Aquaman #10 is a little disconcerting. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not turning my back on the King Of Atlantis nor am I dismissing the current series. I’m too involved now; the writing from Geoff Johns has been too good for me to back out easily. What I mean by disconcerting is that so much is changing within the canon of Aquaman that the story could easily go off the rails. What’s made Aquaman work to this point has been Johns’ subtle changes in the attitude our hero has and a few of the circumstances in his origin. With issue #10, things go in a weird direction that will unnerve those who have been following the story.
Our story opens with the Operative attempting to get intel on what Black Manta is up to. The Operative is like James Bond with Batman toys and a costume that brings to mind G.I. Joe’s Snake Eyes. The Operative is old, an aging member of a clandestine group of crime fighters once led by Aquaman. Cut to Mera who is now alone with Dr. Shin. The first lady of the sea is no very pleased with Shin due to his once exploiting Aquaman for personal gain. Another jump cut and we’re in the middle of a heated battle between Black Manta and Aquaman.
During the battle the other members of Aquaman’s former squad debate about allowing him to kill Black Manta. Turns out Manta is looking for the Relics, though what those are or why he wants them remain a mystery. Cut back to Mera and Shin. Shin tells Mera the story of how Aquaman, when he was just a boy, went looking for Black Manta seeking revenge for his father’s heart attack. Instead of killing Manta, Aquaman accidentally kills Manta’s dad. Cut back to the battle where Manta vanishes and reappears with Shin and Mera. The end makes it seem as though the smarmy Dr. and Manta are in cahoots.
See what I’m saying about this issue? There are way too many cuts and far too much information thrown at you at once. I’m all for comics making fans do the heavy lifting, but introduce the weight slowly, don’t suddenly hit us with 500 pounds. I like that Geoff Johns is getting into the New 52 spirit by warping Aquaman’s history, but he needs to grow some balls with it. Aquaman should have shown up angry as hell and killed Black Manta’s father in a fit of rage.
There’s no need to make it an accident, nobody will suddenly hate Aquaman for going nuts after his father’s heart attack at the hands Black Manta. Aquaman’s accidental killing of Manta’s father de-balls the entire idea or reintroducing the King Of Atlantis with some edge. I’m also not sure about this old crime fighting squad or how they fit into the New 52. Johns needs to work that out and fast.
Naturally, Ivan Reis kills it with the art. Want to see a bold example of how good Reis is? Check out the double page splash where Black Manta and Aquaman are beating each other up. In this spread, Reis shows the intense hatred between both men, the power they have and the brutality of their fight. Even with standard panel layout, Reis brings a lot of movement to the action and flow to the drama.
I particularly loved how he showed the flashbacks. The use of saturated red really gives the tale of Aquaman slaying Manta’s dad a feeling of blind rage. The art is so visceral it almost dictates that Aquaman have killed out of anger not accident. Aquaman #10 isn’t a bad issue; in fact it’s quite good. I just hope that in trying to upgrade Aquaman, Johns doesn’t improve him into a failure.
(3.5 Story, 5 Art)