What? Two group reviews this week? That’s right and just like our group review for The Flash: Rebirth #1, we’ve limited this group review to just five people. Let’s dive in… pun intended.
[su_quote]Synopsis: Aquaman is fighting some rebels while an unseen figure narrates his entire life to us. Who’s our mystery narrator? Does Mera like Clam Chowder? Is Arthur Curry a land lover? All this and water in the first issue of Aquaman![/su_quote]
Abnett writes a comic that insists on emphasizing the fact that Aquaman is more of a punchline in pop culture than anything else. Ironically, rather than showing us why we ought to take Aquaman seriously, he demonstrates one of the reasons it's so easy to make fun of Aquaman: there's nothing exciting or original being written for him. Abnett continues, one caption-filled page after the next, to insist that Aquaman lives a divided existence between being a monarch of Atlantis and a hero on earth. But double lives are the core feature of most if not all major super heroes. Spending so much time trying to dig Aquaman out of a hole he's earned from years of subpar stories just makes the comic feel like a cheap sales pitch rather than a substantive new beginning for the character.
And the visuals are a mess. I get it: blue and green because "ocean." But the colors are so damn saturated. Every action sequence feels intensely stilted as a result, and some of the sequences even feel jumbled because the layouts often switch up for reasons that don't serve the rhythm of the narrative at all. The reader will find their eyes dragged to weird places in a weird order all while getting exposition about stuff they could have gleaned from a fan wiki on the character.
Contrary to a lot of people, I’ve always like Aquaman, even though he has been a punchline in pop culture for a very long time. I was happy that DC addressed this fact in Aquaman: Rebirth. The whole story goes by pretty fast. In a short time, we’re reminded of Arthur Curry’s philosophy. Heavy is the head that wear the crown because he’s torn between being Atlantis’ king and earth’s hero. His struggle comes when he does what he believes is best for everyone. All of the scenes were paced concisely and no page was wasted. There’s also a mysterious narration throughout the book which pays off with a great cliffhanger. I appreciated that this issue is filled with almost non-stop action which ceases only to fill in the blanks about the political effects Aquaman’s battle will have on his people. It helps us get a peek into his head and all the things he has to consider before making a move.
It’s interesting to see a superhero who is so polarizing among the people he’s trying to protect. By acknowledging that Aquaman isn’t popular, it gives the future series a clear direction. He’s complex. Another aspect I enjoy about this book is that it touches on the fact that Aquaman is royalty. Unlike the other members of the Justice League, he is the leader of an entire nation. These are the layers that I hope get explored more as DC moves forward with this new arc of Aquaman.
Oof, this was a rough one. I love Dan Abnett (New Deadwardians and Wild's End are modern classics), but nothing much about this issue worked. Problem number one was that it followed the formula of Rebirth issues without variation. It established a continuity, reflected on some meta elements of that continuity, really, really awkwardly foreshadowed the story to come, and ended with a reveal of a villain monologuing about evil. It's actually the exact same issue as this week's 'Detective Comics #934'. Unfortunately, it's just too dry and generic to go beyond that formula and do something interesting.
It's a herculean task to make a fictional bureaucracy full of royal intrigue interesting (see every Inhumans book to date), and the portions of the book that talk about Atlantis and the various tribes and figures are the comics equivalent of mushy, un-sugared oatmeal. Then the book takes an odd turn that also doesn't work very well--it addresses Aquaman's memetic status as a joke. This portion is way too on the nose as it tries to tell the reader directly that talking to fish and riding seahorses are besmirchments on Arthur's good name. Apparently the old cartoon even exists in this universe for some reason...
The idea floated (heh, wordplay) by the issue is that Aquaman is unloved as a powerful ruler and as walking joke, but when neither half of the issue works, it makes for a slog.
Believe it or not, this was the Rebirth one-shot I was looking forward to the most. I think it’s safe to say that no other member of the Justice League is as under-utilized, undervalued, and misunderstood as the King of Atlantis and I was excited to see what new life would be breathed into Arthur Curry. After reading through this first attempt, however, it would appear that writer Dan Abnett has speared himself a dead fish.
Flashback with me for a moment: did you ever have to write a foot-note citation paper or have to read one? So you know how they’re literally the most fucking horrid way of having to write/read? Well that’s what reading through Aquaman: Rebirth is like. Every little piece of dialogue has its own aside, explaining context, origin and meaning; it’s painful. Not only that but it’s extremely self-deprecating, like making fun yourself before others have the opportunity to. Abnett is fighting the pot-shots of the past when he should be discarding them completely. If you don’t want the readers to think Aquaman is a wimpy, useless, lame character, don’t merely tell us how he isn’t, show us how he can be a complete and total badass! One final note, did anyone else find it a little messed up that the King of the Ocean was eating clam chowder? That’s kind of dark when you think about it, no?
The only redeeming aspect of this issue was the art. Scot Eaton and Oscar Jimenez: holy freaking crap. There are no words; that is how comics should look. The detail, the colour, everything is absolutely top notch; beautiful effort. I wish the same could be said about the writing which quite frankly pales in comparison.
This issue is actually pretty good. I think that Dan Abnett does an incredible job of not only recapping everything that has happened with Aquaman since the New 52, but then adding somewhere for the series to go. If it goes where it alludes, then this might just be a great book. But it’s not perfect. While the narration is strong, it’s a bit too informative when we meet the person delivering it. The dialogue, on the other hand, is pretty weak. The threat of the story feels like a pointless backdrop just so we can talk over it and nothing more. I’m curious about this series and that’s saying a lot considering it’s Aquaman. I didn’t like the fact that this is the second relaunch of this title and the second time that they’ve brought up the fact that he’s viewed as a joke to fans and the average person… no amount of meta is going to change that, you just have to tell great stories with the character and it will change on its own.
The art for this issue is both good and bad. At times I liked it. Aquaman’s face looks different every other panel and never really consistent. It makes it look like seventeen people illustrated this issue and that’s not what anyone wants to see. I don’t know if it was intentional to match the subject of the narration, but it didn’t work. When it’s subtle like that, it comes off like a mistake. I think the art might end up being the thing that hurts this book rather than the story. Otherwise, I actually liked this issue and if the art was just a bit more consistent I would have scored it higher. That’s how close it was.
[su_box title="Aquaman: Rebirth #1" style="glass" box_color="#8955ab" radius="6"]
Writer: Dan Abnett
Artists: Scot Eaton & Oscar Jimenez
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: 6/8/16
Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital