Aquaman Issue #1 Review
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Ivan Reis
Cover by Joe Prado
On Sale September 28, 2011
Reviewed by Matthew S
Let me preface that Aquaman is one of my favourite comic book characters at DC. Let me further say that Ivan Reis is also one of this reviewer's favourite comic book artists of all time. There's a certain generalisation that is associated with the King of Atlantis that involves, to say the least, misinterpretations and jokes regarding his character and his powers. Some of these generalisations are valid. But in this series? Johns quickly deconstructs many of the other generalisations and just goes to show that even though our main hero is strongest underwater, that doesn't stop him from also being one of the coolest heroes outside of it.
It should come as no surprise to DC readers that when two big name creators like Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis team up for a comic it is going to be good. So, with that said, it should come as no surprise to DC readers that when Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis team up for Aquaman – the comic is not only good … it is great. This is a series full of colour, humour, action, a touch of romance and development. It does not shirk from the past like some of the new #1 DC Comics: it embraces what has come before to boldly explore what is going to come in the future. And it is this mode of writing and collaboration that results in many great things for not just Aquaman fans to enjoy – but for all DC readers in general.
They don’t give us the typical underwater king. They give us the Grade A, ultimate hero.
So just what makes this series so good? What makes it one of the top selling comics for DC after four months? Well, to begin with, from the first page to the last, this book goes from strength to strength. Whether it is the dark, graphic rising of the new underwater threat from “The Trench” (of which the story arc is aptly named), to the vibrant, fast-paced action scene setting up a great visual showing for Aquaman. There are quips involved that many-a-reader have thought themselves: and they are generally funny, and emphasise the capacity for Aquaman as a credible hero.
One of those quips comes from a policeman of whom Aquaman is assisting, the police man saying: “What’s Aquaman doing here? We’re not in the ocean and I don’t see any fish around…” And then cut to next scene of Aquaman using his trident to upturn a truck and slam it into the ground. Johns successfully uses humour as an anchor (no pun intended, of course) to showcase and juxtapose the strengths and capabilities of the titular hero. But for the first issue of a comic that gripping introduction of Aquaman saving the day on land, instead of on water, is the only action scene in the issue.
But there’s still so much more to like. A humorous scene involving Aquaman going to – get this – a seafood diner to have lunch. Humour ensues once more, as Johns uses several ways to display how people within the DC Universe (much like our own society) think very little of Aquaman. “You talk to fish” and “How’s it feel to be nobody’s favourite hero?” really bring out the common misconceptions of the character (because he is my favourite superhero). It informs, it entertains and makes for great storytelling.
Everything a new reader needs to know is introduced in this first issue, whether it’s the back story of Aquaman, his current relationship with Atlantis and his wife, Mera, and the new villain that he will soon be facing: it’s all here, in this one comic. Much has been said about the brave direction that DC has taken with this new 52 mandate, but if comics continue to be as stellar and entertaining as this series’ first issue – then there’s no doubt in my mind that Aquaman will find himself at the forefront of the readership: and for good reason.
Aquaman is back. And he is better than ever under the hands of Johns and Reis. Do yourself a favour and read this series.
Story – 4 out of 5
This issue does well to set up the mission statement for the first arc, and is a great introduction for old Aquaman fans and new alike. It reveals the villain, the supporting cast also, and it touches upon the back story of the hero whilst examining what is in store for future issues. It does everything a good #1 needs: the only thing that stops this from getting the full marks is the way the focus is less on the heroes and more on those surrounding him.
Art – 5 out of 5
There are many beautiful looking comics in the New 52. JH Williams III’s Batwoman is one of them. Francis Manapul’s Flash is also one of them. And right beside these Ivan Reis’ Aquaman is not out of place. With wonderful pencils and beautifully rendered colours, this book captures everything: the action scene is fast paced. The facial expressions capture the emotions and humour perfectly. And more than that, there are “flashback” scenes that have a washed out, painted look that evokes the wonder and joy that a young Arthur Curry felt as a child. We’re right there with him in each and every meticulously detailed panel. And when the dastardly, horrific villains of the underwater are featured: they’re just as scary as you would expect from something out of a horror movie.
Cover – 3.5 out of 5
The art is fantastic, but it doesn’t quite capture what happens in the issue itself. This is just a personal view of mine – that the cover should evoke the contents within – and while it has the villain and the main hero in a dramatic and heroic pose, there is zero contact between those on the cover within the comic itself.