Why I Love Aquaman Vol 1: The Trench

If you want to skip to the long review (and possible spoilers), skip down to the bottom (Look for the cover as your signal to start. I have a shorter abridged review.) Otherwise stick with me. 

I never really took Aquaman seriously as a superhero not really knowing too much about him and his powers and capabilites. After reading this volume, I can legitimately say that Aquaman definitely can back up his role as being a hero and a member of the Justice League. It has also made me incredibly more excited to have Jason Mamoa as Aquaman and I cannot wait to see him on the big screen.

Geoff Johns takes the reigns of introducing Aquaman to the reader. I’ve mentioned before that Geoff Johns is arguably the best comic book writer there is. A coworker of mine (way more versed in comics than I am) has stated that “If you want to breathe new life into a character, give them to Geoff Johns.” We’ve seen examples of his masterwork in Green Lantern: Rebirth and The Flash: Rebirth as well as may other titles that have influenced the ages. The specific reason that I bring this up is because with Flash and Green Lantern, Geoff Johns gave legitimacy and credibility to these heroes as he broke new ground for the heroes while honoring their pasts. He does the same for Aquaman.

Aquaman

Story:

It starts with an unknown terror from the deep that rises out of the darkest parts of the ocean. While we wait to see what these creatures are up to, moments with Aquaman are dispersed in between(he is the main character after all). We see him trying to live his life in the world that he loves and is accustomed to  despite being the butt of all the jokes and as one of the characters mentioned “a laughingstock.” Lo and behold, trouble always finds its way into the world as the strange creatures make their appearance and begin eating people and kidnapping some for later. Arthur and Mera help to protect people and recover those that are taken.

The arc of this story feels almost feels like a letter to readers addressing all the qualms and jests that are directed at Arthur Curry. He receives little(if any) respect from law enforcement and citizens alike. Despite addressing these specific points, the story continues unhindered by it and progresses nicely. Each time that our attention with the creatures is shifted away to Arthur, we still get some tension from the nagging in the back of our minds as we wait for the bad to happen.

As for Arthur himself, we get some nice instances of who he is and his motivations for being a part of humanity and wanting to protect them, which is so important and as a driving motivation for his character. With all the different ways that I have seen Aquaman portrayed, it has been as a king of Atlantis with no reason to care for the surface. Here though, we see his emotional attachment to a seafood restaurant that his father frequently took him to- giving the reader a subliminal understanding that he loves being a human and being a normal person before his role as Aquaman.

Lunch with Father

One of the most intriguing parts as well was a flashback scene with Arthur’s father. He asks his father, “Why are you a lighthouse keeper, Father? You could be the captain of your own ship!” His father replies, “I could. But someone has to stay on land to help those captains, Arthur. Someone has to watch the shores. It’s called responsibility.” I think that this theme will play a great part in Aquaman finding his role in the future. He is the watcher on the shores. The Trident that protects the surface lands of men….(Sorry, breaking into Night’s Watch vow….) But as Arthur will soon yet discover Atlantis, (and we know he will) this theme will play  heavily into the shaping of his character. Is he responsible to only one part of the world or both parts because of his dual heritage? With his choice to not be king of Atlantis, is he neglecting his responsibilities? Food for thought for the future. We do know that Arthur has taken his role to protect the people he can.

“Someone has to watch the shores.”

 Art: 

There were plenty of wise choices that were made in making this comic. Ivan Reis does fantastic work pencilling everything and I have nothing against it. All parts of the creative team are needed to create the comic as a whole, but I think that some of the real strengths lay in some of the paneling and coloring. One of my favorite parts about volume one were the moments where Arthur was thinking about his father. The creative team were able to take an important part of Arthur’s life and help to give it such an emotional importance through their coloring choices. Less inks were used for shadows and watercolors(?) were used to give those flashbacks a surreal and dreamlike tone. The softness of the color and brightness from lack of shadows gives it a nostalgic yet positive perspective on the memories.

Memories Aquaman

Have you ever been swimming in the ocean? For me, the scariest thing is being out in the deep water where your feet no longer touch the ground. The scarier thing is when you can no longer see the ocean floor. This fear of darkness and unknown is frequently referenced within the pages. It really helps to give a feel for the oceans of the deep and the darkness that dwells beneath. Yet despite a lot of blacks and dark blues, they are offset by lighter instances of bubbles and color to help them from getting boring. (By the way if you want to see how terrifying the ocean can get look up the Deep Sea Hatchet Fish. Your life will not be the same.) But the creatures that are depicted are wisely referenced with how actual creatures from the deep are with the sharp teeth, dark round eyeballs, and bioluminescence making them familiar and creepy at the same time. I would not want to run into these creatures while swimming.

Terror from the deeo

Coolest Moments:

I’d have to say that a lot of the cool moments happened when they would showcase the abilities of Aquaman and Mera. Sometimes that would even happen outside of the action. He’s got crazy jump strength, is super strong, has bulletproof armor, communicates telepathically with fish (he doesn’t talk with them as Arthur addresses to someone in a restaurant), breathes underwater, and has the toughness and tenacity that would make a Kryptonian proud. But I would have to say that the show was stolen by Mera with the Coolest Moment Ever. Not only is a major weakness addressed, but a creative use of power makes me giddy and fanboyish inside. Frustrated with illogical and intolerant nature of humanity, Mera snaps with the presence of nonsense. A man has a girl held hostage and when confronted by Mera he makes multiple statements regarding her weakness to being outside of water and lack of water crippling her from stopping the situation. To which Mera responds, “Why does everyone on land think water is our weakness? Why is everyone on land so ignorant? The absence of water is not my weakness. It’s all of yours.” Then she goes water bender status and literally pulls the water from the man’s body. She mentions the symptoms that begin to occur as his body dehydrates stimulating one, then two, and finally three days without water. A really well made moment.

Mera Mera2 Mera3

Final Thoughts:

I really liked this read all together. It was enlightening and exciting to see the capability that Aquaman possess and yet see the humanity he has in caring for people. I really like how he is countered by Mera who is loyal but can be impatient and less forgiving with the treatment of herself and Arthur. A very fun read. Creepy yet entertaining and dark. Who knew the water could be so much fun? I invite you to join this read (come on in the water’s great!) It’s a good idea too since Aquaman is not out yet for the DC cinematic universe, but it would be nice to get a jump on his character and who he is.

Aquaman Vol 1: The Trench

Aquaman Vol 1: The Trench (Teen)

Art: 9/10 Arthur Curry retains a strong presence among everyone he interacts with. Mera is no pushover as well. Nice variation in expressions.

Story: 9/10 Nice presentation of who Arthur is as a person and not just Aquaman. Lost a little steam towards the latter part of the volume but picked back up as new elements were introduced and Mera’s Cool Moment

Dialogue: 9/10 References to social media and other shows grounded the world a little. Mera had a distinct use of vocabulary which further helped the schism between human and Atlantean and denoting her intelligence as well. Other dialogue was well written and well paced.

Resonance: 10/10 Aquaman and Mera are a force to be reckoned with. Arthur Curry will continue to show what he is capable of.

Overall: 9.2/10

Comics

Why I Love: All New X-Men, Vol. 1: Yesterday’s X- Men

If you want to skip to the long review (and possible spoilers), skip down to the bottom (Look for the cover as your signal to start. I have a shorter abridged review.) Otherwise stick with me. 

I stopped following X-Men when the movies came out. They didn’t really strike me with the same wonder that some of the other entertainment mediums. (It also didn’t help that some of the acting and dialogue felt a little weak in my opinion.) 2014 got me back into X-Men however. Two things happened X-Men Days of Future Past was released and I went home for summer break. I came into my room and found a bunch of comics lying on my bed (thanks dad). It was a variety of stories (Iron Fist, Captain America, Justice Society of America). The one that caught my eye was Avengers vs X-Men. I had been itching to read it and nice to see that my dad got it. i read it and despite missing out on some previous stuff that happened earlier, it wasn’t too hard to catch up. But after finishing the story, I wanted to see a continuation of the ripple effect of the story. So All New X- Men was next on the list.

Story:

The story starts with Henry McCoy suffering from another stage in his mutation. He believes that this process will be the death of him. Not wanting to leave his friends and teammates without help and hope, he travels to the past to get help from the Original X-Men hoping that Cyclops will see his younger self it will fill him with regret and grief while inspiring the younger Cyclops to try and stop his older self from starting war between mutants.

At the same time Cyclops and his allies spend their time saving newly discovered mutants and taking them under their tutelage. Cyclops however is leading from a different perspective of elitism and freedom/revolution. This leads to a confrontation where both forces meet and we see how the conflict will ripple and affect the members of the X-Men.

Cyclops vs Cyclops

Art:

I have seen posts on Instagram, Facebook, (and pretty much every other social media known to man) showing little snippets of panels from this story arc. I have to say that it really intrigued me. Because of this and reasons that I stated previously, I had to pick up the first volume and see what this was about. The first thing that caught my eye was the slightly more realistic proportions given to the character. Many (superhero) comics feature their heroes with jacked, ultra stylized depictions of the human form. I for one actually like it and don’t mind it at all. Here in this story though, it would not work. These mutants are supposed to represent humanity despite having mutant powers. They need to seem vulnerable and like any humans that they encounter in society. It helps the view to translate that they look human and emotionally they feel human. The line work and composition within each of the panels flow nicely which allowed me to really focus on the story without getting distracted by chaotic imagery. The background details help to support the focal points within the panels and are perfectly placed without being overbearing or too chaotic.

Coolest Panels/Coolest Moments:

It’s no surprise that some of the better drawn panels are the full page spreads or even double spreads. There are more details and a little more effort that is usually put into it. This one in particular is pretty cool. Young Jean Grey speaks to Beast and he allows her to view the entire lifespan of her older self. (Talk about a head rush.) We as the viewer empathize with her as we get a small dose of sensory overload with all the panels surrounding Jean. Being attentive to bring the reader in to feel with Jean really speaks volumes to the professionalism that this comic is taking as a literary work

Head Rush

Head Rush

Final Thoughts:

The nice thing about this first volume is despite the chaos that happened in AvX, this left me with a lot of hope. The potential for this story is limitless as they can affect time in different ways and alter/ parallel previous stories that we have seen. The characters have given me excitement because I cannot wait to see how they will grow and be affected arriving in this new world where the rules may have changed and the guiding hand of Professor Xavier is gone. It is up to the legacy that he left behind to guide the originals through their journey.

The first volume absolutely blew me away. Despite the themes that have been presented over and over, the series as a whole felt new and fresh with the introduction of the new mutants as well as the younger counterparts of the original X-Men. Having these new mutants  and original X-men help to breath life into both sides of the story as they are trying to figure out what is going on in this new world as well as keep us up to date with the plans and ideas that both sides intend to do. It also allows for the experienced characters to give information to the reader as they speak to the inexperienced ones.  For characters like Christopher Muse, and Eva Belle, they are discovering their mutant powers for the first time and dealing with the effects socially, emotionally, physically. Our younger heroes are thrown into a world that they do not understand. Fortunately we have Cyclops (both young and old) to juxtapose the point/counterpoint discussion that will prevail throughout this arc. There is an interesting dynamic going on with the innocent, pure (possibly naive) and untainted/ idealized notion of who the X-men are supposed to be and what they are to stand for in contrast with the hardened, fed up, more experienced character.

 If you want to start with X-Men or get back into the fray, Yesterday’s X-Men is a great place to start. If you want, jump a little farther back and start with Avengers vs X-Men. It will set the basis for everything else that happens. Some other volumes that happen simultaneously is Uncanny X-Men Vol 1: Revolution, and  X-Men Vol 1: Primer.

All New X-Men, Vol. 1: Yesterday's X- Men

All New X-Men: Yesterday’s X-Men (Teen)

Criteria based off of this blog post that I read. Criteria For Judging Quality in Comics

Art: 9/10 Solid anatomy with good composition and angles. As a whole it was clean and consistent throughout.

Story: 9/10 The story starts ramping up quickly and does not stop. Well paced and kept me interested all the way through. Nice moments of tension and emotion mixed between the action panels.

Dialogue: 8/10 Careful attention to different ways people talk and communicate with each other. Solid monologue from Cyclops when he sees the original X-Men for the first time.

Resonance: 9/10 A fun read and with everything that is happening can’t wait to see the direction that will be taken.

Overall: 8.5/10

Comics