Aquaman 14

aquaman14 Throne

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.

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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.”

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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.

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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?

21 comments on “Aquaman 14

  1. Yes! Aquaman wasn’t a total jerk for no reason in this issue! That’s part of what I meant when I was discussing his and Orm’s conversation. I actually recognize this Aquaman for the first time since the New 52 began. I hope we get to see more of this Arthur moving forward.

    Also, I LOVED the design they chose for great-grandaddy Aquaman. He looks JUST like harpoon-hand Aquaman from the 90’s. The blue shirt is also a nice reference to Arthur’s rarely seen (on him at least) blue costume from the late 80’s.

    Those references to what came before do A LOT to get me into the current story.

  2. Let us not forget: Cheetah got herself put in Belle Reve on purpose, to wait for Black Manta. She’s got some sort of orders.

    • Yeah, Orm is or at least will be Ocean Master. And yeah, shadow guy is Orm. I’m with Patrick on this one, I’m not sure why they were being so secretive about something that clearly isn’t a secret.

      • I thought it was kind of funny.

        “No Arthur, clearly I’m not the villain mastermind. Why am I always in the shadows? Uh…I’m just having a really bad breakout. Nothing sinister about it, no sir.”

        • “Of course not.” Haha, yeah right Orm, you ain’t foolin’ nobody. ‘Cept Aquaman apparently. Really though, it’s clear that Orm actually cares about his brother and that he really doesn’t want anything bad to happen to him. It’s also clear that this dude is totally going to try to take over the world. I happen to like both things about this character quite a bit.

        • It’s because he was lip-synching. It’s like a Cyrano thing.

          Seriously, though, having his face in perpetual shadow made him seem mustache-twirlingly evil.

        • Did you find that to be a good or bad thing? I mean, he is a villain after all, but did you think this was heavy handed or did you find that it served the story well?

        • I definitely thought it was heavy-handed, but how much depends on Arthur’s subjectivity. Like, it’s clear that Arthur doesn’t really trust Orm here, but are the shadows a reflection of that, or does he not trust him ’cause he’s so shady (literally) looking?

  3. I really like Orm being this overly chill guy behind the scenes. He’s too cool even to come out of the shadows. Both are interesting foils to Aquaman’s tempered rage and sunshiny color palette.

    And now I wait for the brothers to wage war on one another, as all brothers do in one way or another.

    • Yeah man, I really REALLY like the way that Johns is playing these characters off of each other. It’s so much more interesting than “You are my evil brother and I vow to defeat you!” and “I am an evil dude and I will take over the world!” This issue really did a great job of getting me excited for this story. I can’t wait either!

  4. Welly welly welly, with all the major Aquaman cast falling into place – Arthur, Mera, Vulko, and now Garth – it seems that they’re setting this arc up to restore Aquaman as king of Atlantis. Historically I have found this status quo to be exciting, because it allows for Aquaman to shine predominantly-underwater adventures while still allowing for a city’s worth of sea dwelling characters for political intrigue and the types of things you don’t associate with underwater adventure

    • It seems like you are in a good mood about this issue Mogo. I’m glad to see that! I’m also a fan of “King Arthur” and I’m always up for a little political intrigue. Greg Rucka was the master of that when he wrote Wonder Woman. If Johns decides to go down that route and is even half as good as Rucka then I think it would an interesting route to take with this series. I’d love to see Atlantis go up against ARGUS and the JLA or at least have there be tension between the groups that builds to an eventual confrontation. Though we may be seeing Atlantis vs. the world in “ToA” which could perhaps lead Arthur to the throne.

      • Haha, yeah, well… I’ve been in a great mood since Aquaman got his new solo, period 🙂 The only time I’ve ever been so excited about a creative team being on Aquaman was when Busiek and Juice were on the title, and as much as I like that run of the book for what it is, the whole Arthur Joseph status quo felt really bizarre. So to get something here from Johns and the Reis bros that mined Aquaman past for something more definitive. There was rumor before that Johns was leaving when the Reis bros did and I’m really glad it turned out to be false… I think he is really starting to heat up with the character, and letting Pelletier take over makes the whole thing seem sustainable. It’s most exciting that Aquaman has had such a turbulant publishing history and now he’s in the hands of a guy famous for super long runs who can guarantee way more than just the required sales for a book like Aquaman

  5. I dropped this title after the first arc — it just wasn’t doing anything for me. I picked it up again these last few months, and again, I just wanted to drop it, but this issue actually has me excited for this next arc. It makes me super happy that ToA wont be a total chore.

    • Yeah Drew, I’m so relieved to be enjoying this title for once. I love Aquaman in general and Geoff Johns for that matter so it’s been difficult not enjoying this (or Justice League). I’m hoping that this whole event is a turn for the better for both series.

  6. This is the first issue of this title I’ve picked up (since it ties into Justice League, and I’m already reading that), and I really enjoyed it a lot. They’ve got me for the crossover, and perhaps even afterwards if they keep this sort of quality up.

    Also, what kind of nitwit brings Black Manta his helmet? You think Waller would hire smarter people if they’re going to be bargaining with A-List supervillains.

    • Yeah, he seems to bring Manta his helmet for the sole purpose of helping Manta WHICH IS DUMB. I’m also not sure it’s necessary. Wouldn’t we have gotten the same effect — that Manta is a badass — if he had just beaten the guy up with his bare hands (which he ends up doing, anyway)?

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