Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing Aquaman 7, originally released March 28th, 2012.
Shelby: I felt hugely relieved after reading this month’s Aquaman. After the less-than-exciting conclusion to the Trench arc, followed up with a TERRIBLE issue about Mera’s trip to town, I was beginning to regret picking up Aquaman. “Maybe I was wrong,” I thought to myself. “Maybe Aquaman can only be the butt of jokes! Maybe the awesomeness he exuded in Blackest Night and Brightest Day was all an elaborate ruse by Geoff Johns to sucker people into reading Aquaman, like a huge practical joke!” Happily, this issue has assuaged my doubts with an exciting introduction to what I’m hoping will be a really fun arc about the mystery of Atlantis.
Issue 7 opens with a veiled woman running through the jungle fleeing Black Manta, definitely my favorite water-based villain after Ursula from The Little Mermaid. She has a golden-hued vision of getting run through with one of Manta’s spears, and jumps out of the way. Black Manta catches up, we get a sword fight, and she loses, because Black Manta. He kills her and takes some golden thing she was carrying, and as she dies on the jungle floor she gets one last golden vision of Manta stabbing Aquaman with his own trident. Meanwhile, back on the eastern seaboard, Mera and Arthur show up at Dr. Shin’s to get some answers on the thing from Atlantis with the message. A golden ball of light erupts in the kitchen, and out leaps a jungle lady with a panther, swearing she will kill Shin. Ka’wara, as she turns out to be, relates the news that Kahina the Seer is dead by Black Manta’s hand, and it was Shin who lead him to her. Mera demands to know what’s going on, and we close with a photo on Shin’s desk of Ka’wara, Kahina, Aquaman, and some others, but more on that in a bit.
I am so happy something happened in this issue. This is a nice way to open what will hopefully be an exciting arc. I like seeing Black Manta; he’s a good villain, in that he’s ruthless and pretty much unstoppable. I don’t really care all that much about Shin, but he hinted at the Trench creatures having a bigger role to play, so maybe that first arc wasn’t a total waste after all! Art-wise, Reis and Prado have really done a nice job. I especially like Prado’s inking work; the colors just seem to sparkle on the page. More Atlantean artifacts means more golden light, which is pretty and appealing. I love the visions of the (short-lived) Kahina; that golden, fiery, insubstantial look is eye-catching, delightful, and a nice contrast to the more traditional comic book style evoked in the rest of the book.
What I am most excited about is this story. Finally, we are seeing the kind of writing that made me love Geoff Johns in the first place. This issue opens with a bang, and doesn’t really slow down until the end,when we are teased with a new mystery. Who is this group, so mysteriously armed with Atlantean gear? How are they related to whomever sunk Atlantis? How is the sinking of Atlantis related to Black Manta trying to kill them all?
This is where Johns excels. We’re getting back into a big arc, which I’m sure will be loaded with thrills, chills, and epic water-based battles. We’re diving into a big mystery, which is anchored (ha!) with familiar characters and spiced up with some new ones. I don’t know where this story is heading next, but even better than that, I am excited to find out. All we can do now is hope the ending of this arc isn’t quite as anti-climactic as the last one.
Patrick: I don’t really get the same sense of relief that you do from reading this issue. Granted, this is a massive improvement from the previous “Mera Goes to Town” issue, but so is cleaning the grout in your bathroom with a toothbrush. Last month’s outing was so shitty that anything competently executed is going to see like a step in the right direction. And that’s largely what we get here: competency.
Unfortunately, comic book competency means there’s a host of antiquated practices put into place that I know we do our best shrug off. Take, for instance, the pointless conversation that Mera and Aquaman have outside of Dr. Shin’s house about why Shin would be a valuable resource for them. It has already been established that Shin’s kind of an Atlantis-nut, so why would Mera need convincing that he’s the man to see about an Atlantean artifact? Once we see Shin interacting with the object – knowing enough to submerge it in salt water – it’s clear that he’s the obvious go-to guy for this sort of thing. That whole spread — pages 12 and 13 — is redundant and unnecessary, slowing the momentum and spelling out concepts that are about to be obvious anyway.
There’s also the little matter a Ya’wara’s costume. Shelby, I know you’re anticipating this complaint from me, but seriously, look at that thing. There’s a lot that I put up with in comics because, well, they’re comics. But this warrior woman’s costume is skimpy, even by bikini-standards. And there’s something that feels really icky and misogynist about Ya’wara and Mera duking it out until Aquaman shows up to tell them to “calm down.” Which is a shame, because the staging of the fight is really cool – even down to this classic image of the samurai charging at each other.
But see, I also have a hard time staying mad at this book – mostly because Ivan Reis is back in the driver seat for the art in this issue. Last month, he was credited with “Break Downs” and whatever that is, it’s not enough. With Reis restored to the captain’s chair, we are treated to his visual flights-of-fancy throughout. And I think he’s got an eye and an ambition that is more exciting and more refined that Geoff Johns. You know how we’ve been writing about the various references this series has made to iconic comic books and action movies? Reis seems to want in on this action, but casts a much wider referential net. The scene of Aquaman and Mera rescuing an unfortunate fishing boat from the angry sea bares a striking resemblance to that old Japanese wood-block print of The Great Wave of Kanagawa.
To keep singing Reis’ praises, the fight sequence that takes up the first half of the issue is largely silent, and it’s way more compelling than the wordy bullshit in the back half. The action is clear and dramatic, with a ton of really fun and insightful images. There’s a panel where Kahina is reflected in both Black Manta’s visor and the shiny black surface of his helmet. I’m not totally sure what the implication of such a dual reflection is, but I like it regardless.
There’s one last thing I want to bring up: Brazil. Black Manta hunts Kihana down to some unspecified forested location in Brazil. Anyone reading Swamp Thing would know that “unspecified rain forest in Brazil” is also the site of the burning of the Parliament of Trees. Now, I’m not saying these two events are related, but I believe we are meant to make this connection. When Black Manta detonates his spear, a plume of fire rockets into the air and we get a wide shot of the jungle, partially engulfed in flame. But the image doesn’t look like Reis. It more closely resembles the work of Yanick Paquette and Marco Rudy on the current run of Swamp Thing.
Okay, that’s about all the projecting I can do for one day. Shelby, you didn’t mention anything about that “Atlantis” book written by Davis Graves. He’s the same in-universe author of the Justice League book. I know how that meta-meta stuff sets your teeth on edge – you think that’s forecasting something or just a fun tie-in to another Johns penned book?
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?