Aquaman 20

aquaman 20

Today, Shelby and Mikyzptlk are discussing Aquaman 20, originally released May 29th, 2013.

Shelby: An interlude is a mini bit of music, inserted in the middle of a larger musical composition. Like an intermission, except you don’t get to go to the lobby to stretch your legs and stand in the bathroom line for 15 minutes. If we’re talking a theatrical interlude, it’s a little play squished between acts of a bigger play; why we wouldn’t just keep watching the regular play, I couldn’t tell you. I may not see the necessity of an interlude as a member of the audience, but sometimes the entertainers just need a 15 minute breather, and I guess providing some sort of filler entertainment is considerate. But if you’re going to stop the action for something completely different that isn’t especially good, don’t be surprised if I walk out before the second act.

In case you didn’t guess, this issue of Aquaman is a little interlude with what’s left of the Others: Ya’wara, Prisoner of War, and The Operative. Aquaman sends them on a little quest to retrieve an Atlantean power glove that’s in the Arizona desert. What they don’t know is the glove is being used by a skinwalker, a Navajo witch who can take on the form of any animal. This particular skinwalker wants to use his powers plus the power glove to break into a cave that used to house a city of skinwalkers, but was walled-up by the thunder beings. How do we know all this? From Sky Alchesay, a young medicine woman who can talk to the dead, including Kahina and Vostok. Sky and the Others find the skinwalker, and between the Atlantean artifacts and Sky’s link to the ghost world, take him out and reseal the cave. Sky keeps Kahina’s artifact as a gift, and the Others presumably get another all-seeing, all-knowing member of the team to call on when they need her.

Lots of problems with this issue. Problem one is right on the cover, before you even open the book; this issue is credited to Geoff Johns, with Paul Pelletier and Sean Parsons on art. Oops, turns out it was actually written by John Ostrander with pencils by Manuel Garcia. Mistakes like that frustrate the hell out of me; it’s sloppy and unprofessional. Does DC care so little for its creatives that it can’t be bothered to make sure the right people are credited for their work?

Things don’t get any better on the inside of the book, unfortunately. Garcia’s style is almost doll-like, rendering the men like G.I. Joes (the toys, specifically), and Ya’wara some sort of doll, with a too-large head and a body that strains her already ridiculous costume to it’s outermost limits.

the rest of the others

I thought angryface Ya’wara was bad, but pouty Ya’wara is way, way worse. At least when she was always angry she was also fierce and strong. And I HATE Ostrander’s reveal that Ya’wara was secretly in love with Kahina. Ostrander is just ignoring all the sexual tension between Arthur and Ya’wara that Johns wrote in his Others arc. True, it pitted angry Ya’wara against angry Mera in a way that made me roll my eyes, but come on, an unrequited lesbian love? It’s out of the blue, out of character for Ya’wara, and very clearly included just for the sake of including it. Are there really no better ways for Sky to convince Ya’wara that Kahina wanted her to have the seal?

This issue suffers heavily from sloppy storytelling. Not only is the entire skinwalker plot driven by exposition-heavy dialogue, it’s delivered by a new character I don’t care about at all as information she just knows. This is a reflection of a problem with the comic book medium as a whole: totally omniscient characters are boring. If a character is literally all-seeing and all-knowing, where’s the conflict? The opportunities for growth? The mystery of an unknown plot? Sky being able to pop in and matter-of-factly state the solution to the whole conflict renders the rest of the story meaningless.

The only bit of this issue I found interesting was Sky’s statement that the new owner of Vostok’s helmet was “still underground” and “not ready.” My first thought for this unknown member of the team was Swatt, the Atlantean Murk and Tula want to use to break Orm out of prison. While the helmet would come in handy for that whole inexplicably-unable-to-breath-underwater thing he’s got going on, I don’t know if Johns would want to put two Atlanteans on the team. Aside from that one bit of speculation, for me this issue was a total dud. Johns may be trying to stretch things out in Aquaman to get things to line up right for the upcoming Trinity War, but I found this issue to be more of a wasted opportunity than anything else. I mean, after all that work, I don’t even think the team recovered the power glove.

Mikyzptlk: Shit, do we still have to read about The Others? I thought we were done with them. Oh well, here we are again. As you can probably tell by now, my opinion of this issue is not going to be that much better than Shelby’s. Here’s the thing, I felt that the issue read smoothly enough. I mean, the action was actually alright, and I was intrigued by the nature of the threat. I love the concept of Skinwalker’s in general. Shows like Supernatural and True Blood have entertained me with their versions, so I was excited to see how they would be handled within the confines of Aquaman.

SkinWalker

As far as monsters go, this one’s not terrible. This guy has a pretty straightforward and decidedly evil plan. Were he to succeed, it would mean very bad things for not only the world’s heroes, but the world in general. The only problem is, as you might have guessed, I don’t care about The Others! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve tried to get on board with the team, but I haven’t and, at this point, I’m tired of trying. Regardless of whether I buy into the threat of the Skinwalker, it doesn’t matter because the fate of The Others is of no consequence to me. Actually -and this may be harsh- I might have preferred seeing the Skinwalker take everyone out!

Shelby, you are completely right about the power glove. Everything else is child’s play. Oh no wait, that wasn’t the point I was trying to make. Where was I? Oh yes, The Others seem to forget about their mission don’t they? While it’s true that they stop the bad guy and save the day, they seemingly leave the glove, an artifact of immeasurable power, just lying around. Throughout the course of the fight, Uncle Skinwalker loses the glove. However, that moment is illustrated from such a distant vantage point that I didn’t even notice it at first.

Where's the glove

The glove gets completely lost in the background and with everything else that is going on up front. Now, it’s possible that this is actually the point, and that Geoff Johns -OH SORRY- John Ostrander fully intended the glove be lost. Either way, it ultimately means a failure on the part of The Others. Which, sadly, does not do much to improve my opinion of them, or this issue for that matter.

Can we please get back to King Freezer-Burn now?

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?

13 comments on “Aquaman 20

  1. My problem with the skinwalker plot is that I didn’t care in the least about it. If the skinwalker had been threatening The Others and was somewhat relevant to the characters I know, that would have been one thing. But to find out (in one issue!) that the skinwalker is the uncle of Sky and copatriot of her brother who is stuck trying to balance his Caucasian side with his Native side and that also it was the skinwalker who killed Sky’s mother in the first place? Too much plot revolving around unknown characters.

    • Yeah, I mean, I didn’t care about it either. You make a great point though, in that you might have cared if the skinwalker was actually after The Others. That would have made a better story for those who actually are into them. For me though, it still would have been a monster attacking a group of heroes I don’t particularly care about. I know they explained why, but Aquaman couldn’t even be bothered for this mission, why the hell should I be?

      Maybe Aquaman should find a water-generating hero to add to The Others mix…would solve some problems.

      • Part of the problem is that The Others are most interesting when they’re a weird part of Arthur’s past, and not an active part of his present. They have to represent the dude he used to be, or they’re just another shitty superhero team (and Aquaman’s already on one of those).

        I maintain that a The Others series that takes place years ago, and features young, angry reclusive Arthur Curry, could be a fun series. The characters aren’t bad – in fact, they’re based on some interesting old comic tropes that aren’t being used that much any more (plus, come on, Prisoner channels the powers of his dead teammates? LOVE IT).

  2. I don’t know, I thought it was a fun little adventure side-story. Sure, I’d rather be back in Atlantis and seeing what’s up with the Scavenger and all, but given that Johns is understandably busy with his big events in literally every other title he writes, an interlude like this is a necessary diversion.

    But for what it was, I had fun with it. Maybe because I really like the Others as characters.

    • Yeah, I wasn’t looking forward to this intermission that much, especially since I already think the current storyline in Aquaman is moving a little too slow to begin with, but I basically ended up enjoying it.

      I really like the Others too, so maybe that’s it. I thought it was pretty interesting that Ostrander moved along some ongoing plot threads among the group–helping Prisoner of War learn more about the ghosts under his command and revealing more about the Operative’s back story that will probably come up later. I wonder if these were points Johns left for him or if Ostrander took it upon himself to stick these scenes in?

      I can’t really deny any of the faults you guys brought up, and I admit, I had trouble following some of the details of this issue’s plot even if I understood the broad strokes, but still, I walked away from it pretty satisfied. For a last minute intermission that could have easily been an “inventory issue” type situation, I think they even handled the in-story reason for the sidetracking well.

  3. Does Arthur’s belt buckle always look that much like the letter A? I remember it just being that Atalantian crest-looking thing. I suppose it’s almost an A anyway, but it looks particularly cheesy in that image Shelby posted.

    • In the silver age it was a straight-up A, like pictured, but the redesigned version took a “that’s not really an ‘S’ on Superman’s chest” approach and made it an Atlantian glyph that JUST SO HAPPENS to look like an A

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