Saturday, January 3, 2015

Aquaman #37 Review

Written by: Jeff Parker
Art by: Paul Pelletier
Cover Price: $2.99
Release Date: December 24, 2014

Ape Call

I'd sum up Jeff Parker's run on Aquaman as "fun".  There is nothing wrong with that.  In fact, I've really enjoyed it.  Seeing Arthur at his High School reunion was one of my favorite Aquaman moments ever and there are many more bits like that since Parker took the book over.  Of course, that kind of paints a pretty narrow picture of Jeff Parker and it seems that this Maelstrom story is his answer to just that.  Aquaman is involved in some pretty serious business.  Atlantis (the actual place) is rejecting him and the reason is crazy and very personal.  Arthur learned recently that his Mother is alive.  What What?  That one sentence has turned Aquaman's world upside down.  It's that big.  Last month's issue featured a guest spot from Martian Manhunter and the information he gleaned from him has lead to this month's awesome guest star...Gorilla Grodd.  It's off to Gorilla City for a little monkey business and if Aquaman isn't careful, he may just go bananas.  I'm really sorry for that.

Like I said, last month's issue featured Martian Manhunter and through his unique set of skills, Arthur was able to trace his mother's last steps in Atlantis.  Everyone found out  what was thought to be true was actually a ruse that fooled everyone into thinking the Queen of Atlantis had died.  She "escaped" through a portal that was immediately familiar to Aquaman, Dr. Evans and long time readers.  If you have been around since issue #28, you also know that these portals tend to be all kinds of trouble. After Aquaman and Mera go through the portal, Jeff Parker gives us one of the worst cases of bad timing ever.  Only after the two heroes disappear does Dr. Evans find a cracked destination stone with the Maelstrom symbol on it. Oh snap!

There's no time for regrets though, because Aquaman and Mera pop out on the other side of the portal in Gorilla City.  Oh yea!  Let me stop a moment to tell you that I love Gorilla Grodd.  Any comic with Gorilla Grodd on the cover is a day one purchase for me and I couldn't wait to see one of my favorite characters.  More on Grodd in a bit.

The bigger picture of Maelstrom is about Aquaman's Mother, but Jeff Parker uses this issue to explore the shared history of Gorilla City and Atlantis.  It's not pretty and involves subjugation, rebellion and lots of bloodshed.  It also explains how the Gorillas got their abilities, why the portal led to Gorilla City and gives a real solid reason why they hate Atlantians.  I'm not sure that everyone will like what Parker is selling, but I'd wait in line for seconds.

Then there is Grodd.  He's been in jail since Forever Evil and unfortunatley, he's the only one who has information about Artur's Mother.  That leads to a pretty cool showdown.  Arthur wants answers and Grodd wants a fight.  Of course, we all know that Grodd is up to something, but desperate times...  Aquaman eventually gets a verification rather than any real answers.  Then Grodd shows his true (and awesome) colors and the issue ends with Aquaman and Grodd hurtling through the portal again. Grodd is back, baby!

If you haven't guessed it, I loved everything about Grodd in this issue.  Parker writes him in a smart. calculating and pompous way and it felt just right.  He just commands attention with his mere presence.  I also liked the explanations we got about Gorilla City and it's inhabitants.  I'm not sure it's fully intentional, but this series may have lifted Aquaman from joke status, but it's really made ancient Atlantians look like pricks.

Of course, this book is suppose to be about Aquaman and Maelstrom and on that front, it's just okay.  We get some answers, but in the end, Gorilla City felt too much like a detour.  I know I may be jumping the gun, but Maelstrom is starting to feel a bit like Batman's guest star laden search for Damian over in Batman and Robin.

Paul Pelletier's art has been very good the last bunch of issues, but this month it's just okay.  I did like his Grodd and the flashback scenes were a highlight, but everything lacked the detail that Pelletier gives when he's at his best.  It's not bad, mind you, just okay.

Bits and Pieces:

Aquaman #37 ends up feeling more like a detour than a destination.  It's always cool to see Gorilla City, especially it's greatest resident, Gorilla Grodd, but the Maelstrom story barely goes forward.  Paul Pelletier's art was okay and in the end, the whole issue felt like filler with a tiny bit of setup.  I hope next month gets us back on track because I'm more interested in Aquaman's quest to find his Mother than a who's who trip through the DCU.


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