Saturday, December 31, 2011

Review: Aquaman - "The Trench" (#1-4)


Aquaman: The Trench (#1-4)
Geoff Johns - Writer
Ivan Reis - Pencils

Geoff Johns is one of my favorite writers in comics today. He relaunch my favorite superhero, Green Lantern, in 2004, and has since contributed consistently excellent work that focuses on characters, letting stories build around their natural tendencies.

So I was excited when I heard Johns was taking the reigns with Aquaman with DC's New 52 relaunch. Arthur Curry is a character that gets love in all the wrong ways. Most writers who get their hands on the (arguably) least popular DC hero ever, they feel the need to 'reinvent' him, change his personality or simply make his stories crazier to compensate for a lack of fresh ideas.

Johns understands that a good story needs good characters to be compelling, and Aquaman is a perfect example of this. Instead of an alien invasion, some crossover or a 'secret origins' style retelling, Johns tells a rather simple, yet effective, story about a species of carnivorous deep-sea dwellers whose natural food source has run dry. Desperate for sustenance, they travel up.

The fight against the deep-sea creatures isn't the focal point of this first story arc. Instead, it's designed to give readers an easy introduction (or re-introduction) to a character who has historically been DC's scapegoat, one who is highly misunderstood and who can be the protagonist of a highly-readable book. Johns addresses Aquaman's unpopularity, excellently weaves Arthur Curry's history into the storytelling - without going into exposition mode - and opens up a little more of Aquaman's world. 

When asked how he talks to fish, the wet wonder replies that he, in fact, does not talk to fish at all. He explains that fish aren't intelligent enough to talk, and his connection with sea life is more of a light psychic control. While this may seem small in the grander scheme of the Aquaman world, it's a trademark technique of Johns, one used to give readers a better understanding of the character, leading to a deeper investment into their stories.

Many of the titles under the banner of the New 52 are excellent. Aquaman stands out as a prime example of what makes comics great. The past ten years seen the constant thickening of continuity through perpetual 'crises', crossover events and 'everything will change' mini-series. Titles like Aquaman are taking the medium back to a style that made them popular in the first place: stories about characters.

Story Arc Grade: A-

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