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.
(Sorry for the late post. I had to pack and travel to go back home for summer.)
Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis return to continue telling the story of Arthur Curry. Aquanman is action packed and delivers the same level of quality and ferocity by the foundation that had been laid by its previous volume. If I could give one word to Aquaman Vol 2, it’d have to be poetic. The power of the visual and literary storytelling together helps to bind the story and elevate it past just a simple story or regular comic book. Just like with explicating a literary work, we can do the same thing to comics as well increasing the richness and value of the story as well as improve the idea that comics can become literary/artistic classics in their own right. I noticed some things that I’ll be explicating in small ways and even with some of the things that I compare elements of the story to, you will see the poetic side to this story.
The story starts with a mysterious woman being chased in a forest. (Later reveal to be Kahina The Seer) Eventually the panels cut to her pursuer, Black Manta. He, inevitably, catches her and brutally kills her; the last words on her lips calling to Arthur. Looting her body, Black Manta grabs a golden artifact and walks away into the forest leaving the reader with the knowledge of his quest to rid Arthur Curry from everything he cares about.
In the previous volume, Aquaman found an artifact in the trench when he was saving the people. He needs more information about it and goes to Doctor Shin to get more information about it. While visiting him, an old friend of Arthur appears and warns him that their companion has perished and her artifact of Atlantis taken from her possession. Between flashbacks and conversations, it is revealed that before the Justice League, Aquaman was affiliated with a team known as The Others. The team was formed to gather the relics of Atlantis and prevent them from falling in the wrong hands.
Arthur leaves to investigate the body and possibly discover the means to how Black Manta gained the knowledge of where to find The Seer. Upon finding her body, Arthur decides that they need to warn The Others to prevent any more deaths as well as loss of the artifacts. At the same time, Mera takes time to question Steven Shin about how he was connected to Black Manta. He reveals that he found Black Manta’s father in order to help him get a hold of some of Arthur’s blood to help prove the existence of Atlantis to the world. Black Manta attacked Arthur’s father who perished resulting the attack but actually died from a heart attack. Aquaman ended up killing Black Manta’s father in rage. The two became locked in a cycle of vengeance.
All the while, Black Manta is hunting The Others and trying to take their relics. Ultimately his goal is to find the seventh artifact which is possibly more powerful than any of the other relics possessed by the others. The seventh relic is known The Staff of the Dead King and was used to sink Atlantis. By harnessing the power of the staff, Black Manta declares will be able to destroy Aquaman. Conflict between Black Manta against Arthur and The Others ensues as they fight to stop him. Things end up with a crazy twist as Black Manta flees to actually sell the relic to an unknown buyer on an Atlantean ship. The Atlanteans escape with the scepter but Black Manta is captured. The end gives opportunity for The Others to heal emotionally and move on with their lives leaving us to wonder about who has the staff and what they plan to do with it.
This volume seems to be taking its color cues from Les Miserables’ “Red and Black”. Note the lyrics listed.
Red – the blood of angry men! Black – the dark of ages past! Red – a world about to dawn! Black – the night that ends at last!
See what I mean? poetic. Many of these panels are filled with the black and red imagery that we easliy associate with rage and darkness of the past. I think that the term “seeing red” aptly describes the tone and feel of this volume in particular. Color plays an important part to showcase the emotions and the rage that many of the characters are experiencing. One of the first powerful images we see is the saturated red of the helmet of Black Manta (he sees red quite literally). This color is frequently used throughout the story. The color really carries the theme through and despite the heavy use, does not become excessive in its use.
Red and black are the dominant colors used within the panels. Heavy shadows are used to darken the mood and give a weightier feel to the entire situation allowing the final panels at the end to have resolution and relief in its final moments. It leaves the story on a hopeful note which helps to offset all the deaths, rage, sadness and brutality.
The coolest moment for me in this volume is not an action scene or power moment. There are plenty- believe me. Rather, I was extremely moved by an emotive moment that occured when Vostok sacrificed himself to save Aquaman’s life. Despite having very few moments in the story, his character was written well enough to make me care about who he was and his origins and his struggle of connecting physically with people yet not allowing that to stop him from caring for people. In his final moments, I felt Arthur’s sadness and mourned for the loss of his character. I don’t why I was moved so much but the ability of the artist to depict the emotions and craft a moment with such care attests to the creative team’s ability to tell a story.
Prisoner hides his face until the end. Even in some of the earlier panels without his mask, the majority is hidden by shadow or cut off by an edge. I believe, in a way, it represents the healing and coming into the light and facing what he was hiding from. This correlates to Aquaman trying to hide who he was in his past. The interesting thing was last volume, it dealt with the issue of his humanity and bridging both human and Atlantean worlds. Last volume focused on his humanity. Here in this volume however, Mera pleads to him as an Atlantean. We find out that Arthur’s past is darker than we have known and it haunts him remembering who he was. Mera asks him to remember the past but to not fall back into it going as far as to say to NOT be like the rest of the world. Things like this make me love this story more and more.
This volume focuses on growth and change that occur within a character and we see that pertain especially to the growth of Arthut Curry. With many flashbacks that are shown, Arthur is shown to be ruthless and uncaring in certain aspects. In present moements, when Arthur’s friends see him, they see how he is different from his former self. I like seeing how the people in his life continue to inspire him to be better and to make changes within his life to show that even heroes don’t start as the heroes we see them as.
Story: 8/10- Great focus on rage and consquences and the process and growth between one’s past and one’s present.
Art: 10/10- Superb anatomy and powerful compositions using color and shadow to set the context and tone for the story
Dialogue: 9/10- With a huge ensemble in this book, it was easy to see the variety of characters and each had an individual voice that did not drown out any others. Mera is as expressive as ever.
Resonance: 9/10- Volume Two once again proving that Aquaman has so much to offer in characters, story and art. I literally keep recommending this New 52 Aquaman to people.
Overall: 9/10- Nuff said