Aquaman Vol. 1 Review – The New 52
One of the newest releases on hardcover for the New 52 collections, Aquaman Vol. 1: The Trench, was released in September of this year and binds together issues 1-6. It is written by Geoff Johns (Green Lantern, Flashpoint, Justice League) in collaboration with artists Ivan Reis (Blackest Night, Green Lantern, Rann/Thanagar War) and Joe Prado (Superman, Teen Titans, Birds of Prey).
There was a time when it would have been a cold day in Heck before I purchased a book with Aquaman on its title. If I wasn’t so obsessed with owning this set of matching hardcovers of DC Comics’ New 52 collections, I never would have purchased it, albeit in a discreet fashion. It had been in my reserve box for over a week and I could not let it sit there for much longer. So, I went up to the guy behind the counter and said at a near-whisper “You guys are holding a book for me.”
“Which book?” he asked.
“Just look in the box,” I said.
He asked for my name and I told him. He then went and peeked into my reserve space. There was not anything in there. He asked for the title again.
“Aquaman,” I said with my volume slightly raised, “It’s the hardcover.”
It was at this point when my buddy overheard this exchange.
“What was that, Mike?” he asked with an annoying smirk on his face.
“Shut up,” I said.
“No, I want to hear you say it again,” he said to me. To the clerk he went, “Don’t give it to him until he says it again!” We’re all friends here.
“I don’t have to buy it.”
“Oh, I think you do…”
“Fine! It’s The New 52 Aquaman!” Everyone started laughing. Everybody’s a comedian.
As I sat down to read, I forced any preconceived notions I have had about the character out of my mind. Because Aquaman had been the butt of countless internet jokes over the last number of years, this was not an easy task. Also, not having been too happy with recent publications by Geoff Johns (his recent work with Justice League comes to mind), I braced myself for what could be a catastrophe. However, I suspended by disbelief because of somewhat positive reviews from friends: It’s pretty good…for Aquaman.
I am happy to report that Geoff Johns has redeemed himself with this title. It is a page-turner, with a narrative that brings Aquaman to sea level. The dialogue is funny, at times hilarious. The author embraced all of the jokes on the internet poking fun of the protagonist and brought it into the world of Aquaman in a realistic fashion. I was also impressed with the book’s ability to handle the more serious tones that the story dictates. It is a love story: very down-to-earth but full of character. However, those are not even the best parts. Aquaman’s antagonists have very basic, but highly relatable, motivations. On this, you’ll have to take my word as I don’t want to reveal any spoilers in the storyline. The book then ends with several openings into what I can only anticipate as an epic saga. All the elements bringing the reader closer to the characters and their interactions are there. What an amazing read! This could easily be one of Johns’ best works as a writer for DC.
The artwork on every page is straight-up gorgeous; the book has the feel of a masterpiece. It might seem like I am just gushing, but look for yourself! The praise is warranted. It begins with a badass cover, with a golden Aquaman gleaming amidst a sea of foes. Then, during the reading, I found myself torn between turning the page to advance the story and staying on it just a little while longer in hopes of noticing further details. This pretty much guaranteed a second read through the book for me. The characters are drawn with animated emotion on their faces and their body language clearly defined. The actions sequences are full of motion yet grounded, easy to follow, and contributes greatly to the storytelling without being over-the-top as comic book fights tend to be. These aspects, along with the intricately detailed surroundings the characters end up in, rounds out this collection’s artwork nicely. The only disappointment is the lack of bonus artwork in the back of the book, giving the reader only a couple of pages of sketches.
Definitely pick up this book. It’s a must-read. Ignore the jeers and smirks the know-nothings at the comic book store will inevitably judge you with. With this book, Aquaman kicks ass and is a great character with a great story. Johns reminds us why he is an esteemed member of the Justice League. I would point to this publication as one of the first books to read in the New 52 universe. Aces!