Sunday, 7 September 2014

Aquaman, Volume 5: Sea of Storms Review (Jeff Parker, Paul Pelletier)

Jeff Parker, the writer of the excellent Batman ‘66, takes over Aquaman after Geoff Johns’ four-volume run, and I wish I could say Parker’s Aquaman is the equal of Batman ‘66 - but unfortunately it really isn’t. 

Let’s look at the subtitle because this encapsulates the main problem of this book, namely that it’s hella boring: “Sea of Storms”. Can you think of a more unimaginative, bland title for an Aquaman book? How about “Ocean of Waves”? “Fish in Water”? Sea of Storms - storms happen in the sea every day. It’s natural. Well, so what? What am I supposed to think when I read that title? Because all I see is nothing. 

So, the book itself: Arthur fights the Kraken (or Karaqan as it’s referred to here), a giant kaiju-type monster that’s destroying Iceland for no reason. They fight, Aquaman wins. Ok…

Arthur goes to his high school reunion, some nutbar steals his trident - which is just lying around in his house! - and summons forth Wonder Woman’s half brother, Hercules, along with some demons from Atlantis’ Hell or something. They fight, Aquaman wins. Sigh… ok…

Aquaman goes looking for Swamp Thing because of something happening in his storyline which I’m not up on as I haven’t been reading Swampy’s recent issues (too much oxygen in the atmosphere? Algae in the sea?). They fight, Aquaman wins. Starting to lose my patience… 

Some underwater Nazis try to assassinate Mera because she’s not of pure Atlantean blood to be their queen and Arthur fights some other sea monster. And that’s the whole book. 

Wow. (Gets up, stretches, checks pulse to see if still alive)

Right. The problems lie in how flat the stories read. There are no real stakes, no consequences, no tension to anything that’s happening. A giant monster shows up and it’s totally uninvolving to see because you know Aquaman’s gonna beat him - and he does. It’s predictable and boring. And just like that, he’s moved on to the next thing. Such forgettable, disposable fluff! 

I like Swamp Thing but his crossover was totally pointless. When a lengthy fight can be avoided with a simple conversation, it just makes the characters look like idiots. If Aquaman had simply talked to Swampy rather than launching himself at him, they would’ve understood each others’ actions immediately. But instead we get the big dumb superhero fight scenes that I guess the DC chuckleheads drool over. 

Parker’s Aquaman is a bit more relaxed than Johns’ Aquaman. With Johns, he was so determined to make sure everyone reading knew that Aquaman wasn’t a joke and that he was a serious superhero, it came off as overstated and trying-too-hard. Like DC’s Batwoman series where every other page reminds you that she’s a lesbian and isn’t that progressive of DC to be publishing a lesbian superhero comic, Johns’ Aquaman repeatedly made the point that Aquaman was a badass to death. 

So Parker’s Aquaman isn’t the angry dickhead he was in Johns’ comics but instead he’s more-or-less character-free. He’s just a blank. He’s a tough dude who can competently fight ocean-themed baddies, and that’s it. I get no strong impression of a unique superhero or any reason to give a damn about him. Like the stories he starred in, I was left completely cold with his character and watched disinterestedly as he dealt with one “threat” after the other in dull methodical fashion. 

Johns’ Aquaman comics made me angry at how stupid they were but Parker’s Aquaman comics make me sleepy with how tedious they are. Disappointingly, I still don’t like this series despite the change in writer. Having read Parker’s other comics - Angry Birds, Meteor Men, Red She-Hulk, King’s Watch - I can see he really is a one-trick pony with Batman ‘66 as his only major success. 

Paul Pelletier’s art is fine. It’s decent for the comic and is up to the standard of DC’s range of superhero stuff, but it’s nothing to write home about. It’ll do, is what I’m saying. It doesn’t stand out, it’s not memorable or exciting, but it serves. 

Will you like Aquaman still if you enjoyed Johns’ books? Probably. If you enjoyed that swill, I’m sure you’ll find something here to like as well. Otherwise, I wouldn’t bother reading this unless you’re looking for something to put you to sleep quickly.

Aquaman, Volume 5: Sea of Storms

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