Today, Shelby and Peter are discussing Aquaman 9, originally released May 23rd, 2012.
Shelby: I have grown to appreciate Aquaman. I used to think he was pretty lame, but I think his character has been fleshed out in recent years. There’s some depth to him now; he’s a man torn between two worlds, and all that. Geoff Johns obviously has some grand ideas for where he wants to take Aquaman; he just keeps doling out his ideas at such a slow pace, I’m afraid there will be a point when my questions so outnumber the answers, I’m just going to get fed-up.
This issue starts with The Prisoner in a psychiatric hospital. He’s sitting in front of a collection of photos of soldiers and their families making crank phone calls (?) when Black Manta shows up to kill him. Prisoner summons zombie water constructs of soldiers (?) to help him fight Manta. Grabbing the Atlantean manacles from under the bed (and shooting Manta with a gun from under the pillow), Prisoner leaps out the window, and Manta follows. Meanwhile, in the Amazon, Arthur and Ya’wara are fighting Manta’s armed goons. Arthur has to scold Ya’wara for being too quick to kill. She tries to come on to him, but he doesn’t take the bait: I’m guessing it’s because he’s afraid of Mera’s rock-hard abs. They discuss what they need to do to get to the rest of the Others. Back on the Atlantic shore, Mera is threatening Shin with extreme dehydration unless he tells her what’s up. Turns out, Thomas Curry went to Dr. Shin to help him with his son’s developing powers. Dr. Shin assumed that meant he could exploit Arthur’s Atlantean heritage to further his own career. When Thomas obviously refused, Shin hired Black Manta to get a DNA sample. During the inevitable scuffle, Thomas had a heart attack, and died three days later. Arthur actually killed Black Manta’s father.
Lots of interesting things happening in this issue. Johns keeps dangling these little tidbits of info in front of me, and I want more! I was really hoping to get a solid read on the Prisoner, but all I’ve got is more questions. He’s obviously a damaged individual, as evinced by his phone calls to who I assume are the families of the (presumably) dead soldiers on his wall. I’m also going to assume he caused their deaths somehow; how then does he get to create water construct versions of them when he needs an assist? How can he do that when he’s not even wearing the Atlantean gear yet?
Then we’ve got Arthur and Ya’wara’s conversation in the jungle, which again leads me to more questions. The big question is about Johns’ depiction of women in this title. I get that Ya’wara is supposed to be some sort of pre-Mera fling, but she’s just always so fucking angry! Even when she’s trying to come on to Aquaman, she looks mad as hell about it.
It’s the same deal with Mera; both women are super hot, incredibly strong, and inexplicably pissed. At least Ya’wara doesn’t suffer from Mera’s weird naivete about the world around her. What’s the deal, Geoff? Why can’t these powerful women just act like women? It feels like an unbalanced overcompensation for the stereotypical “defenseless woman” trope. While I can appreciate the effort, this opposite extreme is a) just as damaging and b) just kind of silly. These are not characters I want to read about; what’s interesting about women who are constantly and needlessly angry?
We did get one big reveal in this issue that I think is very interesting: that Aquaman killed Black Manta’s father, not the other way around. Would Thomas Curry have had his fatal heart attack if he wasn’t fighting for his son? Probably not: I’m not trying to say that Black Manta is completely innocent. But a man dying of a heart attack is very different than a man being gutted, which is what I assumed had happened. Now we’re faced with the idea that Arthur is the villain, and Black Manta the victim needing to be avenged, sort of. It doesn’t explain why Manta is after the rest of the Others, or what any of this has to do with the sinking of Atlantis, but it adds a new, interesting layer to both the story and the character of Aquaman. Peter, what about you? Are you beginning to feel any frustration with the pace of this story arc?
Peter: I am beginning to feel some frustration. While I enjoyed the backstory from Shin, and the inclusion of the Prisoner, this issue went way too slow. I have many of the same questions that you do Shelby. While I really like Johns’ writing, I find myself asking more and more questions after the end of each of his issues, and then not getting any of them answered for a long time. It’s incredibly frustrating. But I would like to add one question to the pile; how did Aquaman suddenly teleport to the Prisoner’s location?? How did he know where that even was? Obviously he and Ya’wara knew where the hospital was, but the specificity is intriguing.
Is this a power of the trident? We haven’t seen it do much of anything other than stab people. Or maybe Ya’wara’s necklace? Actually it probably is the necklace, since in issue 7 she appears in front of Aquaman in a similar fashion. But then, where is Ya’wara in this image? Did she send Aquaman on ahead? Or is she just behind him and will be there in a second?
The idea that Aquaman is the villain here is pretty interesting. It would explain a lot of his brooding and self exile. Also, he mentions his Justice League communicator. His OLD Justice League communicator. Does that mean that it take place after a stint with the Justice League? So if he’s no longer a member of the Justice League, where does that leave him for the upcoming Trinity War? Will that be a crossover title? Or just in the Justice League book? The time skip is what interests me that most. I want to know where this fits into the bigger picture.
I am curious to see how this will all play out. Last issue we also got to see flashbacks of the Others in the past. Will we see more of those? I would interested to see how they ended up breaking up, as well as Aquaman trading a necklace for a shirt.
I have so far been enjoying this new story arc of Aquaman. Keep it coming Geoff. Reis’ art continues to be fantastic, and I cannot get enough of that either.
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