Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Aquaman, Volume 1: The Drowning Review (Dan Abnett, Philippe Briones)

Atlantis has built a dry land embassy on the Massachusetts shore to strengthen relations with America. But xenophobic Atlantean terrorists calling themselves the Deluge, as well as Aquaman’s nemesis Black Manta, seek to destroy any attempt at peaceful co-existence. Time for Aquaman and Mera to hit stuff!

I’ve only read a handful of random Rebirth issues so Aquaman, Volume 1: The Drowning is my first full Rebirth book. Given how popular Rebirth has been with readers, putting perennial second-place comics publisher DC’s sales within swiping distance of market leader Marvel’s (whose own sales have nosedived dramatically in the last year), I was hoping that meant the quality would be sky-high… and unfortunately it’s not, at least for Dan Abnett’s Aquapants.

I thought Rebirth was a return to the pre-Flashpoint continuity, ignoring the New 52 years entirely, however the New 52 Throne of Atlantis storyline – when Aquaman’s half-brother Orm/Ocean Master flooded the coasts and invaded the land – is referenced as the basis for America’s fear of Atlantis in this book. So it looks like Rebirth is a return to classic canon while also incorporating the New 52 timeline - fair enough but no idea how that works given that the New 52 was a continuity reboot that wiped out classic canon!

The story is so uninspired. Black Manta is being Black Manta, causing mayhem, this time in the new Atlantean embassy, because he wants revenge against Aquaman like he always does – Abnett’s just spinning his wheels, it’s like reading tedium in comics form. Then things get dumber with the Deluge – terrorists obviously not standing for Atlantis – sinking a US ship and once again creating tension between the two nations. Rather than talk through the problem like adults, Aquaman and Mera – mostly Mera – behave like ‘roided out meatheads, punching everything and everyone, making a bad situation even worse.

I feel like anyone with a higher than double digits IQ is gonna be not only bored but frustrated with how stupid everyone behaves especially as the escalation could’ve easily been avoided if anyone stopped to think for a moment. But then we wouldn’t get Aquaman and Mera punching Superman which is apparently what Dan Abnett/DC think readers want? “Duuuuuuuuh, I wants me comix to reads like me Injustice game…..!”

Aquaman behaves weirdly out of character particularly in the Superman fight, suddenly being insecure about his place in the Justice League, ranting about being “the creepy fish guy” and not getting respect(the Superfriends cartoon exists in this world)!

“Aquaman is a joke” is the same tack Geoff Johns took in his first Aquabook and it remains a silly detail. That said, Abnett doesn’t have Johns’ blockbuster vision and pacing and the book doesn’t have Ivan Reis’ sharp pencils – because Aquaman ships every 2 weeks, a number of artists are required to keep up with the demanding schedule so the visuals throughout look rushed and keep changing.

Mera is poorly written too. Here she’s angry, stupid and overly aggressive, which doesn’t tally with the character we’ve seen in previous books. Given her behaviour here and Aquaman’s negative reaction to it only makes their engagement even more baffling. Remember DC Universe Rebirth #1? The only story point in that issue for this series was Aquaman proposing to Mera. 

And that’s basically what Aquaman Rebirth is: a series without any real direction, drive or purpose. I suppose there’s enough backstory here for it to be a decent jumping-on point for new readers, which is one of the main selling points of Rebirth, but it’s not a book that’s gonna make anyone fall in love with the character or even entertain on any level. I got nothing out of this one except for yawn after yawn. A disappointing beginning to my Rebirth odyssey and another terrible Aquaman book to add to the pile!

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