by making Aquaman an instantly sympathetic underdog? Heck, yeah, he is. But is it working? Yes, I think so.
Sovereign under the sea, putz on the surface world. That's the theme Johns is running with. But I admire Arthur Curry for being resolute and carrying on despite the endless mockery. It's his fierce, red-headed, hard water-manipulating wife Mera (don't you call her Aquawoman!) who's champing at the bit, frustrated with the surface dwellers' constant bagging on her man. Arthur and Mera have decided to make a go of it on dry land. They reside in his father's lighthouse in Amnesty Bay. And even though Aquaman must feel like every day is a roast with him as the guest of honor, he doesn't hesitate when a knock on the door pits him against flesh-eating monsters from the ocean depths. But it is aggravating for Aquaman that he finds himself unable to communicate telepathically with them.
The opening story arc, "The Trench," is four issues long, and maybe it should've been two issues long. Johns takes a page from Bendis and engages in decompressed storytelling, but I'm cool with that. Johns packs in nice character beats and a surprising amount of humor. It's not that Aquaman himself becomes suddenly funny. Aquaman will always be this rigid, no-nonsense hero. But Johns has him rubbing elbows with the curious townspeople, and it's those interactions that elicit chuckles and grins. And, somehow, it humanizes Aquaman. Kind like what Oreo cookies did for the Martian Manhunter.
Issue #5 strands Aquaman in the desert and opens up a can of future plot threads. Issue #6 is Mera-centric. She ventures into town to buy dog food. She loses her temper. Cue the fun.
Ivan Reis returns Aquaman to majestic form, visually. The King of the Seven Seas hasn't cut a figure this dashing since Jim Aparo was drawing him. Aquaman should always be illustrated with that classic hero style in mind. It's pretty awesome seeing the bullets bounce off him, seeing him make those prodigious leaps, and cutting a swathe thru hordes of flesh-eating uglies with his trident. And Reis is a complete artist. Even when the characters are in repose or during those talking head panels, Reis maintains the arresting visuals.
If you'd ever wondered at the extent or limits of Aquaman's telepathic sway over the creatures of the sea, Johns educates us. And, lastly, lest all them folks making fun of Aquaman isn't enough to get you on his side, there's that dog the Currys adopt that someone immediately dubs "Aquadog." Except that Aquadog, appropriately enough, doesn't know how to swim. That's perfect.
Clearly Geoff Johns was thinking of that weird dichotomy when he wrote this story. Though to be fair he wasn't the first person to play around with Aquaman's less-than-stellar reputation, Peter David did some similar things when he was in charge of the King of Atlantis.
This is a very interesting story, and well-drawn. Aquaman finds himself constantly being underestimated, poked fun at, and just plain not taken seriously by the denizens of the surface world. Even when he's doing great things, saving the day, etc. nobody seems to wanna give him any kind of respect. To make matters worse, strange Piranha-like Angler fish creatures from the bottom of the ocean are branching out to the surface world in search of food. Humans.
This will take Aquaman, and his wife Mera, to the mysterious 'Trench'... where more than vicious deep dwellers live. Strange mysteries will unfold, mysteries that will lead our hero to question the true cause of Atlantis' downfall/submersion.
I highly recommend this.
Most recent customer reviews
Together in this version of the character. Masterful.
rebirth and new 52.Read more