Aquaman Vol 2: The Others

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.

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.

Black Manta & The Seer

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.

discount Justice League?

discount Justice League?

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.

it's about to go down

it’s about to go down

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.

What's going on?

 Art: 

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.

the fires of rage

the fires of rage

Red Rage

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.

Resolution

Coolest Moments:

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.

handfacefulltears

Final Thoughts:

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.

HiddenReveal

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.

Aquaman vol 2 full cover Aquaman Vol. 2: The Others (Teen+)

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

Comics

Annihilation Book 2: Review

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. 

In continuation of Annihilation, we pick up with Book 2. If you want to check out my review of Book 1, just follow the link. The central figures in this story are Silver Surfer, Super Skrull, and Ronan the Accuser. We follow them as we get a little more insight to the destruction the Annihilation wave has wrought as well as some glimpses of plans and ideas for the Wave itself.

Story:  

We are introduced to the next part of this story as we follow the Silver Surfer. In the aftermath of the Annihilation Wave, there is simply nothing. Yet despite this, Surfer stumbles upon The Air-Walker (aka Gabriel the Air-Walker) who is being attacked by the a group of minions who work for Annihilus. We come to find out later that they are seekers and their leader is known as Ravenous (If his name doesn’t speak his intentions, I don’t know what does). The crazy thing is that we find out that the attack on Xandar wasn’t simply to just kill for the sake of war or genocide, it was to draw out the heralds of Galactus (Whaat!?).

Point/Counterpoint

Turns out that the seekers are hunting them for the power that resides in the heralds. It is the Cosmic Energy. Inversely, the seekers are from the Negative Zone and are powered by the Essence (Remember this). Surfer and Air-Walker escape from the seekers, but Air-Walker perishes from his wounds. The conversation that Silver Surfer has with Gabriel results in his motivation for realizing that Annihilus must be stopped. At the same time, Galactus senses (a disturbance in the force?) the balance has been undone and he sends for his former herald. The Silver Surfer ends up finding his way back to Galactus and becoming recommissioned to do Galactus’ bidding once more. On the side, trouble begins to brew as we see Thanos wheeling and dealing on the side-his motives unknown and the enemies of Galactus (Tenerborous and Aegis) run amok after being released from imprisonment from the destruction of the Annihilation Wave.

Common Goal

After the destruction of Xandar, the story jumps back to seeing the progress of the Annihilation Wave and we are paired with Kl’rt a.k.a. Super Skrull. They themselves are not faring so well as the great Skrull empire is in shambles. One of the main weapons used by the Annihilation Wave is the Harvester of Sorrow, a large machine capable of destroying planets (Sounds like a Death Star to me). Super Skrull entreats with the local warlord to help destroy this super weapon, but is denied and he is left to his own devices to destroy it on his own. He ends up enlisting the help of Mr. Fantastic to open a portal in the Negative Zone so that he can get an army. Kl’rt goes to a prison controlled by Annihilus and breaks in because the warden happens to be the maker of the Harvester of Sorrow and Skrull uses the opportunity to question him while at the same time recruiting the former innmates to his cause. Garnering enough strength and resources, Skrull and his allies launch an assault on the Harvester but fail because of the betrayal of one of their own allies. Undeterred, Super Skrull and his allies escape capture and fight and eventually complete their mission.

Bada Big Boom

Bada Big Boom

For the last part, we are paired with Ronan the Accuser now not the Accuser. Earlier in book one, we see him accused and stripped of his title. Now he is off searching for a way to clear his name. He seeks various people who knew about those who testified against him. His search leads him to Goothab Omega to find his quarry. Here on this planet, Ronan finds other exiled Kree and has a violent clash with Gamora due to being attacked by one of her acolytes. Turns out that the side conflict between Gamora and Ronan was orchestrated by some guy (Glorian shaper of worlds) to give him access to enough cosmic energy to reshape Goothab Omega in his own image. What? Really? I’m supposed to care about this Glorian shaper of worlds? I’m supposed to care about Ronan? This part though was hard to get through. The story did not flow as well as I would have liked. I know very little about Ronan but I would have hoped that there would have been some semblance of a reason depicted for us to like him but the moment was lost. A missed opportunity. The best part about the creation event here, was since we know that the Annihilation Wave are responding to the invasion of cosmic energy into the Negative Zone, it draws a large contingence to the planet. After the battle, Ronan is driven to go back to warn the Kree Empire despite the threat to his life upon returning from exile.

Troublemaker

Troublemaker

 Art: 

Renato Arlem really takes the cake for his art in these pages. With his interesting and unique shading paired with strong anatomy is a testament to his abilities and really helps to showcase the beauty of space and the setting that this whole story takes place in. Arlem makes all the right choices in his backgrounds as well using appropriate line weights to reference scale and detail without being too messy and chaotic. The shading is almost reminiscent of literal sand or noise in photography. For the characters, it makes for a unique and visually interesting style that I haven’t seen much of before. This also helps with the depiction of stars and the cosmos and helps to give a visual texture that is beautiful and surprisingly not distracting at all. Renato shows he can work on a small scale as well as a large scale giving power and dominance to the size of Galactus while giving speed, motion. and energy to Surfer and his actions.

Retribution

The style for Super Skrull is immediately different yet still stands strong in its own particular style. The strengths here lie in the use of color, mood, and expressions to create an exciting tone for the story while still allowing the reader to easily understand the characters that are being presented. Kl’rt is dark and fearsome and prone to aggression and rage in order to bring about the things that he is trying to accomplish. The bright color palette gives a sense of beauty to everything even the enemies. It also makes all the plasma bolts, fire, and energy feel hotter as a whole.

Assault

Now, for Ronan’s arc, while solid, this art style was not my favorite. Maybe had to do with the the story side for Ronan’s story arc. The backgrounds were pretty simple but had a gritty, dirty feel to it. This helped to make the worlds that Ronan was traveling seem poorer and less civilized. His exile has led him across these backwater planets in contrast to his former glory.

Loners gotta be alone

Loners gotta be alone

Coolest Moments:

I really think that this is a climactic and triumphant moment that is being told here. After all the guilt and confusion Surfer goes through, he finally comes back to Galactus. Even though this may not be the course that he wants to take, it is the best one. He does it to save as many lives as possible while attempting to stop the Annihilation Wave.  The overall composition of the panel really makes me excited. That lightning….

Reinstated

Final Thoughts:

The conversation before Gabriel Air-Walker’s death was one of my favorite moments within this volume. In many Earth-centric stories, Galactus is portrayed as an evil, villainous, and uncaring fiend who seeks to devour just to satiate his massive appetite. While this may be partly true, Galactus is actually a necessity and a balance to the essence of the universe itself. Even the billions of people who perished at the hands of Galactus were important to feeding his hunger. If Galactus were to die, the universe would somehow be different but not better for it.

The same thing goes for Super Skrull and Ronan the Accuser as well. Super Skrull is a self admitted villain and even goes as far as to be called evil and ruthless. We see him, however, burdened by his past and at times exemplify noble qualities like loyalty, tenacity/perseverance, and great prowess as a warrior. On both ends it’s nice to see him not as a villain, yet still get a no-holds-barred attitude when dealing with ones enemies.

Brutal

I got a feeling of subtle Star Wars references within the story as well. Were they intentional? I don’t know, but if they were, they made me smirk and chuckle here and there. So his statement might be a little out there, but the Jedi talk about balance to the Force all the time. For exhibit 2, I swear this is the Emperor’s Throne room from Return of the Jedi. Finally, there is the Harvester of Sorrow-destroyer of planets. Sounds like a Death Star to me. Anyways just some thoughts.

Annihilation Book 2

Annihilation Book 2 (Teen+)

Story: 8/10- Silver Surfer and Super Skrull both have strong and individual stories that make their story arcs interesting and exciting to see how it ties into the story later. As stand alone stories, we get a sense of how the Annihilation Wave works and what they are looking for. Subtle yet insightful.  However, Ronan’s perspective was a little dry (which brings my total down a bit) and left me questioning the full purpose and necessity of this story to the greater whole.

Art: 8/10- Major points to Silver Surfer and Super Skrull for leading out strong. Even though both were extremely different in style each were no less beautiful and well done. Ronan’s arc was decent but not as visually impressive as its predecessors causing it to lose momentum.

Dialogue: 8/10- So many different characters, thoughts, cultures, and styles. Nothing really stood out as different, but there were enough subtle changes between varying characters. (Galactus’ word choices and air of superiority, Skrull’s grim and gritty mentality as a warrior)

Resonance: 8/10- I cannot get over Surfer and Skrull’s story arcs. I really, really enjoyed them. I would highly recommend them. As for Ronan (sorry) I feel like you could pass on his story. If someone would want to read it go for it. It is enjoyable to see his path and the direction that he is taking as it sets up for the final book, but otherwise it’s almost supplemental.

Overall: 8/10- This is a solid volume. Despite my complaints with the latter third, it really is a well made piece of work as a whole.

Comics

Annihilation Book 1: Review

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. 

One of my friends, who is a comic sage, has been loaning me some of his favorite story arcs and with his knowledge of the Marvel Universe eclipsing mine, it has been quite enlightening. The first arc he has introduced me to is the Annihilation Wave. I have to say that this story is pretty intense. Unfortunately my review of this first volume doesn’t quite fully encompass the scale of this story until reaching the end. The first two books follow a variety of characters as the Annihilation Wave occurs and then all of their paths converge in a satisfyingly epic ending. However, the story has to be told from the beginning to make the reader really appreciate the ending

Story:  

The story picks up first with Drax the Destroyer being shown on a prison transport. The prison transport crashes on Earth leaving Drax and other prisoners stranded. A majority of Drax’s perspective is pretty much him brawling with two psi-bonded brothers while the other two castaways attempt to figure out a way to get off of earth without having to alert Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Drax starts out as the Drax that we know from the cinematic Guardians of the Galaxy, thick and dull-headed, which filled me with dread wondering if I would have to put up with incompetency throughout the entirety of the story. Fortunately, due to varying circumstances my fears were alleviated. Drax gets a fatal lobotomy to say the least.

Drax death

That’s unfortunate…

Aside from this and a couple of other points, this story isn’t too crucial to the final part of the story except for the change that occurs in Drax. It is a foil for important things that happen later. By the end of it, it puts Drax in a position to end up being connected to Nova. On another note, there is a girl that ends up traveling with Drax and honestly, she didn’t seem too important for the story along with the fact that we weren’t given any real reasons for liking her in the first place. She ends up tagging along with Drax as he gets picked up in another spaceship. It just felt like another episode of Doctor Who. Hey you, stranger. Wanna be my companion and join me on my travels to see all of time and space? There’s even a blue phone box to boot. No joke. I can see it now…Doctor Drax and the Magical Blue Box.

blue phone box see?

Blue phone box, see?

The next part is a brief prequel that introduces what the Annihilation Wave and the destruction it brings which then ties into Richard Rider as part of the Nova Corps. This is the part that really sucked me into the high stakes of the story. I’ve always known that the Nova Corps is the Marvel version of the The Green Lantern Corps which helped me to correlate the strength of the Corps as a whole. The Annihilation Wave appears and tears through the Nova Corps with little to no resistance. Richard Rider ends up being the only Nova Corps member to survive inevitably promoting him to Nova Prime and putting the entire power of the Nova Corps at his disposal (not to mention all the knowledge and calculations of the Worldmind too). Richard Rider spends the rest of the arc trying to balance his recklessness, rage and duty with self preservation of himself and the Worldmind and his inexperience.

One of the strongest points of this story is the fact that characters die and they die easily. Now this isn’t just for kicks and giggles to try and kill off as many characters as possible, it affects the tone and direction of the narrative. I remember reading in shock as the Nova Corps were dying. That really put things into perspective. This conflict is a serious and deadly one. It is not one of the trite and petty squabble on Earth. Thor aptly portrays this in Marvel’s The Avengers when he calls his teammates petty…and tiny. There are larger and more important things that occur in the galaxy rather than many of the story arcs we see on Earth. The tradeoff is it helps to give a greater sense of nobility and sacrifice as well, especially looking at the battle where Quasar helps to hold off the Wave with Nova as people try to escape. They reach Annihilus, leader of the Annihilation Wave, and try to stop him. Things, needless to say, head south pretty quick as Annihilus devours the energy  of the quantum bands destroys Quasar takes the bands for himself. He almost devours Nova as well, but using the Worldmind and the temporary hive connection through Annihilus, he forces the Annihilation fleet to turn on itself. The story is not done however as we are left with Nova being picked up by Drax in a spaceship. Here Drax agrees to teach Nova how to fight and how to destroy (which is a good thing Drax is all smart and tactical now)

Sacrifices Quasar

gripping and disturbing

Gripping and disturbing

 Art: 

For Drax’s story arc, the art was not my favorite. For the most part it was technically sound but whenever I viewed the style, it makes me feel strange and unpleasant. The arms….especially the arms. Some people may like it but not necessarily my cup of tea. The other thing that I had problems with were the faces at times. Granted, some of the faces were alien which could account for strange features, but many times I felt there was a lack of consistency. Sometimes certain features or characteristics were included but then later omitted.

As for strengths however, when the panels weren’t rushed or distorted, they looked really good. I don’t know why there wasn’t a consistent level of execution. Inconsistency really bothers me. As for linework, it was simple but effective while incorporating subtle line weights-barely noticeable at times. The color choices were more prominent in this particular style. Most of it was pretty dull and muted giving less of a sense of wonder and awe to the world known as Earth. I don’t know if this was intentional, but it helps to make  the galactic worlds seem so much brighter, unique and worth saving when we see them later.

Nova’s prequel took on a little more of a cartoony style with numerous, heavy lines and bright colors which slightly undermined the seriousness of the situation but was subverted by the fact that the colors and lines served a purpose to make things really chaotic as death and destruction was being serviced to the Nova Corps and Xandarian people. After the prequel though, Kev Walker takes over as penciller and really brings justice to who Nova is and who he will become. Many of the pages are filled with beautiful and well thought compositions in how Nova was depicted. It made me really appreciate him as we follow him being thrust into this new role.

so many lines

so many lines

Coolest Moments:

As this series was being introduced to me, my friend mentioned the only disappointment he had in Guardians of the Galaxy  was how Drax was portrayed. He felt that Drax (being bio engineered to fight Thanos) was downplayed in his abilities and strength. So for the introduction of Drax, he felt very much like the cinematic character that we have seen. Things change very quickly as Drax is killed and thrown over the side of a cliff. His body becomes a shell/husk which he breaks out of suddenly alive. This new Drax is smaller and incomplete but smarter, faster and dangerous to boot. We get a nice little foretaste of his abilities as he ends the life of an enemy in a flash-step animes are notoriously guilty of. (I’m not complaining as it is always fun to see)

 

Nova get his fair share of epic moments to show off as well. One of the coolest moments happens to be when Nova meets the Worldmind which the sole archive of all Xandarian culture i.e. art, history, philosophy, science, and a bio template of the Xandaran race. We find out that it also controls the Nova force bestowing nuggets of power to all members of the Nova Corps. Being the only member left alive, the Worldmind convinces Richard to download its entire self into him. The result is a stronger (and more reckless) Nova. Despite the tragedy that had occured, it is a really exciting moment to see happen.

Download

 

Final Thoughts:

I was blown away with the gravity of the entire story. We get a sense of desperation and hopelessness as we see the destructiveness of the Annihilation Wave. If the entire Nova Corps can’t handle this, how will the rest of the worlds and empires fare? Because of this ominous undertones it makes the sacrifices that much greater. The other thing that I really liked was despite the fact that Nova has the entire Nova Force backing his strength, he isn’t all powerful. It isn’t a magic bandaid that immediately fixes all the galaxy’s problems. With his inexperience mixed with his recklessness, Richard Rider spends just as much time running away from fights as he does getting into them. An interesting dynamic I’d say. (Maybe our immortal Superman could take some pointers.)

ominous indeed

ominous indeed

The covers to all these books and individual story arcs are absolutely gorgeous. I haven’t followed too much of Gabriele Dell’Otto’s work, but after seeing this powerhouse cover I think I will. They really make me appreciate the the story even more as a whole and Dell’Otto’s covers give a sense of greatness to these characters which is fitting starting with these characters and seeing the growth and potential into who they will become.

Annihilation Book 1 Cover

Annihilation Book 1 (Teen+)

Art: 7/10 Starting off with a not-so-best-foot-forward, it was a little weak to start resulting in a six. Things however gradually kicked up as Nova’s arc took the reigns elevating it just a little to a decent seven.

Story: 8/10 As a standalone arc, Drax’s seems weak, but knowing the future role that he plays, this is perfect. As for Nova, we feel the desperation and emotion that he feels efficiently putting us in that place of wanting revenge just as much as he does. It makes for a great moment in which the reader can become emotionally attached to the character.

Dialogue: 9/10 With such a large range of characters, they did well to reflect the different personalities and cultures that plays throughout the entirety of the story arc. An example of such is Drax before and after his transformation. You wouldn’t even need an info drop to let the reader know that something is going on. My favorite was between the Worldmind and Nova. The Worldmind was analytical and tactful juxtaposed with Nova’s emotional and transparent outbursts made for some ever interesting conversations.

Resonance: 7/10 I would recommend this to a friend, however there is a lot to drudge through. The characters presented are not necessarily mainstream A-list characters. Sometimes that lack of character likability can prevent a reader from being able to get through a story like this. The character foundations are necessary to lead to a very satisfying end.

Overall: 7.75/10

Comics

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

Too Much of a Good Thing?

I don’t remember a lot of the books that I read as a kid. One that I do remember was Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola. The story focuses on this woman who does a lot to help people within her town. (or was it city?) She gets an assistant one day and he ends up spying on her as she cooks pasta from a magic pot. However he doesn’t notice that she blows three kisses to turn the pot off. The woman goes away for a bit and the assistant ends up using the pot to make pasta. Since he didn’t know how to stop the magic pot, it kept making more and more pasta until the town overflowed. The old woman comes back and stops the pot and then punishes the assistant by making him eat all of the pasta to clean up the town. By the end of the book he is stuffed. I know if I ate that much pasta, I’d be sick of it.

The reason I mention this story is because when I was trying to remember what this book was, the pasta flooding the town was most clear in my brain. In a similar sense, within the past several years, there has been an explosion and growth of comic related media flooding pop culture mostly in part because of the Marvel movies that have been so successful. DC Comics is no pushover themselves what with the constant stream of animated movies (check them out they are actually pretty good) and domination of the silver screen with shows like Gotham, The Flash, Arrow, and Constantine making waves of anticipation/excitement and recent mentions of Supergirl and Titans as well. Now I am extremely excited to really see how these shows will play out and I hope that they will connect with their viewing audience, but I can’t help but wonder…

Are there too many superhero shows/movies being released?

Before I get into modern examples, let me present what I’m getting at. I’ll present a blanket overview to art history. Within the art world, there are various movements and styles of art that arise due to an over saturation or an overflow of a style and the resulting response is a pushback and a counter to the resulting over saturation. For an example let’s look at Neo Classicism. This movement focused on presenting the idealized form commonly depicted within Greek and Roman art. The artwork expressed ideas like virtue, honor, and values while mirroring these themes with its clean lines, noble figures and calm demeanor.

Eventually though, there was so much of it going around, that it became tired and overused. Out of that rose Romanticism. This movement was it’s complete antithesis. No longer were figures stoic and graceful in situations, rather emotion was the very epitome of the movement. Brush strokes remained unblended and emotion spoke plain as day on the faces of the subjects. Essentially you could feel emotion and angst oozing from the tones of the paintings. A common theme within Romantic art was the emphasis on the greatness of nature especially that above the fragility of humanity. This rise and fall, ebb and flow happens in so many different areas of our lives that it is not hard to predict that it will happen. Clothing trends (I’m looking at you high waisted shorts), dime-a-dozen novels (remember when vampires were all the rage?), celebrities, so on and so forth. It is inevitable and this is  just a natural part of human thought and progress.

 

For me, I’m waiting for a pushback against this culture that has risen so quickly through the ranks. However, I can see subtle instances of this happening now. In 2008, we had the release of Iron Man. (I know, I know we’ve had various comic book/ superhero movies made before then, but at this moment was the first in this modern generation of superhero movies that we have.) Anyways, as we follow the timeline, all the other superhero movies have pretty much followed the same styles and tropes all the way up until 2014.

Enter, Guardians of the Galaxy. This movie has it all the music, the action, the storytelling, the comedic timing, the perfect cast.  All of these things had a strong hand in it’s success. However, I feel that on a subliminal level, the reason why it was so successful was that because in all the superhero movies that we have seen, this movie is different. It is the beginning of a  “pushback” against the traditional superhero movie in that these characters are not the tried-and-true nor the do-gooders. The group is a bunch of rag tag misfits, rejects, and losers. (Firefly anyone?) But we get excited to see them in action and to root for these characters despite their weaknesses and flaws and social ineptitude.

Consider this, generally at some point, the hero is outmatched and outgunned and it seems as if all hope is lost. For most traditional movies the solitary hero would let the villain monologue and when the opportunity presents itself, the bad guy beat down would ensue. Instead, one of my favorite scenes was when Peter Quill (Star Lord) distracts Ronan. He starts singing and dancing and I was just as shocked as Ronan was. Who dances and sings their way to victory? Apparently Peter Quill does.

Now I have slightly digressed. What I mean to say is that these characters do not fit the traditional mode for our A-list heroes. But we have seen so much of that already that with the established tone of Guardians of the Galaxy, it is refreshing to break from the machine that has been established. This led me to ponder a couple of questions.

Will the world tire of superhero movies?

Will the world ever get tired of superheroes?

In answering the first question. I think yes eventually the world will tire of superhero movies even just for a little bit. Everything has its place in time and everything has a rise and fall, an ebb and flow.  I don’t know when or how soon it will happen, but eventually there will be such an over saturation within pop culture that there will be too much of it. Could I be wrong? I sure hope so. But just like those high waisted shorts, trends always come back. There may be a decline sooner or later, but will the world ever get tired of superheroes? I say never. The thing that I love about superheroes (and comics in general). The characters will ALWAYS be relevant as they are being updated to reflect the time and culture of the era. We’ve seen many changes occurring within the comic world as the stories are not just simply for stories, but a commentary on humanity as a whole. The condition of our minds and how we live. We see steps being taken to increase diversity and equality within comics by including characters of various backgrounds, gender, and nationality just to name a few. Thought they may be small steps, they are gradual steps nonetheless.

In conclusion, though we may have a large influx of various comic book movies and TV shows, superheroes bring what we love to see in comics as an art form, as a story, as a great literary work. For now, I think that superheroes are here to stay. They have great adaptability and staying power and can be multigenerational when applied in the right context. For now I say we enjoy the ride and appreciate the fact that geeks and nerds pretty much rule the world right now.

-Will

Art Comics Food For Thought

Re: My First Time

I don’t know if you’ve seen HITRECORD ON TV hosted by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. If not you should definitely check it out. (https://www.youtube.com/user/hitrecord) The show uses open-collaborative projects as its fundamental inspiration and each individual episode centers on a theme which is explored throughout the entirety of the episode. The first episode focused on the idea of the number one. One of the questions Gordon-Levitt brings up triggers within my mind the wonder and nostalgia that occurs with something happening for the first time.

There is a first time for everything  and you never get a second chance to make a first impression…Do you remember your first time…your first time for doing anything?                                                                                        Joseph Gordon-Levitt,  HitRecord

So in response to this question, I thought about my first time reading a comic book. The first comic I read was when I was around nine or ten. However, the catalyst that triggered my love for comics actually happened when I was around seven years old. I still remember clearly my dad came home from work and brought surprises for me and my brother. I ended up getting a Batman action figure. Coolest. Toy. Ever. But it was no ordinary action figure. Little did I know that it belonged to one of the most iconic and amazing story arcs within the Batman mythos. (It also happened to be a special edition figure found only in Warner Brothers Stores)

KnightsEnd

How could you not love a toy like this?

Skipping ahead a couple of years, my family had moved from Arizona to Colorado. My dad and I were sorting through some of his boxes he hadn’t had a chance to sift through yet. We stumbled upon a couple of his comic boxes. Those things were a gold mine! I saw one of the boxes labeled Batman and was immediately drawn to it. Opening the box and pulling out the comic on top I was shocked to realize that it was the same as the action figure given to me a couple years before. Batman Knightfall, the story that started it all for me. I read through Knightfall, Knightquest, and KnightsEnd and was left with feelings of satisfaction and excitement. I was also very dissatisfied. I wanted more.

So from then on, throughout the years, I have attempted to satiate my desire in various ways. Drawing, TV shows, collectible cards, and movies descending from the comic book realm all have had their hand in my childhood. It has become a part of who I am and I am sure a part of many of those who are invested in this culture as well. For me, comics really help to bring a sense of wonder and excitement into my life . Even as an adult now, they never fail to bring me back to that point of reading that comic for the first time.

-Will

Do you remember your first comic and the emotions you felt reading it?

Comics