Graphic Novel Review- Aquaman Vol 1: The Trench


Aquaman is one of the characters that not one really gets.  Created in 1941, he had already been beaten to the page by Timely/Marvel’s Sub-Mariner by a few years.  He wasn’t actually from Atlantis in his origin; he was just genetically modified by his father using recovered Atlantis technology.  It wasn’t until his revival in the 1950’s that he truly started to mimic Namor:  half human/Atlantean, and heir to the throne, but without the surly attitude and the ridiculous ankle wings. He was super strong and could survive on the ocean floor (imagine the pressure.) He could talk to  (command, really) all sort of aquatic life.  But still he seemed like a lesser character.  The comics tried to make him a more rounded character, adding a half-brother/arch nemesis and even  had another villain kidnap and kill his son.  The 80’s saw his origins tweaked along with Atlantis’ history and even saw a short-lived black and blue camouflage costume.  The 90’s saw him go extreme, with long hair and a beard and even had him lose his hand and replace it with a hook.  Even with a successful run in his own book and with the Justice League, things wound down for him.  Returning to the orange and green outfit, he eventually was replaced, killed off and eventually returned to life.

What does all that matter when it comes to reading Aquaman Vol 1: The Trench?  Not much as one of the directives of the New 52 was to keep both new readers and veteran ones on equal ground by confusing the hell out of them on continuity (do I sound bitter?).  But the new series seems to follow-up Brightest Day thematically by having Aquaman try to lead a quiet like away from Atlantis with his wife, Mera and reconnect with his human past as Arthur Curry.  But being a public hero (and wearing the costume everywhere he goes) he sticks out in the small town of Mercy Reef and the townsfolk don’t know what to make of him.  Helping out only elicits comments like “what can Aquaman do?” and snide comments about talking to seafood.  Even the cops seem to disrespect him.  This frustrates Arthur and infuriates Mera, being used to being respected under the waves and amongst Arthur’s superhero colleagues.  But when underwater creatures from a dark area called the Trench start attacking the surface, it is up to Aquaman to show the town what he can do.

Six issues of the 2011 launched Aquaman series are collected in this volume, all written by writer Geoff Johns.  Responsible for the revival of the Hal Jordan version of Green Lantern and the Barry Allen version of the Flash, Johns makes a compelling case that Aquaman is more than the “talks to fish” guy.  Arthur, while preferring a peaceful life, wants to be respected by the residents of Mercy Reef and trusted by law enforcement.  But he deal with attitude that somewhat reflect  those of the average comic reader about the character. He shows that in every way he is a hero, saving the eventually thankful people from danger..

The book is illustrated by penciller Ivan Reis (Blackest Night, Green Lantern) and inker Joe Prado.  Long time collaborators with Johns, the art team really sells the story, giving the book a strong look.  They did really good with the looks of the monsters of the Trench.

The Trench storyline covers four issues, with the remaining stories featuring. Aquaman lost in the desert, seeing mirages and the other about Mera trying, and mostly failing to fit in with the townsfolk.  Both are good stories to get to know the characters better.  Also the book introduces us to a new supporting character, Aquadog!  No, he is just a normal dog.

I liked the book.  Despite my misgivings about the whole New 52, Johns is a good writer that can restore any characters reputation.  Granted, I did not find Aquaman interesting until his 90’s makeover and subsequent use in Grant Morrison’s JLA, I did not like DC’s practice of killing off their heroes in the mid 00’s (though Elongated Man can stay dead, for all I care).  Though I did not realize that Aquaman was killed off until he showed up a Black Lantern in Blackest Night #1, I thought there was more to tell about the character.  This book sets him up good for that and as of this writing, Aquaman is still being published monthly.

I recommend this book to anyone that wants to know more about the character.  WIth his series going strong and a leading role in the recently released Justice League: Throne of Atlantis on DVD/Blu-Ray  character’s exposure has been better than ever.  I am sure more interest will be drawn by his appearance in the upcoming move Superman/Batman: Dawn of Justice, played by Jason Momoa (Games of Thrones, Conan),  So, despite being mocked on the Big Bang Theory as a joke by Raj (who is so that group’s Aquaman, by his own reasoning), it is not a bad time to be Aquaman, right now.

Aquaman Vol 1: The Trench is available at most comic book stores and retail stores.