Jan 7, 2013

Comic Book Review: Aquaman (The New 52) Vol. 1 and 2

The New 52 is the new line of DC Comics that have all been rebooted back to issue #1 in hopes of attracting new readers who are intimidated by the thought of jumping in on issue #527 of a decade-long running series. I read Aquaman (The New 52) Volume #1: The Trench (issues #1-6) and Volume 2: The Others (issues #7-13).

Aquaman (The New 52) Volume #1: The Trench introduces you to the character of Aquaman, not in an overhyped, self-important, aggrandizing kind of way, but in a comically meta kind of way. Throughout most of the book citizens are surprised at how useful Aquaman is as a superhero and their misconceptions about his strengths and weaknesses are cleared up. Aquaman primarily just wants to live some semblance of a normal life with his mermaid girlfriend, Mera, and not have to combat critical comparisons of his abilities and accomplishments with his Justice League partners. Unfortunately, the quiet lighthouse dwelling life of the Atlantian couple are shaken when Piranha-men burst from the sea and start eating people! Those who they don't eat, they cocoon and drag back into the unexplored depths of the ocean from whence they came to feed on later. Aquaman and Mera may not have the law's pleas for help like other superheros, but they step up to the task anyways to save their community.

The Trench blew me away. I went into this book with really low expectations having always compared Aquaman to his more notable Justice League partners, but with the world tailored so realistically to sharing my misconceptions about the character, and using that world to define the character I really connected with the characters. The last issue is a little out of place, as it focuses entirely on Mera and her attempts to blend in with the world, but it wasn't bad by any means. I rate Aquaman (The New 52) Volume #1: The Trench 5 / 5!

Unfortunately, the series' head writer, Geoff Jones kind of lost steam after Volume #1. Aquaman (The New 52) Volume #2: The Others turns a frustrated, outcast Aquaman into a mopey mess full of rage and guilt over his past. I didn't connect with him in this issue, and when introducing an old fling to lock horns with Mera over, it felt pretty weak and emphasized the problem with the male-driven comic book industry. I can accept that all women of importance in comics will carry 36DD's and a backside that just won't quit, but peeling their characters down to man-obsessed sex objects is just grating to read. Laura Hudson of Comics Alliance spoke openly in a detailed 2011 editorial about the maladaptive effect on the mainstream comic book industry a lack of women writers/creators has, and DC broke their usual tradition of silence in the face of criticism by promising to remedy this problem with the obvious answer of bringing aboard more women writers and creators.

Volume #2 took itself much more seriously than Volume #1, and did everything it could to aggrandize the character. Suddenly the dark horse superhero is the center of the universe for his girlfriend, his ex-girlfriend, his own faction of heroes, and a diabolical villain sworn on revenge. But we're ripped clean out of the previous universe where the community's opinion on Aquaman matters. The main villain, The Manta, doesn't even terrorize civilians, he only targets old friends of Aquaman.

The entire run of series #7-13 was decent and action-packed with great artwork by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado, but in terms of character connection and originality it was all very cookie cutter. Not a terrible book to pick up but not something I'd urge anyone to run out and buy. Overall score: 3 / 5.