Sunday, July 17, 2011

Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #43 (August, 2006)

"I pretty much knew him from that cartoon. You know, the one with the stupid walrus?" Yeah, nothing so endearing as Arthur Joseph Curry mocking the legacy of his namesake in the face of the ghost of one of Aquaman's best friends. "I liked the guys who could fly. Superman, Green Lantern, soaring around up there in the clouds... Aquaman breathed water and talked to fish. I breathed underwater... And talking to fish? No offense... but they're fish. I guess what I saw him as was the guy who stood around in the background when the JLA were on TV. I was a kid. I didn't see the appeal."

Vulko revealed that Thomas Curry, who raised Aquaman as a lad in coastal Maine, was Artie Joe's great-uncle. Vulko also explained that when the Spectre destroyed Atlantis, he died, but decided against going into the light with the other spirits (like Koryak, for instance.) Elsa Magnusson later performed experiments over Atlantis' remains, and sort of ghostbusted Vulko, who now hung out at Windward Home. Vulko "mystically Googled" Aquaman, and got Artie Joe instead.

Later, Arthur Joseph played around with bikini girl Jessie Silver on her jet ski. "I'm studying oceanography at the New Athens Experimental School in Florida. Mostly, that means I surf." She was interning while her dad, Jerome Silver, was on staff at Windward Home. I'm sure that would have mattered if the creative team had stuck around, but as far as I know, that exposition went nowhere.

King Shark ran afoul of the distrustful Sea Devils, but a low-level child telepath named Maria allowed the mute-on-land creature to defend himself against false accusations. Shark bailed so that he could be left alone, which made me envious, as the book continued on with yammering between old scientists and boring ass Arthur Joseph and friggin' Vulko. Elsa found out that Artie's dad's corpse had been found, so he pouted underwater. Some big battle erupted on a spread from pages 20-21, and Queen Mera needed help, so "Aquaman" and the Sea Devils prepared to do something after wasting another entire issue on exposition. I hate this series.

"Conversations With Vulko" was by Kurt Buisek and Butch Guice with very heavy inks by Tony DeZuniga. Whether Busiek was writing Artie Joe as a proxy for himself or skeptical readers, his sentiments early in the issue pissed me off. This lack of faith in the Aquaman property was why Sword of Atlantis was an abject failure that the creators abandoned within the first year, while Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis' embracing of what was great about the property revitalized it. Also, DeZuniga was a welcome relief from Guice's sleep-inducing art, offering Bronze Age style heavy detailing with a visceral yet ethereal energy. It was the saving grace of another crap issue.

Brave New World


Kurt Busiek said...

>> Whether Busiek was writing Artie Joe as a proxy for himself or skeptical readers, his sentiments early in the issue pissed me off.>>

I was writing Artie Joe as Artie Joe, not as a proxy for anyone. He grew up trapped in a big tank of water, so Aquaman's powers wouldn't impress him. The stuff he'd dream of was the stuff he couldn't do.

Over time, Artie Joe would discover what was cool about those powers -- particularly his version of "talking to fish," which only started to come out during the Fisherman story. But as a guy who breathed water and thought of it as a curse, not a power, he wouldn't naturally be an Aquaman fan.


Diabolu Frank said...

Thanks for the clarification, and sorry for being so mean. I only ever seem to get comments from writers when I'm being mean to them. Then again, I'm 90% negative, so the law of averages kicks in.

Kurt Busiek said...

No sweat. If you didn't like it you didn't like it, and that's the way it goes. That's not mean.

Another bit of behind-the-scenes: One of Dan Didio's ideas, early on, was to team Aquaman with Arion and King Shark: a sea prince, a sorcerer supreme and a hulking man-monster. I wound up taking a very different tack, but still wound up with a sea prince (if a less literal one), a Mage and a man-monster -- so Jesse was planted as a supporting character to be used later when Artie Joe got to the mainland, so we'd have a surfer named Silver in the cast...

Diabolu Frank said...

So Mr. Nebula would have remodeled Windward Home and driven her to existential angst? Throw in a tin-plated bikini and kill two bird with one stone?

I actually dig the Arion idea. I thought Windward Home was solid enough a premise, and it was good to bring the Sea Devils in, but I was really frustrated that Aquaman's world had shrunk so small again. For some reason, everyone wants to destroy or contract with the property rather than build upon it. I'm sure a lot of that was editorially mandated, but still...