Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Aquaman #2 Review and **SPOILERS**

No Splashing in the Pool

Written By: Dan Abnett
Art By: Scot Eaton, Wayne Faucher, Gabe Eltaeb
Lettered By: Pat Brosseau
Cover Price: $2.99
On Sale Date: July 6, 2015


While watching the time trials for men’s and women’s swimming Olympic hopefuls last week, I came to a couple of conclusions. One: Olympic-sized swimming pools are really big. I think if most of us did one lap (essentially what each competitor did for their trial) in that pool, we would be exhausted. If we didn’t suffer a heart attack halfway through. The other thing I realized is that here is a group of people who spend way too long in the water. I remember, as a kid, my mom or dad would have to call me in from playing in a pool or in the ocean, where I would frolic about and do precisely zero laps until my skin pruned up and my lips turned blue. And even then, I was in the water for…an hour? Ninety minutes? Meanwhile these swimmers probably take breakfast and lunch in the shallow end of the pool. There’s something unnerving about that, something that should not be. You ain’t Aquaman, son, you’re not supposed to swim with the grace of a barracuda. Here, check out my review of Aquaman #2 and see what he’s all about, then tell me if you’re aqua-bound enough to even peel his grapes. Sea grapes, that is.

Explain It!

Last issue ended with a few pages featuring six or seven really well-rendered panels of Aquaman and Black Manta fighting in ankle-deep water. Well, that’s pretty much what they do for this entire issue. And a lot of it looks really cool, there are some awesome anatomical studies and some solid-looking blows traded between the two, but it’s pretty much all they do. So this issue advances the story about twenty minutes. I just want to be up front about that. It does begin with a two-page reminiscence by, presumably, Aquaman, who recalls that it was a dark and stormy night when he boarded the S.S. Black Manta’s Dad Ship, to find Black Manta’s dad and make him pay for killing his father. In a fit of rage, he kills Black Manta Sr., just in time for Junior to show up and witness the deed. And it is then that Junior becomes Only and Black Manta decides to get revenge on Aquaman for killing his poppa, which in this instance is fighting in ankle-deep water and setting off explosives around the Atlantean embassy Spindrift, fairly wrecking the place on its opening day. I want you to remember, though, that from now on whenever I invoke Aquaman or Black Manta, no matter what they say or do, they are fighting in ankle-deep water. At no time does one chase the other, or do they submerge and have an underwater battle—no, the whole time, this entire issue, they fight in ankle-deep water.

While Spindrift collapses, the Atlantean army begrudgingly rushes to save the land dwellers, for they know it could create a diplomatic incident in any of them die in the chaos. Frankly, having seen the initial blast Black Manta placed in that hallway last issue, I’d say they’d be lucky to keep the fatalities in the single digits. At Aquaman’s direction, Lieutenant Joanna “Crikey” Butts of the Royal Navy takes Mera’s limp form out of the building and to the attendant military, who are probably glad to grab a real underwater woman instead of one of those gross oxygen exchangers. While they fight in ankle-deep water the entire time, Aquaman has a civil conversation with Black Manta, expressing remorse for having killed has father, and explaining that it was all worth it because it made Aquaman into the swell guy he is today, so really his dad is a hero for allowing Aquaman to kill him, in a way. Eventually, Aquaman has Black Manta pinned up against a column with his trident, prepared to strike a killing blow because, well, he’s Aquaman and has the advantage in water of any depth.

So this is when Black Manta points out that if Aquaman kills him, then he will have compromised his integrity, while if Black Manta kills him, he gets revenge, and this is really just the lamest shit you can imagine, to spell out the literary conundrum inherent in all pulp fiction. Oh gee, d’you think that’s why Moriarity was behind most of the schemes designed to vanquish Sherlock Holmes? I mean for crying out loud, do we need Batman to walk on scene and explain to the reader why he doesn’t kill the Joker? This is the superhero conundrum, ladies and gentlemen! That they can’t ever kill so they have to devise bizarre bullshit like Phantom Zones and revolving-door institutions that makes their existing threats omnipresent. You’re not supposed to point this out in the narrative! Thwarted by Black Manta’s class in Freshman Creative Writing, Aquaman then tells Black Manta to kill him—thereby taking away his raison d'etre, which is perhaps the second most obvious trope defining the relationship between superhero and archenemy. Well, this vanquishes Black Manta, because your English teacher was right when they said that a proper understanding of literary elements could take you far in life, even though they were wrong when they said Catcher in the Rye is a great novel.

Black Manta is taken away in cuffs, but is freed at the end of the issue by some weirdo Cyborg lady and two golden guys in red jumpsuits, and Aquaman acknowledges Jo Butts for saving his fiancée, and that fairly well ends the issue. The art is nice enough, but the story is pretty much a dud, with some decent dialogue between Aquaman and Black Manta failing to distract from the fact that it’s all this issue has. I know having two issues a month might give one the tendency to stretch their stories a bit, but really this is almost like an episode of 24, happening in real time. Unfortunately, it’s also like an episode of 24 in that it’s not very interesting.

Bits and Pieces:

An issue consisting of a single fight, no matter how nicely drawn, is still a rip-off. If you're brand new to Aquaman, it will fill in a few plot points, but it's doubtful that this issue will draw you in to explore the character further. If you've got a thing for lots of splashing, then you have found your comic book! Things are exploding and splashing all the time!



  1. I don't know what I was expecting but this was not it. The battle was a bit underwelming and having aquaman beat his archenemy both physically and psychological in the 2nd issue doesn't make too much sense. Still looking forward to see what happens maybe Black Manta Suicide Squad 2.0

    1. If this fight had been part of an issue, and there was some follow-through on what happened after, I might have thought it was okay. But this whole issue was just one, splashy fight. And if I'm gonna see that, I want the splashing liquid to be hot oil!

  2. I get it now... Black Manta shoots everyone in the shoulder because that's what his dad did. "I learned it by watching you". Without his farther around to teach him, Manta will never learn about shooting his enemies in the heart or maybe a headshot.

  3. I know this is more for the Justice League #1 page but this question does involve Aquaman. How was Aquaman able to hear the Reaper's thoughts?? Sure he can "communicate" with sea creatures but does this mean that the Reaper is a water creature or can Aquaman communicate with land/space creatures too?

    1. Well what is the brain suspended in within our skulls? Water...or in Jim's case a mixture of NyQuil and string cheese