I was pleasantly surprised by Aquaman #41. It was a far superior read than I was expecting based on the Sneak Peek for the new DCYOU direction of this title that we had gotten during Convergence. Cullen Bunn has brought a sense of excitement to this title. Bunn has taken what is great about Aquaman’s character and amped those features up to 11. I love that Bunn is focusing on what is cool about Aquaman rather than spending time apologizing for the character. Or spending time acknowledging the character’s perceived flaws stemming as far back as the old Super Friends cartoon. I understood what Johns was trying to do by taking these perceptions head on. And there is some merit to the belief that in order to get Aquaman’s character over with the average reader then the long-standing views that Aquaman is a joke needed to be addressed.
However, I felt that Johns went way too far in that direction. Bunn, instead, understands that the best way to get a character over with the average reader is not to dwell on the negative perceptions of the character. Nor is it to apologize for the character. Instead, Bunn realizes that getting a character over with the regular reader is as simple as focusing on what is cool about that character and then turning up those aspects to a high level. And that is what Bunn did with Aquaman #41 with this new DCYOU direction for Aquaman’s character. I fully expect Aquaman #42 to be another fun read. Let’s hit this review.
Words: Cullen Bunn
Pencils: Tervor McCarthy
Inks: Jesus Merino
Colors: Guy Major
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin “Then” with Aquaman arriving back in Atlantis. Aquaman meets with Mera and tells her that the land of Thule that is invading their world is also full of many innocent people. Both male and female. Young and old. Aquaman says that they need to save these people while they are stopping Thule from destroying their world. Mera asks if Aquaman has told this to anyone else. Aquaman replies that he came to Mera first.
Mera then attacks Aquaman. Mera says that Aquaman made her Queen of Atlantis. That Mera is not going to do anything that could lead to the death of any Atlanteans or that may lead to the destruction of Atlantis. Mera called Aquaman a traitor. Aquaman question what has gotten into Mera. He asks her not to do this and to stop attacking him. Aquaman then smashes through a wall in order to make his escape.
We zip to “Now” where Garth (Aqualad. And, yes, I am still excited to see that he is back!) and some other Atlanteans are locked in battle with Aquaman. A massive wooden Behemoth that is Thule’s engine of destruction designed to destroy our world and to make way for the emergence of Thule is on the scene. (This Behemoth thing is really cool looking. Styled like a Kirby character.) The Behemoth is destroying everything. The Behemoth is the source of the black goo that Aquaman has been finding all over the globe that is destroying our world.
Aquaman convinces Garth to stop fighting him momentarily and to join forces to take down the Behemoth. That after defeating Thule’s engine of destruction that Garth can resume his fight against Aquaman if he so desires. Garth agrees and we have a temporary truce. Our combined heroes then attack the Behemoth.
We shift to “Then” and see Aquaman hiding from the Atlantean soldiers that Mera sent after him after Aquaman escaped her attack. Suddenly, a hologram of Extriax appears on the scene. Extriax says that it is a shame that the King of the Seas is now on the run from his own people. That Aquaman has no weapons or defenses. Aquaman suddenly gets an idea and replies that he may be the King of the Seas but he is not the only King of the Seas.
We cut back to “Now” and see Aquaman blasting the Behemoth with a huge bolt of lightning. Aquaman narrates how he now has the powers and weapons of a god. That Aquaman now has control over the storm. Wind, rain, thunder and lightning are now his to command. The Behemoth makes a counter attack and takes down Aquaman, Garth and the other Atlantean warriors.
Aquaman saves one of the Atlantean warriors named Charybdis from the Behemoth. Charybdis says that this changes nothing and that he will still kill Aquaman when the Behemoth is defeated. Aquaman says that he will remember that the next time Charybdis needs Aquaman to save him. (Zing! Nice response. Aquaman is still a classic good guy. He is going to deal with threats like that with some humor that has the bite of truth to it.)
We shift to “Then” and see Aquaman arriving at the Temple of Poseidon. Poseidon asks how Aquaman dare show up without any offerings. Aquaman replies that he is sorry about that but that he didn’t have time to go shopping. Poseidon replies that Aquaman comes here for favors and then makes jokes. Poseidon says humor is the luxury of one who brings gifts and even then Aquaman needs to make sure his jokes are funny. (Did Aquaman just get trash talked by a god?)
Poseidon says that he knows why Aquaman is here. Poseidon says that the land of Thule was not always called Thule. That a long time ago Thule was actually a part of Atlantis. That Atlantis spread across the world and was make up of various City-States. Then the group of sorcerers known as the Coven of Thule instigated a massive war between the City-States. The great King Atlan, who ruled the Kingdom of Atlantis, brought an end to the war. The Thule sought an escape and created another realm where they could live and continue their rule. Their realm was beyond the veil and just under the facade of the real world. But, to carry out this type of magic came at a cost. The Thule engineered a sacrifice of the humans that were in their City-State. That the Thule have ruled for centuries in their magical realm.
Aquaman says that there are innocent people that he must rescue before he destroys Thule. Poseidon say that the decision of a King weighs heavily on Aquaman’s shoulders. But, Aquaman will face these challenges ahead of him with the weapons and powers of a god.
We zip back to “Now” with Aquaman still battling the Behemoth. Aquaman thinks that the Behemoth of Thule does not fall easily even in the face of the powers of a god. Aquaman says that he still has other abilities. And that even if the people of Atlantis have turned on him that he still has friends. Aquaman uses his telepathy too call out for help. Suddenly, a massive Kraken appears on the scene and destroys the Behemoth of Thule.
Aquaman squares off with Garth and the other Atlantean warriors. Aquaman says “So, we’re done here, right? We’re going to save this fight for another day?” We shift to Mera watching this scene on a magical mirror. Mera says that it is okay. That Garth can let Aquaman go. Garth tells his warriors to stand down and to let Aquaman leave.
Mera then says that there are still those who have sympathy for their exiled King of Atlantis. Mera then transforms into Siren. (Oh, crap! Siren! Siren’s real name is Hila. She is the identical twin sister of Mera. And she’s evil.) We see the Sorcerers of Thule assembled next to Siren. Siren turns around and we see that she has Mera captured in chains. Siren says that they will have to work harder to break the Atlanteans who have sympathy for Aquaman. Siren says that Aquaman vexes her. But, that Mera would know all about that. End of issue.
The Good: All right! This issue is a fun read. Aquaman #43 presents a classic Silver Age styled super hero tale that is wrapped up with modern sensibilities and tailored to the taste of a modern reader. Honestly, what more could you ask from a super hero comic book? This is exactly what I love to get when I crack open a super hero comic book. Aquaman #43 is an unapologetic straight up super hero action/adventure story. The emphasis is on fun as it should be. This issue is a fine example of how a story can be “modern” and still retain all the classic qualities of the super hero genre. There is no need to make the story dark and gritty. The hero does not need to be wracked with angst.
Now, is there darkness in this story? Yes. And are there elements of angst as Aquaman deals with the rejection of his lover and his people? Yes. But, the important aspect is that the darkness does not drown out the light. And this leads me to my next point. Bunn continues to do an excellent job with his character work on Aquaman. Aquaman is an unquestionably positive super hero. Bunn does an admirable job giving Aquaman just enough edge while still keeping him a classic styled positive super hero. Aquaman is willing to break the rules if his personal moral code demands him to do so. Aquaman is strong and has no fear. He is more than willing to fight even if the odds are stacked against him. However, he is still more than happy to broker peace if he can.
Aquaman is more than happy to resolve a situation through talking and reason but still has the strength and courage to also resolve a situation through force. This is important. Bunn makes Aquaman a strong and tough character that immediately engenders respect and admiration from the reader. Yet, Bunn still gives Aquaman a softer side that readers can identify with. Aquaman evokes feelings of respect like a character like Captain America does from readers.
Of course, Aquaman is also relatable through his personal problems and his humor like a character similar to Spider-Man. Being able to mold Aquaman into a character with such an interesting dichotomy is no easy feat. The fact that Bunn pulls this off is a testament to his skills. Bunn succeeds in making Aquaman a textured character with multiple levels to his personality. The result is that Aquaman comes across as a fully fleshed out character full of different strengths and weaknesses. Full of confidence at times and self-doubt at other times.
Bunn places Aquaman in a tough situation with him abandoned by Mera and the people of Atlantis. Aquaman has a heavy burden placed upon him and he struggles at times to understand what he should do next. However, Bunn always has Aquaman pull out of his self-doubt with renewed confidence in himself and his decision to help the people of Thule. This is important. This prevents Aquaman from delving into the depths of angst that becomes an unpleasant quagmire for many characters that get remade into more “gritty” and “adult” versions of themselves. Yes, I am looking at you, Dude Bro Superman.
What is also enjoyable is that Bunn delivers an issue that is all-ages. Again, no one would read Aquaman #43 and think for even a second that it is a “kiddie comic.” But, there is absolutely nothing in this issue that would make it objectionable to give to a pre-teen. Bunn focuses on building an action/adventure story that will appeal to readers of all ages. That is exactly the type of comic that Marvel and DC should focus on publishing with their mainstream super hero titles. Bunn certainly has succeeded in doing so with Aquaman.
Aquaman #43 is a well paced and plotted issue. Bunn continues to do a fine job with the scene transitions between the “Then” scenes and the “Now” scenes. Often constant switching back and forth between time periods can lead to a choppy read. That is not the case with Aquaman #43. Bunn moves the story along with a purpose. The story never meanders or loses its momentum.
This is most definitely not a decompressed read! Each scene is important and adds something enjoyable and interesting to the story. Bunn performs plenty of plot progression in just this issue. We learn how Mera turned on Aquaman, how Aquaman received his powers, the entire back story on Thule. There was a ton of content and plot development in this issue!
And then we arrive at the stunning hook ending. That was a fantastic finish to this issue. The feeling I got at the end of the issue reminded me of when I was a kid and I would read a stunning reveal at the end of an issue and my mouth would be on the ground and I would get all excited for the next issue. The reader had a feeling that something was off with Mera with the way she acted earlier in this issue when she attacked Aquaman. Bunn pulled off some great set-up work in this scene that later paid off with the ending. I love the introduction of Siren into the story. Siren is a good character with a great history. Seeing a Silver Age character brought back into the mix is always enjoyable. I am also interested in learning about the connection between Siren and the Sorcerers of Thule.
While Bunn certainly delivered plenty of plot progression and several dialogue heavy scenes he also mixed in some enjoyable action. We got the short scrap between Mera and Aquaman. Then we got the cool fight scene with the Behemoth of Thule that culminated with Aquaman releasing the Kraken!! I continue to love Aquaman’s new powers. And Aquaman’s new powers make him far more interesting. But, it is always neat to see Aquaman turn to his trust telepathy to call in some help from some of his sea friends.
Bunn whips up plenty of good dialogue. The dialogue has a natural flow. Particularly enjoyable was the back-and-forth between Aquaman and Poseidon. Bunn did get a tab bit too cute with Poseidon cracking a joke. However, it worked in this situation as Bunn immediately reigned it in and had Poseidon remain the straight man with the rest of his dialogue. The verbal jousting between Aquaman and Poseidon was important because it served to show Aquaman’s superme confidence in himself even in the face of a god. But, it also showed Aquaman’s place in the pecking order in the world of the seven seas.
McCarthy and Merino combine to deliver some solid artwork. I love the design of the Behemoth of Thule. He looks like a classic Jack Kirby creation. The scene between Poseidon and Aquaman was another high point for the artwork.
The Bad: McCarthy and Merino’s artwork was a bit up and down. The lack of consistency between scenes was noticeable. Some panels were confusing and made following the action difficult. I am also not crazy about Poseidon’s appearance. I rarely enjoy when artist interpret classic Greco-Roman gods in goofy modern forms. I was not impressed with the inks and colors in this issue. They combined to make Aquaman #43 too dark and muddy at certain points of the issue.
Overall: Aquaman #43 delivered excellent straight up action/adventure super hero fun. This title has quickly become one of my favorite DC comics currently on the market. Bunn is delivering a classic super hero tale that should appeal to a wide range of readers. This is definitely a title that is worth giving a try.