Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Paul Pelletier
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain
“I’m going to make a prediction, and even if my crystal ball has more clouds than clarity this is a belief I hold to the core of my being: Geoff Johns will one day helm the DC comic line as Editor-in-Chief (if he so chooses).” Optimous Douche, February 2010
I didn’t fully understand the implications of this prediction when I made it that cold February morn. I figured if my words became true, it would be in the contextual model of business as usual. Once Johns had some more salt and pepper on his temples, he would take the top spot from Didio and, like Dan, occasionally write a few books.
I of course got wrong the instilling of a holy trinity in control, the folding of the comic line under the main WB banner, the Hollywooding of the comic line which will come to full fruition once the NY offices close, and of course Johns’ true control title of Chief Creative Officer.
What reality has wrought is AQUAMAN #25: basically the end of Geoff scribing monthly books, presumably to give the other media channels in the WB a fighting chance against the miraculous Marvel movie machine. Honestly, with the casting away of GREEN LANTERN and there being no real Justice Society except on EARTH 2 the only thing left pouring out of Geoff’s keyboard is JUSTICE LEAGUE.
It’s been a great run, but good-byes are always sad, this one even more so for the reasons I just mentioned. It’s one thing when a writer leaves a title; it’s another thing altogether when a beloved writer is absconded from the bullpen to be locked away in the executive ivory tower.
Out of all the New 52 offerings, I’ve found AQUAMAN to be the most intriguing. I never personally cared about the character outside of small snippets by seminal writers. Johns kept me engaged, though, for 25 issues. Not all DC titles had the same consistent staying power being printed or making it into my longbox.
It was touch and go at first: I dug the perpetual fish out of water jokes because I’ve made plenty and I find suffering at someone else’s expense sort of hilarious. After a few issues, though, I got in line with the purists – the waaa waaaa Charlie Brown walk off can’t work forever for a hero. It’s one more joke, not a symphony. What kept me in the game, though, was the true heart Geoff was bringing to the title with Mera being Arthur’s continued champion in the face of ridicule. Any man who has found a good partner knows how much their smile can brighten even the gloomiest of days.
Also, it was great watching the king shun the ocean for life as a landlubber until destiny had a different idea. “Just when I’m out, they pull me back in”, lamented Michael Corleone, and I think it resonates here as well. Great men simply can’t escape being great.
The return to the sea was just as engaging: the perceived betrayal by Vulko, the actual betrayal by the men who helped Arthur acclimate to life on land, THRONE OF ATLANTIS that wiped out half the Eastern seaboard and resuscitated the JUSTICE LEAGUE’s anemic storyline, and this final battle with the Dead King made this reporter consistently care about the DC life aquatic for the first time in 25 years of comic collecting.
Johns gives us a satisfying conclusion to the Dead King saga. Some of it was expected, like Arthur regaining the throne, Vulko being absolved of wrongdoing because of his fierce devotion to Arthur’s line, and finally Arthur and Mera living happily ever after. Some events were surprising, like the little black guys from the trench being one of the seven sunken kingdoms of Atlantis and fighting by Arthur’s side once he flashes a little bit of scepter; also, the king of Xebel showing up looking for a fight to launch the next arc. Some of it was WTF inducing, like Orm now shacking up with a woman he helped during FOREVER EVIL. I always thought Orm hated us land-dwellers, but I’ll admit I could have missed something in the deluge of event books.
I’ll admit now, I fear for the future. Books seem to lose some staying power when other writers are plopped into Johns’ plotlines. Johns lays down so many different tangents crafted by his unique voice, it’s akin to other writers trying to pick up after Claremont left X-MEN. Writing a title and marrying it are two different experiences; the prior produces a few trades while the latter inexorably changes the character and the universe for years to come. Anyone trying to pick up after Johns walks away is left with the latter, after he has mined the grandeur dry, leaving only fragments of mediocrity for follow-up. I might be wrong this time. Make that, I hope I’m wrong this time. I’m not done with AQUAMAN, even if Geoff is. I thank Geoff for his time and service, and I truly wish him his heart’s desire moving forward. I would caution, though, to never fully abandon the rocket boosters that helped him leave orbit.
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Paul Pelletier
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)
Stop. Go read JUSTICE LEAGUE 15 or at least my review of it. Because while you can read the books independent of one another – you’ll get the steak, but completely miss the sizzle. This chapter of Throne of Atlantis chronicles the moments after disaster, when heroes shine and villains opportunely strike.
I haven’t been able to get enough of AQUAMAN since the New 52 started, and this comes from a man whose only prior exposure was Superfriends and Underoos. Johns successfully used self-deprecation to hold a mirror up to readers’ chides against the book, then threw in a love story and a life straddled between two worlds to make this Atlantean one of the most human characters in DC.
Now, Aquaman leaves his cocoon of success to collide with one of the divisive titles despite being the keystone of the New 52. I already went through the past issues with JUSTICE LEAGUE in my issue 15 review, but after writing that review then reading AQUAMAN I had another epiphany. JUSTICE LEAGUE needed the focus of a Thrones of Atlantis type story to slow the hell down and focus on one character instead of trying to be all things to every character. The shallowness lied in the fact we never spent enough solitary time with each member. We needed to see heroes reach out for a helping hand from their…well…super friends. The best moments of JUSTICE LEAGUE has been the romance between Superman and Wonder Woman and now AQUAMAN’S turmoil, to me that seems like a pretty good amount of proof to keep with this cadence.
This issue was all about the one-liners. And I don’t mean that in a jokey sense. Where JUSTICE LEAGUE was the Michael Bay (but good) destruction of the Eastern seaboard, this issue focuses on the needed exposition for anyone who hasn’t read JUSTICE LEAGUE yet and a turning of the tables to keep us guessing until next month. By far the best moments were between AQUAMAN and BATMAN as Arthur lays out the rationale for the Atlantian attack and spells out their next move. When he rescued Harvey Bullock I almost bust a gut when Bullock had the audacity to make a fish joke. I was equally moved the other direction when Batman sternly disapproved of AQUAMAN’S revelation that he knows the next attack because he drew up the battle plans. Arthur comes face-to-face with his half-brother, the Mackerel of Genocide, Orm, and pulls a very surprising move when the League tries to help him with the apprehension. Orm also offered a compelling case for the attacks with a zinger on the drowning of Boston that exemplifies a good villain – he actually garners empathy for his cause.
I know right now, some are going to decry the use of water to reshape the world a card that Johns has already played. I don’t care though, there were many concepts in FLASHPOINT I liked, and the razing of the land by the sea was one of them. This is the crossover that DC truly needed a year into the New 52 experiment. I finally feel a gelling of tonality between books that I only expect to deepen…until FLASHPOINT 2 ELECTRIC BOOGALOO when Wally comes back and boots Barry’s ass back to 1962…I’m sorry that was my out loud voice…Read AQUAMAN…he’s even more stupendous now that he has two books focused on him..
No other title in the New 52 has polarized fandom like JUSTICE LEAGUE. From one side the popcorn eaters have said it’s a tantalizing thrill ride that thankfully hasn’t gone too deep into morose waters of heavy emotions from the team and global angst. I believe the word “fun” is the term they often use. Also, the K-5 set have gone absolutely gonzo for JUSTICE LEAGUE, making Johns and Lee comic books’ Phineas and Ferb.
Then there are the comic erudite, those who have read so many books that they expected JUSTICE LEAGUE to not only traverse new grounds, but to do so in a way that would bring forth an originality of content that would leave Grant Morrison agog. My complete objectiveness has allowed me to see both sides. I was forgiving of the first few issues mainly because of the excitement surrounding the New 52. I didn’t feel we could pass judgment until an antagonist surfaced.
Well, that villain came and went in one page. Literally! With one two-page splash decrying “I am Darkseid,” a Parademon Cocksicle sticking out of the ocean, and a one page trip to Apocalypse, the world’s greatest heroes banded together and no one was really sure why, least of all our heroes. Again, I was forgiving, trying to look at the whole universe and DC’s mantra to offer books to fans of all ages. I figured if the kids dig it, groovy, I’ll simply go wade in more adult waters.
Then arc 2 turned the tide, but not in a good way. The five years before excuse went away, yet coming forward a half-decade offered no maturation of this team. And nothing jibed with each hero’s solo title. Barry and Hal were still the two Corey’s. Azzarello has been portraying WONDER WOMAN as a dark God slayer and protector; in JUSTICE LEAGUE she liked ice cream. SUPERMAN is all over the map from title to title; in JUSTICE LEAGUE though he just moped and hit things while SUPERMAN and ACTION battled for “whose personality is it anyway?” And the second arc’s story was just meh. Not a ton of fun watching the world’s greatest heroes Battle their psyches.
Then came the kiss that made the fans of Lois Lane spontaneously combust from blood boiling rage, but it also moved the needle ever closer to an intriguing team dynamic for JUSTICE LEAGUE. Couple this wanton super affection with BATMAN slapping a Bang Bros. secret camera on Superman’s back and we began to see wafts of the Johns we know and love.
Some will say this change was spurred by Lee hitting the happy trails. I don’t think any of us know how Lee and Johns developed the story, so this is true speculation. If Lee was plotting things though, with the art coming first, this theory more than treads water. Johns needs smaller panels with faces to thrive. Big bodacious poses just ain’t where he’s comfortable. So with the right artist in place and some real personality for the remaining team members we enter the first big cross-over for JUSTICE LEAGUE with “Throne of Atlantis.”
JUSTICE LEAGUE 15 delivers on its 42 Point Font cover exclamation – this is indeed A BOLD NEW ERA! And it succeeds for every reason the past 14 issues have faltered.
Epic destruction is the order of the day. After a missile test is sabotaged it sends a barrage of ballistics that give the denizens of Atlantis the Long Johns deep fryer treatment. However, not every mermaid and merman end up cooked, there’s still plenty left to initiate Phase I of the Atlantean Attack plan to…wait for it…drown the Eastern seaboard. After watching countless hours of the Japanese Tsunami on YouTube I figured I would pretty desensitized to comic destruction. Ivan Reis does wonderful work though trumping reality with epic size waves that send Metropolis and Gotham (sing it with me) uhnda da sea, uhnda da sea…Lois, it’s better down where it’s wetter just wait and seeeeeee. If you appreciate good art, there’s a two page spread that one could stare at for five minutes – you’ll know it when you see it.
One could argue that we’ve had big images in JUSTICE LEAGUE prior and that the Darkseid run had thousands of parademons. The problem though was every single page was a bombastic spectacle, with issue 15 the epic is juxtaposed with the closer views of real life. Arthur helping Batman catch a criminal. Superman and Wonder Woman finally going on a date in their civvies (with a very nice explanation on why glasses are such an effective disguise). And of course the grand reveal that Aquaman helped craft the plans that drowned several million people.
Another phenomenal aspect of this JUSTICE LEAGUE arc is the grand villain, the King of Atlantis and Aquaman’s half-brother, the fully Atlantean Orm. All right, I’ll admit I’m cheating here. All of the Orm build-up happened over in AQUAMAN’S title, but honestly what fan of DC isn’t reading AQUAMAN right now? He’s the most interesting thing in scales since Daryl Hannah took a bath in Splash and he’s probably the most three dimensional character in the DCU right now. Also, JUSTICE LEAGUE should be an amalgam that brings books, titles and events together, instead of trying to be the fulcrum from which the universe expands.
For once SHAZAM wasn’t the best thing in JUSTICE LEAGUE, but make no mistake the back-up that should be a full title, continues to deliver. Billy lets adulthood get to his head and we leave with the first encounter between Billy and Black Adam.
Throne of Atlantis is to action, what Death of the Family is too horror – together they show that the superhero genre has many places to go yet other than deconstruction.
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Pete Woods
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t it Cool News)
Words are about to come out of my mouth I never imagined saying, “Black Manta is a bad mother…shut yo mouth.”
I never expected to like AQUAMAN, I wasn’t a fan of the coveted grunge years, or pretty much every other time someone decried, “YOU MUST LOVE AQUAMAN.” No fault to the writers, there are some very critically heralded runs, it just never stuck for me personally.
Even though those stories had what the fancy folks call gravitas, AQUAMAN still didn’t matter to the universe and denizens of Atlantis were about as fearsome as the sea monkey’s I once ordered from a RICHIE RICH comic back in 1979.
I started to turn the other cheek during FLASHPOINT. While not a universe shaking event, it was a good yarn, and AQUAMAN and Atlantis did their part in being a modern day Axis of Evil. But like al the great villains there was another level to this AQUAMAN, a man with national pride, a man who was able to use water as a weapon of mass destruction, and most importantly a man who coveted family.
It was with these tenets in mind that sent me head first into NEW 52 AQUAMAN. Yes, the first few issues were an exercise in calling out the Great White Shark in the room; that of AQUAMAN’S supreme supposed lameness when matched against fellow team members like SUPERMAN and WONDER WOMAN. However each guffaw was interlaced with a deepening of AQUAMAN’s sordid past.
Maybe the things like AQUAMAN’S shunning of Atlantis for the surface world, his marriage to Mera and his dalliances with a super assassin hit squad were explored in the past, but I doubt it was done in such a concise manner. This AQUAMAN is on a path to redemption running from the lives he’s taken and his home under the sea.
Or so I thought.
Issue 14 reveals yet another hidden layer to Arthur Curry as we kick-off The Throne of Atlantis storyline that will traverse AQUAMAN and JUSTIC LEAGUE. He hasn’t forgotten about his Motherland (literally), in fact he and his Brother discuss the artifacts of Atlantis and how they are going to bring them all home again. We also learn that the little black bad ass tadpoles AQUAMAN fought in the beginning of the series were far from defeated.
Black Manta though has been my biggest surprise and was truly my favorite part of this book. It’s best when villains have a motive and I can’t think of a better agent for revenge than AQUAMAN’S slaying of Papa Manta. The opening pages of AQUAMAN 14 were truly an exercise in bad-assery as BM tells Amanda Waller exactly where she can stick her contract to join SUICIDE SQUAD. It’s little nods to other books like this that make collecting an entire comic universe worth the 2.99 * X. Of course all of this occurred only after BM laid waste to a few guards.
This issue is a mystery builder. Why was face of AQUAMAN’S Brother shrouded? Old fans might know, but it’s a mystery to newbies like myself. How will this clandestine meeting between AQUAMAN and his Brother connect between the JUSTICE LEAGUE and the world at large? Trouble is afoot and like any good first issue Johns only shows us an infinitesimal part of the grand plan.
Woods does a great job with both the life aquatic and shots on good old old terra firma. The book moves at all times even what could have been a very long talky scene between Arthur and his Brother.
AQUAMAN has been an enchantment under the sea dance since issue 1. Issue 14 gives me hope that AQUAMAN will not only stay strong in year 2, but could also give the much needed structure and big consequences JUSTICE LEAGUE has so desperately been yearning for (or was that just me?).