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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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 (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.