The majority of reviews have one particular complaint about Geoff Johns’ and Ivan Reis’ series (aside from the way it makes people feel self-conscious about their use of the possessive apostrophe) , being that the series is overly concerned with the idea that civilians in the DC Universe feel that Aquaman is a joke hero, a third-rate Superman. Despite being on the Justice League, commanding the seas, having an awesome wife to back him up, and a shiny gold trident, he has a PR problem which means nobody understands his powers or his life. Every time he talks to a member of the public, they make fun of him, misunderstand something about him, and ask patronising questions. While this certainly doesn’t stop in issue #3 of the series (at one point somebody makes fun of him for living in a lighthouse WHILE HE IS STOOD RIGHT THERE), Johns does temper it with something he does very well – he involves the civilians in the story.
So at this point in the story, the only thing which appears to have happened is that giant cannibal monsters have jumped out the sea to eat humans. You can jump on with this issue and I don’t think you’ll have missed out on any story – this was my first issue of the series, and I picked up the razor-thin plot immediately. So in this issue they attack, get fended off, and then Aquaman takes one of the bodies to be investigated by a marine biologist/former childhood mentor/current ambiguous villain. Like we said: razor-thin.
That’s not to say the series isn’t enjoyable. Johns has a great ability to take simplistic plots and mould them into blockbuster-esque action films. We get a decent fight sequence at the start of the issue, which is where the civilians get to show their skills. Instead of Aquaman and Mera fighting the monsters while they stand around and get killed, Reis and Johns are careful to display that the humans are fighting back themselves, with whatever comes to hand. When a rogue monster attacks once everybody thinks the coast is clear, it’s a police officer who shoots it down. That’s good use of the environment by the creative team, and shows you a more realistic, enjoyable portrayal of DC’s society. While they may be constantly irritating with their slights against our protagonist, at least they get to display courage and personality. Most writers wouldn’t allow that.
The main problem with the story is perhaps that Aquaman is written as a bit of a simpleton. When he looks at the bio-luminescent skin that the monsters has and says “this looks a lot like the skin of animals who live deep down in the sea”, we would surely then expect him to go investigate the sea and work out where they are. Or, as he seems to have some kind of ability to talk at them, surely he can follow their trail through the sea. Instead, Johns sends him to a biologist to work out things which Aquaman should already know. In fairness this does appear to be Johns’ way of setting up future plots – like he did with Hector Hammond in his run with Green Lantern – but the second act of this issue comes off as unnecessary, and doesn’t feel remotely as interesting as the starting sequence.
Especially as the biologist’s response is “this creature came from THE TRENCH”. Y’know, the one place in the sea which Aquaman doesn’t have complete knowledge of? From what we can tell, the main problem with the series is that it’s being decompressed in order to fit Johns’ love of long, flashy arcs. It’s all very well and good, but Aquaman doesn’t have the immediate flash of Green Lantern or… uh… The Flash. He needs to be properly showcased, and all we have at this point is the fact he’s grumpy about people making fun of him. This is half a fun, bouncy take on the character, and half a routine, rote storyline which doesn’t quite know what to do with its protagonist.
The Best Part of the Issue:
I’m a bit tired of negative reviews, because I generally love reading comics. So from now on, even with comics I don’t like, I’m going to make mention of my favourite part. And in this issue, without a doubt Mera’s small sequence during the fight was the standout page. Her power-set, which appears to be water-karate, plays right into Reis’ strengths, and looks spectacular on the page. Colourist Rod Reis does a spectacular job in these early pages, too. The opening page in particular starts off with a gorgeous sunset over the ocean, and looks absolutely beautiful.