AQUAMAN 25 REVIEW – Johns’ Whale of a Run Closes

aquaman 25 coverAQUAMAN #25

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.

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