Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Pete Woods
Publisher: DC
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?).