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Justice League/Aquaman #15: Atlantis Rising

Aquaman's brother is declaring war on the surface world in a story so big, it takes up two titles.

Justice League #15

I’ve only read one issue of the new Justice League. When DC unveiled their updated universe, I checked out the first issue and walked away unimpressed. Since then, nothing happened that inspired me to pick the book back up. When this "Throne Of Atlantis" crossover began, I decided that since I had done most of the critical writing about Aquaman, I should take on Justice League #15, since it kicks off the entire storyline.

Somebody has sabotaged a Navy ship and forced their missiles to fire deep into the ocean. The target of this unknown saboteur is Atlantis, and the rock barrier holding the man-eating humanoid creatures known as the Trench at bay at the bottom of the sea. In one fell swoop, this mystery villain has freed those creatures and brought forth the ire of Ocean Master, current king of Atlantis and Aquaman’s brother. Turns out Ocean Master is using Atlantean War Plans that he and Aquaman wrote years ago when Arthur was still king. Now those plans are being used to flood Gotham, Metropolis and Boston.

Justice League #15 is mainly the first wave of the attack. Clark Kent, in an attempt to get Wonder Woman to join him in having a dual identity, takes her out to dinner as simply Diana. During this dinner, the massive tidal wave crashes into Metropolis, threatening to knock and entire building over. Our two intrepid heroes prevent the fall but are unable to really stem the tide of the water. Meanwhile, Lois Lane has been saved by the same strange man we saw in Aquaman #14, who is really an Atlantean.

In Gotham City, Batman, Aquaman and Mera are able to turn back part of the crashing ocean and save some, but not all, of those who were buried beneath it. Aquaman explains that these actions must have been caused by the faulty missile attack, which his brother sees as an open violation of the treaty between Atlantis and the surface world. If Ocean Master is allowed to open the war door all the way, he will sink every city he can to prove a point.

Aquaman #15 picks up within Justice League #15 by giving us a more detailed look at the attack on Gotham. The Justice League is out to stop Ocean Master by any means necessary. Aquaman knows such an attempt will only lead to more bloodshed and begs them for a chance to talk to his brother. They agree and Aquaman sets out to try and talk his brother down.

Ocean Master isn’t so easily reasoned with, and the Justice League steps in. The final panel shows Aquaman choking Batman and saying that the JL have given him no choice. I’m going to assume either Aquaman is fooling all of them, or just his brother and will play this “I’m on your side” game with Ocean Master until he can stop him. It could also be just a clever ploy to get us all involved with Aquaman #16 and the continuing "Throne Of Atlantis" story.

There are a few issues with this arc that are already throwing it out of whack. The first is that this doesn’t need to be a crossover story. Nothing here needs to take up issues of Justice League – it can all be told within the confines of Aquaman. A second problem, structure-wise, is Ocean Master’s scorched Earth (forgive the pun) war efforts. Why would the leader of an entire race take what seems like an unprovoked attack and just go rushing in for a full-scale war? Especially a king with a brother who knows what the surface dwellers are up to.

If it turns out that Ocean Master is the evil genius behind all this, then it makes sense. It also makes him a boring cliché.  On the flipside, if Ocean Master is being played, then he is the worst leader in the history of leaders. It would have made more sense to draw the story out – have Ocean Master first come in peace and try talking to Aquaman when another attack is perpetrated on Atlantis. Then Ocean Master has a reason to get his salt-water taffy in a bunch. Right now, he reads like either a reactionary wacko or typical bad guy.

Writer Geoff Johns seems to know the story he wants to tell, but he’s in too much of a rush to tell it. I’m also not thrilled with his writing for Justice League. Clearly, he has no idea how to write for Batman. Nothing Batman says sounds or feels like the Dark Knight. It’s as if Johns feels the Justice League Batman should be much different than the caped crusader from the pages of Batman or Detective Comics. I haven’t read the mess that is New 52 Superman or the new take on Wonder Woman, but both characters have identical voices to them in Justice League,  and both come off  with dialogue that “sounds” clunky.

Even the usually spot-on writing for Aquaman is off. I think Johns is so excited by the big crossover that he’s forgetting how the slower unfolding plots and dark themes of Aquaman really helped to make the book so wonderful. He’s bringing the bright pop of Justice League to the harder edge of the Aquaman book and it doesn’t work.

Art-wise, Aquaman and Justice League are interchangeable. Ivan Reis, who pencils Justice League, does another fine job. Strong lines, good human forms and faces, a great sense of style an action, all the things that makes Reis’s work usually pop of the page are here. The problem is, the same can be said across the board for Aquaman artist Paul Pelletier. His work is almost exactly like Reis, though Reis edges him out in faces and consistency. Outside of that, you’d be hard pressed to find any real difference between the two books.

"Throne Of Atlantis" is an interesting story. I just think Geoff Johns isn’t finding an interesting way to tell it.

 

JUSTICE LEAGUE #15

7.5

(3 Story, 4.5 Art)

AQUAMAN #15

7

(3 Story, 4 Art)