Today, Mikyzptlk and Patrick are discussing Aquaman 14, originally released November 28th, 2012. This issue is part of the Throne of Atlantis event. Click here for all of our ToA coverage.
Mikyzptlk: There’s been some internal discussion of whether or not the “Throne of Atlantis” storyline should be considered an event. Some of us here have grown tired of DC’s seemingly endless run of events and I can’t really blame them. The comic book “event” is a double edged sword. While they definitely bring attention and increased sales to the books that are involved, they tend to get bloated with needless tie-ins, many of which are written by writers who may not be nearly as talented as the showrunners themselves. The current Batman event “Death of the Family” is a good example of this. Compare some of the “DotF” tie-ins to the main series and you’ll know what I mean. Fortunately for “ToA,” the entire story is being handled by the one and only Geoff Johns, so we shouldn’t have to worry about any bloating. In fact, as it’s only 6 issues (3 in Aquaman and 3 in Justice League) some may consider it more of a crossover than an event. Regardless of that, however, Johns gives us something that feels like a big event, with a prologue that is both foreboding and fairly intense in a mostly quiet way. I think it’s safe to say that I actually enjoyed this issue more than any other so far and it’s gotten me pretty psyched for the “events” to come.
The issue opens in the year 1820 on a friggin’ sailboat in the middle of a pretty intense storm. A crewman fires a harpoon gun into the sea and captures a seemingly familiar looking, aquatically themed blonde dude. They haul this Aquadude up and explain that they’ve killed his “sea hag” and aren’t planning on being any nicer to him. Before the seamen (tee-hee) know it, they are attacked and find themselves surrounded by other Atlaneans. In the present, Aquaman requests a secret meeting with his brother Orm AKA the king of Atlantis. Arthur asks his brother if he had anything to do with Black Manta’s attacks in the previous issues and if he’s planning to attack the surface to which Orm replies “Of course not.” Meanwhile in Belle Reve, Black Manta is offered the chance to join the Suicide Squad. He responds violently with some violence and Amanda Waller takes that as a firm “no.” The issue ends with someone freeing “The Trench” monsters with what looks to be the missing Atlantean scepter.
As you can probably tell, I really enjoyed this issue. And if you are as a big a fan of Aquaman as I am, then you probably know just how relieved I am to be able to say that. From beginning to end, this issue had me hooked. I absolutely loved the flashback sequence and how it played into Orm’s discussion with Arthur. It turns out that “Aquadude” I mentioned was their great-grandfather and former king. The Atlanteans got their revenge by throwing the crewmen into the sea and WAITING FOR THEM TO DROWN. That is so hardcore! Orm concludes this story by saying that the Atlanteans have the power to sink every human vessel in the sea. Yep, all of them. That is so hardcore-er! Johns really drives home the point of just how threatening the Atlanteans can be to the human world and sets up some very entertaining tension. My favorite thing about this whole exchange was just how quiet it all was. Johns could have easily had Arthur and Orm throw a punch or two just to spice things up a bit. These two haven’t always had the best relationship in the past so it wouldn’t have been out of place. Instead, Johns chooses to build the tension quietly and it’s the most effective storytelling I’ve seen on this title since its debut. Just take a look at the establishing shot of Arthur and Orm’s conversation. It’s beautiful and serene but pretty haunting all the same.
The art in this issue was provided by the team of Pete Woods and Pere Perez. They both do a decent job here and while I found some of the Black Manta scenes to be a bit sloppy I enjoyed it for the most part. Tony Avina was the colorist of this issue and I’m definitely a fan of his work here. The ship wreck scene from above is absolutely gorgeous and I really dig the shine that he gives to Aquaman’s shirt throughout the issue. Here he is now!
Well Patrick, am I alone on this one or were you a fan of this issue too? I didn’t even get into the Black Manta stuff really, I loved how he handled Waller’s invitation in Belle Reve. It’s clear that even though he’s captured, he’s still going to be a player in “ToA.” There was also a reference to a certain someone who has yet to make his New 52 debut that I’m really excited about. Finally, I’m really intrigued by who has the Dead King’s scepter and what they plan on doing with all of those “Trenchsters.”
Patrick: There’s no need to be coy, Mik, we’re talking about Aqualad – one of those characters largely believed to be lost in the reboot: the boy with purple eyes, said to be capable of bringing about the ruin of Atlantis. I don’t have any particular emotional investment in Garth, but I am interested to see how the fan community reacts to the character being reintroduced. It’s a titillating little breadcrumb, and I wonder whether Garth figures into the mystery unfolding here or if that’s just a fun easter egg for DC fans.
One of the complaints I’ve registered in this space time and again is that Aquaman himself is a character unworthy of our sympathies. He’s presented as a testy jerk, quick to violence and unwilling to work with anyone (even his friends). In fact, the more we got to see his social circle (Mira, Dr. Shin, The Others) or his past, the bigger of an asshole he became. Arthur’s chat with Orm is the most rational we’ve seen the character in 15 issues. And he manages to maintain that signature assertiveness that so frequently comes off as rude. I’m talking very specifically about the moment Aquaman can’t dance around his suspicions any longer and just asks outright:
It turns out that having an Aquaman I can get excited about means having an Aquaman I can get excited about.
I am also really impressed by the story about Arthur and Orm’s great grandfather. Johns may be a master-plotter, but it is not often that I praise his ability to weave subtler themes into his narratives. This 1820s flashback establishes a long history of land vs. sea conflicts. In the re-telling, Orm chooses to emphasize that the fate of ship could easily be levied against all of the land-lubbers’ ships – it is only through the mercy of Atlanteans that humans are allowed to live. But there’s that weird little detail that the captain asked to be returned to his ship so he could drown as dictated by his duty. This is the part of the story Arthur chooses to highlight. I don’t totally know what it means, but there’s an ambiguity here that we’ve not seen in this adventure-driven series.
Hey, why is Ocean Master always cloaked in shadows? The only good look we get at the guy is on the cover of the issue. It’s so weird. I mean, right? We already know who that is – what’s the point of obscuring his face? It’s so pervasive that I assume it’s dictated by Johns’ script and not just a dramatic choice made by Woods and Perez.
You know what’s nice? Seeing someone tell Amanda Waller to fuck off, that’s what. I can’t tell if his outright refusal to join Suicide Squad is meant as a subtle jab at that crummy series, of if I’m projecting.
But that whole sequence sorta smacks of meta-commentary – notice how the guards appear to be reading off Manta’s stat sheet. “Look, right there… Real Name: Unknown. A treasure hunter and primary adversary of Aquaman…” It’s fitting that both Manta and Cheetah are interned at Belle Reve Prison – they’re part of a collection of baddies. They’re like action figures being amassed for an all-out fight against the heroes. I forget who else is jailed here, but I know we’ve sent a fair number of baddies from lots of different series to this one prison. It might be fun to generate a list in the comments. Come on, guys, who all is in Belle Reve right now?
That’s the kind of thing that I’m excited about. I may have bitched about the stories that led us to this point, but there’s very little piece-moving in this issue. Everything is already in place and wired to explode, and that allowed this issue some space to breathe. I appreciate the whole ‘calm before the storm’ vibe – it’s reminiscent to the first issue of Blackest Night, but I’m thrilled to think about all that storm that’s going to be crammed into the next 5 issues.
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?