Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Aquaman, Volume 4: Death of a King Review (Geoff Johns, Paul Pelletier)

If I were to match Geoff Johns’ same level of effort and energy that he put into this book in this review, you wouldn’t even be reading it on the internet. It’d be scrawled on a used McDonald’s napkin blowing about an empty carpark with a mostly-used up cheap biro and it’d read “Aquaman’s a hero. And Mera 2. Bad guy fight Aq. and loses. Aquaman’s a he” (illegible). 

So here are the “storylines” that happen in Aquaman, Volume 4: Death of a King: the first king of Atlantis - imaginatively called Atlan - reawakens, just because, and tries to take the throne back from Arthur for no reason. Scavenger, a Russian dude in a sub, attacks Atlantis for no reason. Mera blunders about aimlessly. There’s a whole subplot about a trio of characters - Swatt, Murk and Tula - who try to bust Orm out of jail, and then it gets forgotten about. And then it doesn’t matter anyway because Orm gets off of death row somehow. Arthur fights Atlan and wins. The end. 

I don’t even know where to start with this garbage. OK: Atlan, the main enemy of the book. He’s terrible. And I don’t mean in terms of intentions, I mean the way his character is constructed. He comes out of nowhere and is instantly a major threat to Arthur and Atlantis. Then we get his ridiculous backstory from when Atlantis was still above the sea. There’s the bland loving wife and bland loving children scene that’s so phony and movie-happy-family (“Daddy, daddy, I love you!” - retch) that I couldn’t believe is still being trotted out - but then that’s the level of laziness in Johns’ writing these days so I shouldn’t really be surprised - and then something happens and he decides to SINK THE CITY. 

That’s idiotic enough but somehow 10% of the citizens in Atlantis manage to survive the sinking and are suddenly able to breathe underwater! There aren’t enough exclamation marks for that sentence so I won’t even try. Does Geoff Johns understand evolution? Humans don’t instantly adapt to their surroundings. If we live our entire lives breathing air with lungs and then one day our houses are underwater, we’d drown - simple as. Not a single human in this scenario would survive, let alone 10%! 


Actually there isn’t much to say about Atlan because he’s one-dimensional. He’s a grumpy old geezer. And it turns out his intentions to rule Atlantis weren’t really his intentions anyway and he just wanted to die so I don’t know why he didn’t just kill himself when he first awakened. 

Let’s talk about Orm, Aquaman’s brother. He’s on death row, on land, for his shenanigans in the garbage that was the Throne of Atlantis story arc. He spends most of the book in prison, gnashing his teeth and wittering on pointlessly about his friends in Atlantis. Then in the final few pages we find out he’s 1) escaped prison, 2) completely changed his personality, and 3) gotten a human wife. Bear in mind the last time we see him he was on death row - so how did he get out of prison and all that other stuff? This might be due to yet another tedious crossover issue that wasn’t included here, or maybe it’s tied into Forever Evil in some way, but it’s still a big plot hole that’s never explained. 

Running parallel to Orm’s “story” is Swatt, Murk and Tula, aka the three stooges. They spend page after page arguing against one another, trying to rile themselves into a state of action where they’ll leave Atlantis and go to the surface and free Orm and after all of that, when they make into the land, they hear Atlantis is under attack and decide to leave to help out. That’s their entire “story” - a load of filler, a literary cul-de-sac. 

Filler is all Mera gets too. An “ex” shows up called Nereus who isn’t really an ex, but that’s not important either. So why mention it? Because this is all irrelevant filler. They argue, he holds her captive (because that always makes women fall in love you, crazy guy - hold them against their will until they see past your insanity to the love of their lives that you just know you are to them!), Mera fights him, the end. A whole load of nothing. 

Scavenger, a Russian dude selling Atlantean tech, decides to attack Atlantis for some reason and sit on the throne - you can sense a pattern here, can’t you? This is all just baloney. Johns just making up a load of stuff that doesn’t make sense because he hasn’t spent any time at all thinking about it, all of which adds up to a big fat zero. 

This is the laziest writing of Johns I’ve ever read. It’s clear he’s stopped caring and trying but to see this level of incompetency and plain awfulness is still shocking in someone at his level. 

The only people who’re actually making an effort is the art team who do their best with what little they’re given from Johns’ scripts to make something out of. I wouldn’t say Paul Pelletier’s art is beautiful or unique but it’s accomplished and shows a high degree of skill. Where Johns contributes a word or two to a splash page - and there are a LOT of splash pages. Why? FILLER. Beef up that page count boys and let’s head to the bar! - it’s up to Pelletier to make up for the lacking narrative with some worthwhile illustrations and he comes through time and again to give us wonderful shots of Atlantis and under-the-sea action. 

Ugh. All I can say is thank god Geoff Johns has left Aquaman. His total lack of inspiration and energy at this point really shows just how burned out or how bored he became with the series. Aquaman is better off without him at this point, and hopefully Jeff Parker will be able to bring some life back to the character with his run. 2 stars for Pelletier and the art team, 0 stars for Johns abysmal “writing”.

Aquaman Volume 4: Death of a King


  1. Did you noticed how the Dead King awoke with the scepter when later on Aquaman finds it in a shipwreck after his 6 months coma. Then in Black Manta #1 during the prision break—between Aquaman #23 & #24—in belle reeve he has Arthur's trident. Next Issue Aquaman #24 The Dead King has it. Dude, it's a huge plot hole. I might get that Manta lost it at Forever Evil. But Arthur lost it to the Dead King in issue #23. How did Manta get it.

    1. Lol Sorry... Atlan is seen with the trident in issue #25.... #24 is the thing about Atlantis sink flashback.

    2. It's been a while since I read this but huge plot holes sounds very much like a Geoff Johns comic!