Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing Aquaman 6, originally released February 22nd, 2012.
Shelby: You may not know this about me, but every weekend I put together the headers for the Alternating Currents for the following week. Doing so means I take a little sneak peak at the cover art for upcoming issues. Last weekend, as I was working my way through these, I got really, really excited for Aquaman 6. I mean, just look at it! We’ve got fire and water constructs and cars flying around and, front and center, we’ve got Mera herself, looking like all kinds of badass. “This is it!” I thought to myself. “This is that moment I’ve been waiting for since the relaunch! Time for Mera to shine!” Ultimately, I was let down.
The end of issue 5 saw Aquaman about to embark on an adventure to find who sunk Atlantis, while Mera…heads to town for dog food. While at the local grocery, Mera is accosted by a sleazy grocery manager. She tells him to leave her alone, he doesn’t, she breaks his arm a couple of times. It turns into a big to-do, naturally; the police show up and pull out their guns while a young gal working in the shop protests feebly. Mera starts some shit with the cops, busting water bottles everywhere, while complaining about being called Aquawoman. Suddenly, the cops get a call about some guy who killed his wife, broke out of jail, and was holding his daughter hostage. Mera suddenly surrenders, saying she’ll sit in the back of their car while they take care of it. Psych! Once they get to the hostage situation, she very efficiently breaks out of the car and confronts the guy. Well, worse comes to worst and she starts pulling the water out of the guy. The daughter is the one who stops her, saying she would miss him (even though he just had her at gunpoint) because he’s her dad. Mera doesn’t understand, and flies away. Oh, and also, she had been reminiscing about when her dad first sent her to kill Aquaman, and she couldn’t because he was noble so her dad banished her, etc. Anyway, her musings are interrupted by the young gal from the shop, who brings her a bunch of dog food and things, saying Mera can just give her a call whenever she needs something, and she’ll bring it by. Mera heads back in the house and Aquaman drops the truthbomb about the sinking of Atlantis.
Sigh. This issue was disappointing to me for a lot of reasons. I know I’ve said over and over that I want more Mera, give me Mera, where’s Mera, but this fell flat. The whole opening sequence, with Mera starting trouble at the grocery, it almost seemed kind of silly. When the sleazy grocery manager was harassing the girl working there, I expected Mera to step in and handle it in a somewhat realistic way. But then we see her, casually shopping for dog food in full scale uniform with crown. Come on. This is silly.
I get the whole “female defender of other females” thing, I do, but this is forced and obvious and cliched. The whole sequence just seems overdone. And, maybe I missed something before the relaunch, but this whole “I-don’t-understand-how-humans-work” deal was immediately old. The Mera I’m looking for is strong and independent, direct and to the point, but not cold and heartless. She was going to drain all the water out of a man without batting an eyelash; that is undeniably horrifying. Also, this whole non-event at the store and with the hostage situation is the only thing that happens in the issue! For all the action we had, it was ultimately kind of boring.
I was fairly disappointed in this issue, which I think is pretty obvious. I do, however, have a couple questions.
1. Is this guy in the grocery store wearing a Green Lantern shirt? That’s kind of funny.
2. What’s Aquaman been doing this whole time? Hanging out at the house? Playing fetch with the dog? These are the questions that plague me when nothing is really happening in the issue.
3. Hot damn, look at the six-pack Mera’s got! Christ almighty!
Patrick, your thoughts? You and I have similar feelings about Mera, what did you think of this issue?
Patrick: Right? “I don’t understanding human beings” is one thing. “I think breaking this dude’s arm is the appropriate response to some unwanted attention” is another thing entirely. This character deserves so much more.
One of the things that made both of our jaws drop back in the day was Mera becoming a Red Lantern when each lantern color selected a deputy on Earth at the height of Blackest Night. Leading up to this moment, Mera became increasingly impotent in a world that was asking more and more of her. With Aquaman dead, the Lanterns off defending the Star Sapphire homeworld (shit got complicated) and Batman and Superman indisposed, Mera had to fight for the fate of the living with only Atom and Flash as her allies. She was made to lose and suffer and lose and suffer until she erupted into a ball of RAGE. And it was awesome – her righteous, fiery vengeance rained down on the dead.
But this? I don’t get it. Violent anger cannot be the only non-sexual characteristic of this character. Yeah, that’s right: this issue trips my feminist trigger. Mera goes shopping, is accosted because she’s wearing skimpy clothing, let’s her emotions get the better of her AND cries about her daddy-issues. I understand that this series revels in embracing sci-fi, action and comic cliches, to varying degrees of success. Resorting to portraying its intelligent warrior heroine in this manner is unfortunate and only comes off as stupid. I like camp, I like pastiche, I like a sense of comic history – but this is embarrassing.
To boot, the adventure is wholly unsubstantial. You know it’s a bad sign for the arc when you can see the padding from the second issue. If you wanted to be generous, you could say that this issue revealed Mera’s past to the audience that might be new to Aquaman. As her mission to murder Arthur is old damn news to me, this “revelation” left me cold and disappointed.
The only thing that made me tilt my head and say “oh yes?” was the exploration of Mera’s water-manipulation powers. Her ability to control water always seemed a little ill-defined. The ability to control water on whatever level is absolutely devastating. You know how when you start to really think about Magneto’s powers you realize that he can do just about anything? I feel like Mera had a Magneto moment here. Given that Mera can literally suck the water out of a living creature (at whatever pace she desires, by the way), she should never be in any kind of danger ever again. Unless the new direction for the character is “so powerful and so angry she’s a danger to everyone around her” (and mark my words: it’s not), this is setting up a lot of frustrating questions for the future. Next time she’s in trouble, you’ll think to yourself “why doesn’t she just pull the water out of that dude’s body?”
I want to like this series, I really do. Johns was totally my gateway drug to comics and it’s upsetting how inconsistent this book is. And the art here is functional, but doesn’t showcase Ivan and Rod Reis’ talents. Last month saw that trippy halucination sequence, and let the Reis brothers deliver a more washed out, painted character in the same panel as their heavily-inked Aquaman. But I don’t see a comparable spectacle this month. Ivan is actually only credited with the “Breakdowns,” with Joe Prado listed as the primary penciler. Maybe Ivan’s reduced capacity is to blame for some of the loss of visual splendor. But let’s get a positive in there – the lighting and effects in this panel are pretty nice. Rod is a really great colorist, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. There’s a scene in Nightwing 6 where Dick and Raya go for a walk in Austin that has some outstanding coloring – Reis is responsible for that as well.
I did not notice the kid wearing the Green Lantern shirt. That must be something these guys really enjoy – do you remember seeing the kid playing with a Superman action figure in the Fish ‘n’ Chips place in issue 1? I’m going to chose to read too far into this and suggest that even the people making this book wish it was Green Lantern or Superman or anything more interesting.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?