Sunday, 19 June 2016

Aquaman: Sub Diego Review (Will Pfeifer, Patrick Gleason)

San Diego falls into the sea following a massive earthquake! Hundreds of thousands of citizens dead in one fell swoop… or are they? Aquaman investigates!

Aquaman polices Atlantis like Batman and Superman watch over Gotham and Metropolis except during this time in the character’s history (about ten years ago), he was in exile from his kingdom and needed an underwater city to be heroic in. Writer Will Pfeifer came up with a clever solution: move a human city into the sea so Aquaman can go back to being underwater Superman – brilliant! 

Despite that inspired choice, Sub Diego (I see what they did there…) is just an ok Aquaman book. First of all DC really need to add a “Volume 1” to the title because this is only the first half of the story – it’s not a complete arc. Also, if you’re a New 52 Aquaman fan, you might be disappointed with the total absence of Mera, his wife. She’s been subbed in this book for a bland girl called Lorena who platonically tags along with Aquaman for a bit (she’s on the cover - Lorena eventually becomes Aquagirl). 

The story is only intermittently interesting. The mystery of how San Diego fell in the sea, the villains behind it, and the fledgling society of Sub Diego aren’t bad but once we get into how Sub Diego society operates, things get a little too generically superhero-y for my taste. For example, Aquaman stops robbers who’re still doing the same old “breaking into safes” thing only they’re doing it underwater. Aquaman doesn’t have any especially amazing scenes or great dialogue and quite often he’s playing the quiet, stoic, boring hero and occasional aghast observer. 

Patrick Gleason’s art though is the best I’ve seen from him. Oftentimes the scenes are dark and unsettling – there’s a lotta blood and gore in this one – so it’s not like Aquaman was some joke character before Geoff Johns got his hands on him in the New 52 (although I’d deffo read a Saturday morning cartoon Aquaman comic a la Batman ‘66!). Despite the grim tone, a number of times I was deeply impressed with the epic vision Gleason produced on the page. This one’s a big, big storyline for Aquaman and Gleason definitely gives it its due. His Aquaman though is a little cartoony with his oddly-shaped head! 

Aquaman: Sub Diego (unofficially Part 1) isn’t a bad comic and I liked the setup but what followed wasn’t the most riveting stuff. It was Aquaman being Aquaman and little else besides. That and the fact that we don’t get the full story here doesn’t make for a satisfying read – it’s a shame DC didn’t package the whole arc into one volume. Patrick Gleason’s art though is outstanding and makes up for Will Pfeifer’s weak script. 

This isn’t the best Aquaman book you’ll read but it’s definitely better than some of the utterly awful Aquaman comics that’ve come out in the last couple years.

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