Hey, remember how I said I was kind of impressed by Aquaman Issue 1? If you read that review, you don't have to read any further here. Just take all of the things I liked about that issue and flip everything to the reverse and you've got this week's review. No need to thank me for the time you saved. Maybe go listen to this week's new 'Super S' podcast or something. For those who stuck around, yeah, this book took a great start and decided to bomb it all back to the Aqua Stone Age. When we last left off, Black Manta had sprung a terrorist attack on Aquaman's new Atlantis/Surface embassy in an attempt to both destroy Arthur's reputation and sanity. Civilians are dead, Mera is injured, and Aquaman and Black Manta are in a fight to the death in the collapsing embassy. Pretty big opener for an Issue 1, right? Got to have something pretty daring to follow that up with, right?
Apparently, fuck no.
Black Manta, who swore to kill Mera to drive Aquaman insane, basically just stands around while Arthur lets Mera get evacuated from the battle. Aquaman tries to reason with Black Manta by saying one of the dumbest things I've heard said to a man trying to kill you: “As long as [our hate for each other] persists, one of us will kill the other!”. Mind you, by this point, Arthur has a harpoon stuck in his shoulder that Black Manta just fired into him. Then Aquaman removes the harpoon head by pushing the thicker barbed part that wasn't lodged in his body through his shoulder, rather than simply pulling the thin lance part that actually was in him. Good job, buddy.
Then comes page after page of Aquaman telling Black Manta that killing his dad helped him be a better person, which is a terrible way to try to calm a guy down who is trying to kill you for killing his dad. Then Aquaman gets the upper hand, ready to execute Black Manta who says he will never stop trying to destroy him. Black Manta says some bullshit about Aquaman stopping being Aquaman if he takes a life, which seems contradictory to recent Aquaman storytelling, but what do I know, I'm not exactly an Aquaexpert. So Aquaman's like 'hey, two can play this stupid game' and literally hands his trident over to Black Manta to put to HIS neck, and tells him that he won't have any purpose in life if he doesn't have that 9 to 5 killing Aquaman job anymore. Which is true, which is why Black Manta's whole goal at the beginning of this story was to drive Sea King koo-koo by killing Mera, but fuck, if you don't put stuff like that down in a daily planner you'll forget it during the drive home. Black Manta cries like a bitch and lets himself get arrested, which he is then broken out of like a block down the road by some mysterious folks who apparently didn't get the memo that Black Manta just became as intimidating as Lucas “Snapper” Carr.
Also, the artist changed. Yeah, that artist I really liked which was probably 60% of my enjoyment of the first issue. The former artist still does the cover, that old switcheroo everyone loves so much, that folks like DC should, but aren't, above pulling. The new art isn't completely terrible, but suffers massively in contrast to the poppy energetic work Brad Walker was doing, and features some comically bad perspective issues. There are legitimate reasons to change artists mid-series; the unfortunate departure of the introductory Karnak artist due to serious unavoidable changes in his life are one, but change the damn cover to reflect it or else it feels like you are playing tagteam to milk my wallet.
So in two issues, what has this team done? They've managed to emasculate and delegitimize the only Aquaman villian anybody cares about after talking him up to be pulling some endgame shit on Arthur. They managed to waste a perfectly good storyline title (“The Drowning” deserves something a bit better than a bloodless tussle in a wave pool). They managed to lose their most talented artist after one issue. Aaaaand they managed to not set up or tear down any status quo that wasn't in place in the first issue to start with.
But most of all, they proved something that by now DC readers are more than familiar with: starting a story is easy, ending it is not. This story started on a good note, promising us a kind of Aquaman story we so rarely get: one that we might think about reading maybe. One that might have sort-of consequences. This ending, one issue after it started, is like drinking sea water. It looked so good from the outside as a thirsty man, but once it goes down you realize it was a horrible mistake and are just left more desperate for a drink than before.
[su_box title="Score: 1/5" style="glass" box_color="#8955ab" radius="6"]