Sunday, September 4, 2011

Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #51 (June, 2007)

Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern Hal Jordan and the Flash attended the underwater funeral of the original Aquaman. I suppose the Martian Manhunter's absence could be chalked up to his being a coneheaded jerk at the time, but it was still unseemly for Wally West to be around and J'Onn absent. The Dweller's body was committed to a mausoleum, though Mera hoped that he might yet cheat death in some way, as he had done in times past. As for Atlantis, Wonder Woman suggested that some magic users like Zatanna or the Shadowpact might be of assistance. Begging Tempest's pardon, Mera was sick of sorcery, and Atlantis needed to make its own way.

Topo had read on Super Ultra Mega that Garth was supposed to be an energetic, happy-go-lucky guy. Clearly, the fishy internet was not to be trusted, since my recollection of Garth has been a whiny bitch since Tula died in the mid-80s, and the disappearance of his family in the One Year Later period just made him more of a tool than usual. Superman shook Arthur Joesph's hand and felt he would do fine as the new Aquaman, while Topo was ecstatic over his proximity to Superman, Batman and especially Wonder Woman. "Leaping ling cod, I was actually close enough to reach out and touch Wonder Woman's divine, magical... LASSO! ...and did you see? She was wearing the bracelets, too!" Arthur remarked, "Jeez, you really are a fanboy, aren't you?"

Issitoq the Narwhal had been expected back in Dyss after his triumph against Orin, but was instead found sulking in the Norwegian Basin of the Arctic Ocean by Pardoner. The narwhal now understood his victim really had recognized him, and was upset at having missed the chance to learn his true identity. Issitoq smashed the ground and threatened Pardoner with a boulder, until he was placed in a submissive trance state. The "fierce young corpse-whale" was his proudest creation, so Pardoner intended for him to "visit the soothing darkness for a while to have your thoughts improved" through "therapy."

Lorena, the Aquagirl of Sub Diego, visited the tomb of her former flame Koryak, son of Orin. Lorena mourned the relationship that could have been, but didn't like coming off like a soap star. She told Arthur Junior, "I'm not going to be friends with you, by the way. Then you won't die. I'm learning, see?"

Cal Durham had spent months swimming with his party to return Garth home and seek resources for his own people. He was dismayed that Atlantis had fallen so low as to be of little help, and planned to return home. Garth intended to go back with Cal, since there was nothing keeping him in Atlantis, and his only lead to his condition and family was his being found in Sub Diego's proximity. Mera felt abandoned by them both, and Topo began shouting, "What is wrong with you people? Swimming? Swimming?! To the Pacific Ocean? Is this some drawn-out practical joke on me, or are you all really crazy? What about the hatches?" The rageboy nerd had everyone's attention, to the point that he inked himself again over causing insult during "a meeting of the Atlantean Sovereign Council."

When Topo finally recovered, he explained that the Deep Church had found a way to access preexisting teleportational wormholes at points all over the sea. The hatches were locked by "a believer's code implanted from the Deep Church in Dyss," but Dr. Arkelon had invented a hack for the apostates in Neos. Mera enlisted Arthur as Topo's personal guard, since this news could be hugely beneficial, with the initial test run being a return to Sub Diego. Losing Cal, Lorena, and Garth seemed much less important under the circumstances, especially the former Tempest, whom she felt was crippled in ways beyond the physical.

At a hatch, Topo focused mentally to gain access, but the door opened to a Punishment Shoal vastly more dangerous than the one previously faced. "That's... that's Baron Gorgos! Flipping flounders, we're doomed!" Tempest was able to fend off Benthocto, an anthropomorphic octopus. Aquaman took on the brawny Leatherback. Gorgos himself threatened to eat Topo, so Aquaman had to change dancing partners. The Baron was a sadomasochist, taking pleasure in both the searing pain delivered by his head tentacles, and his own agony at having some ripped out by Arthur. King Shark happened along to devour a fourth, unnamed shoal heavyweight. The group then fled into the hatch, turning up in a volcanic region near Sub Diego. Garth immediately started criticizing King Shark as a "murderous monstrosity," driving him off, and leaving Arthur to argue his virtues against the unrepentant Tempest. Regardless of the trouble, Lorena and Cal were just happy to be a day out from home, rather than two months.

Back on the Arctic island of Ymirsheim, Captain Jimmy Lockhart, Elsa Magnusson, and the Sea Devil leader Dane Dorrance continued down a mysterious staircase leading them below sea level. The group had second thoughts about continuing, but when they doubled back, found a doorway had sealed behind them. Trapped, the group's surrender was demanded by more members of the Deep Church.

Cal Durham was uneasy at the silence as his group approached the remnant portion of Sub Diego that he had governed. A large sign had been posted, alerting citizens to the curfew invoked by their new leader, Black Manta.

"The Once and Future Sea King" was by Tad Williams, Shawn McManus, and Walden Wong. As a welcome change from the Busiek issues, even in a relatively talky issue, there is tons of stuff going on to keep up interest. The massive losses in Atlantis were finally being addressed on a personal level, favorite supporting characters from the Sub Diego issues and more classic runs were being restored. The situation in Atlantis was finally acknowledged at all by the JLA. The Deep Church seems interesting and offers a host of new villains created specifically for Arthur Joseph, instead of his constantly running into Orin's tired old foes calling him out as inferior (while backing up the claim.) Topo is fun when he's not obnoxious, and I really appreciated Williams' ability to juggle a lot of very different personalities. My only complaints in the script are that even in the face of teased sparks with Arthur Joseph, Mera comes off as an old maid, and it's a might too convenient that the Deep Church were suddenly everywhere at one.

Shawn McManus' art took more getting used to, especially since his style had grown so cartoony that he often more resembled Bob Fingerman than his own past super-hero work. The main negative effect is that the violence of the book has no weight, because you expect anyone that matters to bounce right back, like a Looney Tune. On the other hand, it fits the book's quirk vibe, and McManus does a fine job of juggling a suddenly huge cast. Coupled with the coloring of Dan Brown, you can tell everyone is underwater, but it's a far more vibrant and varied place than it had been in the early going of Sword of Atlantis. Both writing and art embrace the inherent ridiculousness of fishy fantasy, for the first time allowing Aquaman to laugh with the comedic potential, rather than just being the butt of jokes.

Brave New World

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