Aquaman ANGRY! Aquaman SMASH!
OK, it’s not quite that bad, but man, Geoff Johns really does like darkening up his heroes these days, huh? This collection is a long revenge-fest. Aquaman has many reasons to want Black Manta dead, and he states his goals clearly and repeatedly. I think two or three issues end with Aquaman promising to kill Manta.
That’s not to say Manta doesn’t deserve it. The book opens with him hunting down and GUTTING a former teammate of Aquaman’s from The Others. I’m not sure if Manta meant what he said about filleting the hero’s family, but if he is serious, then his level of villainy just went up to Joker level. And honestly, bad guys that bad do need to be put down. My problem is that I just think that is too far for serial super-comics. If bad guys were doing things that bad, how could they live past one or two confrontations?
The focus of the book is on The Others, a forgotten super-team, these were his teammates before he joined the Justice League. As always, Johns shows off his inherent chops for super-heroes. These characters only need to show up on panel for a panel or two before their archetypical designs and personalities start to shine through. Jungle Woman, super-spy, Russian patriot, supernatural avenger. This is a perfectly built super-team, with all the required roles met and checked off. I’m not sure I could name them all just a few days after reading this book, but they certainly entertain from cover to cover. I think the Russian Vostok might be my favorite. His combination of power but fear of crowds immediately gives him an interesting conflict.
One thing I really appreciate in Johns’ reboot is the power and importance he gives Mera. She’s Aquaman’s wife, and second banana, but it is pretty clear that she’s at least his equal in power, and it sure seems she’s a more level-headed hero at this point too. Actually, amend that, I just remembered that DC announced that the two of them aren’t married, because married heroes are too boring. So I guess that makes her his queen, but not necessarily wife. I’m sure all the mythical kids reading this violent, gory comic are a lot more likely to connect with the heroes since they are boring and married like old people. Ugh.
Ivan Reis is on art for this collection, and his work remains solid. As I said, the character designs for The Others is so good, it feels like I should already know all these heroes. They’ve got iconic, classic looks that look modern too. I gotta say, they don’t look particularly “new 52” to me, though. Not enough collar or lines on the uniforms. Reis has drawn Black Manta before, but man, that guy looks threatening for a big-headed swimmer. I also like that Reis draws Mera a bit slimmer than the average overdeveloped superheroine.
This is one of the better new 52 books, people. It is violent, gory, and fairly mean-spirited. It is based on betrayals, past mistakes, and “everything you know is wrong!” type reveals. For me, that means this is only a FAIR comic, but maybe it is more your cup of tea.