Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing Aquaman 11, originally released July 25th, 2012.
Shelby: Despite what you are currently reading, I don’t really think of myself as a writer. Art was always my schtick, the only writing I did in school was academic papers and the occasional bullshit artist’s statement. I’ve been a reader, however, since I was 4, so I’m pretty good at figuring out what I like in a story. I know that sometimes exposition is necessary to advance the plot or give character insight, and I think there are natural ways to present that information within the story. Comics, though, have such opportunity to show me what I need to know instead of just telling me, I sometimes don’t quite know why writers chose to have their characters just standing around gabbing when they could be doing something so much cooler to give me the info I need.
The issue opens with a scene I never thought to see; Arthur finding his trident. I guess I assumed he just always had it. Turns out, he and the others found all their Atlantean gear at the tomb of the first king of Atlantis. Manta was looking for the relics as well, so they stole them to keep them out of enemy hands? Back in real time, Manta has teleported to the eastern seaboard to kidnap Shin and all his notes. On the Operative’s plane, the Others figure Manta is on his way to the king’s tomb to find a seventh relic, one even more powerful than the trident. As the team debates the existance of such a thing, Vostok shows up. Arthur gives the standard “I have to do this alone” speech, and everyone else gives the standard “we’re a team, we’re in this together” reply. Naturally, it doesn’t work (because that never works), and Arthur dives out of the plane and heads towards the king’s tomb. There, he finds Manta using the relics he stole to find the seventh. The tomb itself opens, revealing the scepter of the first king of Atlantis: the very weapon which sank it to the bottom of the sea.
I think this issue had a lot of wasted opportunity. Yes, we got a TON of backstory, and we learned a lot about characters we’ve been DYING to learn more about, but we got most of this information from people standing around just talking. If you think about it, it doesn’t make any sense; why would the Others just hang out and tell each other their own back-stories? I’m guessing they already know them, unless Arthur is an even worse leader than I realized.
That’s not to say I don’t appreciate learning more about these characters. I have been calling for more Vostok since day 1, and to find out he was bred to be a perfect cosmonaut through total isolation? Well, now I love him even more. Just look at that sad beardy face! I just think all this standing around dealing with clichéd loner-hero tropes is a little boring. I would have been more satisfied with a series of short flashbacks to the formation of the Others. That is something I am still dying to know more about, by the way. How did this group ever come together in the first place? Arthur seems to have been the leader, even though he hated it (and everyone else).
I’m happy to finally see how these last 11 issues tie into the mystery of Atlantis, and I’m looking forward to the inevitable, golden-hued showdown between Arthur and Manta. Ya’wara and crew are on the way to get Mera, so there will be plenty more opportunity for those two to glare at each other, which is good. Patrick, what did you think of this issue? Was the little teaser of the Prisoner’s background enough, or just enough to make you crazy for more?
Patrick: I totally agree with you about the point-blank exposition. The Others are so cool for three reasons: 1) they’re well designed; 2) they’re based on classic comic book archetypes; and 3) they’re mysterious. This third quality is far and away the most important. I don’t know why Prisoner feels the loss of all of his fallen squad-mates, or how he can channel their strength, but he can. I mean, it’s bound to be an essentially magic explanation anyway, so what does it matter? Do I get anything special out of knowing that Vostok prefers isolation because he was fated to be a Cosmonaut? Nope! Is it even to have him say “Sorry, I haven’t spoken in two years” and someone else to say “You been on the moon?” – YOU BET IT IS. That’s just enough information to paint a subtle, bur profoundly fucked up image. Even the extra detail about human contact making him feel weird is super cool. Nothing breaks that spell quite like broadcasting “HE WAS BREED FOR ISOLATION BECAUSE BLAH BLAH BLAH.”
But in my mind, Vostok is the only real stumbling point in this issue. I like the extra little glimpse we get into Operative’s life, simultaneously working for all governments and no governments. There’s also this little moment with his son… what do you make of this Shelby?
Is he trying to protect Aaron from the trouble he knows follows Aquaman? Is he maybe trying to hide the fact that he requires the assistance of a much younger man to keep up? Obviously, he’s not telling Aaron much and is eager to keep it that way. The point is: I like asking these questions, and I just as soon cook up my own answers than read them.
Hey, how about that Ivan Reis? I know we tend to dismiss his work as utilitarian, but this issue really plays to his strengths as an artist. To see what he’s really about, you don’t really need to look any further than the first page.
The Others are arranged in such iconic poses in the shadow of this great mythical treasure – it looks like a movie poster for classic adventure movie. There’s a level of detail in the architecture and the sculpture that go a long way to suggest the specifics of this long-extinct civilization. And then, to top it all off, there are the six Atlantean treasures in sparkling gold. So much reverence and so much potential for adventure. It’s telling that next time the story finds itself in this hall-of-treasures, they commit a two-page spread to showing it off.
Oh and maybe the Dead King of Atlantis sunk the city. Okay, Johns, you got my attention.
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?