Monday, June 6, 2011

Post-Pointal Discussion: Aquaman and the Justice League

I've always had a soft spot for Aquaman, seeing as he's one of the great iconic super-heroes, but never receives his due. That seems to be changing, thanks to the efforts of Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, and now Jim Lee with the launch of a new Justice League. This marks the first time in nearly twenty years that a universally recognizable Sea King has served with the group in whose books he's made more appearances than any other, save his decades in Adventure Comics. If rumors are true, it also marks the first time the monarch has actually led the team in ages. It seems like a natural fit, except of course that Aquaman is a horrible leader.

When Aquaman was first created, he was a good-natured cowboy patrolling the range, an American with powers born of the marriage of modern and ancient science. He did his part during World War II, and managed to hang on through the fallow 1950s, a rare accomplishment among super-heroes. Since he was still around at the dawn of the Silver Age, he was drafted into the very first Justice League line-up, and served consistently for eighteen straight years. I figure he earned 1979 off. During those years, Aquaman's legend grew massively, through his adoption of the young protege Aqualad, learning he was in fact Atlantean royalty, his marriage to the other-dimensional queen Mera, the nigh-unprecedented birth of a son to a super-hero, and a successful cartoon series. Unfortunately, Aquaman was among the most humbled of super-heroes, infamous for his uselessness on the long running Super Friends cartoon, the unavenged murder of his son, an acrimonious relationship with his adopted ward and kingdom, the dissolution of his marriage, and repeated cancellations. It's no wonder Aquaman held on to the one good thing he had, his super-team, but perhaps he held on a bit too tightly.

After numerous Satellite Era Leaguers failed to show up in the face of an invasion from Mars, Aquaman disbanded the team in disgust, and restaffed it with a widely ridiculed, underpowered collection of misfits (see sidebar icons.) Not only did Aquaman render the Justice League laughingstocks, but he commanded them through the force of telepathy in an unethical manner against such thoroughly ridiculous "menaces" as The Cadre of silly stereotypes, the Fiddling Ruskie, and Hobo Amazo. No wait, scratch that last one. Aquaman actually went AWOL to search for his wife, having come to his senses with regard to a) redheads are hot and b) he'd royally screwed the pooch on this new JLA thing, with even these nobodies ready to turn on him. Aquaman and Mera did show up to help stop AmazEskimo, but then promptly resigned to work on his marriage. Please remember, the reason Aquaman drove off Green Arrow, Black Canary and Firestorm, who had helped stop the Martians, was because he only wanted Leaguers willing to give their all to the team. His all was all of a year (or less, actually.)

The Sea King wasn't such a hypocrite that he lacked shame for what he had done. Like many of his fellow Silver Age friends, Aquaman isolated himself from the DC Universe for the rest of the '80s, appearing in several mini-series and specials, attempting to catch some heat from Post-Crisis revisionism. When Aquaman rejoined the League in 1992, he served quietly in their European branch for only a year, deferring to Green Lantern's stewardship. How humiliating must that have been?

Aquaman dove headfirst into the '90s, growing a beard and mullet, replacing a hand with a harpoon, and swaggering as best as he could with fins on his calves. For a while there, he was outright hostile the other super-heroes. However, when Grant Morrison decided to reform the Beatles, the Magnificent Seven JLA founders, Aquaman was all in. He appeared in almost as many issues of JLA as there were editions of his first solo series, and they had to kill the guy off in "Our Worlds At War" to cut him loose. Even then, his swift return to life and a spin-off solo series formed the basis of a JLA story arc.

Aquaman has gone through a lot of problems in recent years, including becoming an amnesiac mutant, being replaced by an idiot kid with a sword, being killed by a z-lister, becoming a zombie, and playing a role in the death of Aqualad. Atlantis (Mera included) had their fill of their king years ago, repeatedly trying to kill or replace him before the entire empire was finally destroyed while he stood powerless. Aquaman also failed to save most of his supporting cast, leaving him at present with Mera (she came back around,) Aquagirl (the second, by way of poisoning,) and Aqualad (II.) Aquaman's relations with the Justice League also remain strained, past brawls with Hawkman and Martian Manhunter coming to mind, plus a stillborn flirtation with Wonder Woman and chilly acquaintanceships with most of the rest. Frankly, J'Onn J'Onzz is one of the few guys that even tries to be Aquaman's pal, and the Sea King has immolated him repeatedly for his kindness.

All this having been said, I look forward to seeing where leadership of the reunited Justice League goes. Mera's back in the picture, and has already tried to impale Wonder Woman with a trident. Batman's not likely to listen to any orders. Green Lantern's never seemed to have much use for Arthur. Superman and the Flash get along as best they can. Cyborg, man, watch out for the dude, given how he treated Steel the Indestructible Man. There is so much more potential with Aquaman at the fore over the World's Finest duo, because he's way bossier and prone to unscrupulous crap, plus there's no guarantee anyone will follow directions. That could get very interesting...

...and the Justice League

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