Today, Shelby and Michael are discussing Aquaman 15, originally released December 26th, 2012. This issue is part of the Throne of Atlantis event. Click here for all of our ToA coverage.
Shelby: Events are tricky things to handle. On the one hand, you have an opportunity to tell a story on a broader scale; you can involve more characters and build bigger plots. You also get a chance to lure readers to new titles, which can either be see by readers as an introduction to something new, or a cheap trick to make us give DC more money. To some extent, both are true. The real trick to an event, though, is figuring out how to distribute your story, and Geoff Johns is making some choices with Thrones of Atlantis that I find to be interesting to say the least. Just a heads up to you, our gentle readers: don’t make the same mistake I did. If you haven’t read Justice League 15 yet, put this down, go read it, and then come back, otherwise Aquaman 15 isn’t going to make a lick of sense.
Gotham is mostly underwater, as are Metropolis and Boston. Batman is less than pleased with Aquaman, so the two have a little chat about it. Arthur explains how he used to agree totally with Atlantis about how terrible surface dwellers are, and that’s why he wrote these very efficient war plans with his brother. Arthur also decides to not inform Batman or the rest of the League that the end goal of said plans is to sink a major city. The Big Three and Aquaman meet up in the Watchtower to talk to Vulko, and Arthur tells everyone he needs to talk to Orm and explain things; he thinks he can reason with him, make him realize this was all a mistake. Arthur finds Orm in Boston, preparing to sink it, and they have a little chat about it. It goes about as well as one would expect, so Bats, Supes, and Diana step in, which Arthur does not appreciate in the least.
It’s interesting to me the way Johns has split up the action between Aquaman and Justice League, specifically the way he put most of the action in Justice League. This is an Aquaman event, but the floods and danger and excitement are in Justice League. Here we’ve got a lot of clean-up, and a lot of talking about it. I suppose it could be considered further character development for Arthur, which would be appropriate here, but we aren’t really learning anything all that new. I guess it was nice to learn a little more about what happened between Arthur and Orm and why Arthur is no longer the king of Atlantis, but mostly I was a little bored.
The action we did get focused on the rescue attempts by Batman, Aquaman, and Mera in Gotham, and that has got me worried. I find myself on Batman’s side when he disagrees with Arthur on how to handle this whole situation. Yes, it’s true there’s a third party at play and this all seemed to stem from a misunderstanding, but HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE DROWNED.
That’s just in Gotham, by the way; two more major cities were hit, and they didn’t have the advanced warning Gotham did. I can’t believe that, faced with the grim reality of what Orm has done, Arthur still tries to explain the reasoning behind his actions. Sure, it’s his own brother leading his own people, but this is horrific. Clearly, the situation calls for Justice League intervention immediately, while this unknown third party threat is investigated to prevent more wanton death. Aquaman turning on Batman when he tries to enact this reasonable plan? That’s just super dickish. What it really boils down to is the previously ignored strength of Atlantis: do we as readers believe this new HUGE threat? More importantly, is there anything to be done to stop it? Has Johns written himself into a corner with a superpowered force that’s too superpowered?
I don’t know how he does it, but Johns continues to both under- and over-whelm me with his pacing. Seemingly nothing can happen in an issue, and at the same time I can feel like there’s way too much going on, and I’m just not believing it. I think my biggest problem with this event is my waning patience with Aquaman; I’m happy to see the random unsatisfying pieces of previous arcs finally coming into play, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’ve gone through some pretty unsatisfying work on this title. On top of that, the most exciting parts of the story aren’t even being told in this book. I don’t know, what did you think Michael? Am I being overly critical of this title simply because I’m kind of over crossover events, or is this book getting the short end of the stick in it’s own major event?
Michael: Patrick: Surprise! It’s me again! Mike’s dealing with some ceiling collapsage at his parents’ house. We’d send Mera in to clean up but… well, there’s nothing to suggest she can clear snow… Anyway, you got me instead.
This event is unlike any other event we’ve covered at Retcon Punch in one huge way: the whole thing is written by Geoff Johns. After reading both of these issues it’s immediately clear that you can’t just read one series: Part One is Justice League, Part Two is Aquaman, Part Three is Justice League and so on. And while I maybe should be disappointed that this means fans of one series have to pick up the other in order to know what’s going on, I’m trying to imagine an Aquaman fan not reading Justice League (or vice versa). They’re very similar series, with similar strengths and weaknesses (i.e., everyone is a dick).
I also agree that the Big Three probably have the right idea on how to deal with Orm, but — as you mention, Shelby — Atlantis might be impossibly powerful, and not even the combined might of three-sevenths of the Justice League could muscle them into submission. Also, Arthur knows that he’s going to need the power of Atlantis on his side when those awful fish-monster-men come back to the surface looking for MAN FLESH. Plus, Arthur tries to explain over and over that the’s not making excuses for his brother – he’s just letting his Justice League friends know what motivated Atlantis.
Paul Pelleteir is brand-new blood on Aquaman, and while I think he’s got a pretty good handle drawing brooding-Mera, brooding-Arthur and the kind of destruction a tidal wave brings to the streets of Gotham, the rest of the characters look a little strange – particularly Superman and Wonder Woman, both of whom feature heavily here.
Drew was pretty hard on the character work in Justice League 15, and while this issue doesn’t do a lot to improve on that, there are a few interesting morsels here and there. While Aquaman and Batman have been butting heads in the pages of Justice League, it becomes clear for the first time in this issue that this is rooted in Arthur’s deep-seeded respect for Batman. Not only did Aquaman make a specific point of listing Batman as possible threat to Atlantian victory (a surer sign of respect, I cannot imagine), Arthur makes a point of saving Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock. His voiceover says “They’re lucky I saw the light,” referring to the Batsignal. But he made the decision to help the people that were close to that light: allies of the Bat. This mutual respect was all but missing from The Others storyline, and it goes a long way toward giving this relationship a compelling shape.
Apropos of nothing, I like the way Gordon’s glasses are floating between panels on the first page. Nothing say “I NEED HELP NOW” like a missing pair of glasses.
Generally, I’m sort of excited for this miniature event. It is simultaneously more interesting than any of the previous Aquaman arcs and previous Justice League arcs. Given our previous write-ups, that might sound like faint-ass praise. One of my biggest on-going problems with Aquaman is that the most interesting thing about him is his past. Both here and in The Others, the drama stems from who he used to be, not who he is. Aquaman ends up being this character that is constantly in need of redemption for misdeeds we never see him commit. Regret can be a powerful motivator, but if the audience isn’t along for the emotional journey from which the regret spun, the whole exercise rings hallow. There are hints here that Arthur might be regretting his actions with the fish monsters in the Trench story arc – and surely that’s going to come back to bite him in the ass. But again, it’s emotionally muddled, because at the time he was sorta like “maybe I shouldn’t kill these man-eating monsters.” No, no – you take the opportunity to kill said monsters: they suck. At least he’s going to get another crack at it over the next 2 months.
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I like Arthur blaming Batman for choking him. “I’m choking you because YOU MADE ME CHOKE YOU.”
“I want to lead this group and/or choke it.”
Hahaha. Clark, with his super speed and super strength is just letting this happen. “They’ll figure it out.”
I guess I seem to be loving all of this a lot more than most folks. And I totally see Arthur’s clash of viewpoints with Justice League. It’s kind of like this:
Justice League: “Dude, a super-villian attacked the eastern seaboard, this is bad, we gotta take ’em out!”
Aquaman: “Yeah, this is really bad. But it’s not really a super villian, it’s a military conflict. They think we targeted their near-extinct species directly with a big-ass missile. This is all fucked.”
Justice League: “No, bro, you’re just saying that cause it’s your people. Look at the super villian’s funny helmet, he’s a damn super villian if I ever saw one. Haven’t you ever seen the Superman/Aquaman hour?”
Aquaman: “First off, fuck ‘my people.’ Second off, that’s just the fashion down in Atlantis, it’s NOT a villian schtick. Dude is the military leader of a legitimate sovereign nation and this has way more to do with the Cuban Missile Crisis than it does with the Apokolips Invasion. Completely political and military.”
Haha. Introducing the notion of actual diplomacy kind of highlights how nobody ever seems willing to use their words in superhero stories. “Fuck explaining that this was a mistake! I need to punch this guy RIGHT NOW!”
You’re exactly right. I think this event is going to lead directly into the creation of the JLoA as the lines begin to blur between goverment sanctioned heroe action and vigilantism with this military conflict being the main catalyst for the re-evaluation
For the record, I am actually digging this event (in a very big-budget action movie sort of way). The subtleties that it lacks may well work their way in later and I think we’re supposed to feel conflicted about the way the JL is/is not handling this thing (and what’s more, that is coming from an organic place and isn’t shoehorned in at all).
Statements of over-all quality are going to depend on whether or not Johns sticks the landing. He has a history of doing just that, but the skeptic in me is still taking the wait and see approach.
I’m curious about Batman in this crossover. (Trying to move my intense admiration for the character aside) Aquaman has already acknowledged Bruce as being a potential threat even before they joined forces against Darkseid. Bruce has also been keeping tabs on Superman and Wonder Woman, letting the reader assume he is doing the same [most likely on a lesser extent] for the entire League. Johns is reestablishing Bruce’s Tower of Babel-like nature and preparation schemes which Mark Waid and Grant Morrison infused heavily into the character.
My main point is: With Aquaman saying “Yeah, I prepared for you specifically” couldn’t Bruce easily say “Sure, but I’ve also done the same for you and I’ll just take my focused method on stopping you and amplify it to beat the majority of the Atlanteans since I know how you deal with things, plus the League can back me up”
The only potential wildcard here is Ocean Master/Orm since I assume leading Atlantis comes with it’s privileges and uniqueness.
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