New 52 Review: Aquaman #1

So what’s the best way to reboot a character that’s long been a punchline? Well, if that character is Aquaman, and you’re writer Geoff Johns, then you do it by rebooting him as hard as you can. I’ve not been too keen on Geoff Johns as of late. His take on Green Lantern since the end of War Of The Green Lanterns has been sub par to say the least. However, what he’s done with Aquaman #1 goes a long way to rectifying that. Johns is rectifying a lot of the problems with the King Of Atlantis (aka Arthur) by crashing into them head on. This newly rebooted Aquaman – well, he ain’t your father’s Aquaman for sure.

The story set up is easy. Evil humanoid fish creatures from the bottom of the ocean, complete with long sharp teeth, are heading up towards the surface. They like the taste of human flesh, so clearly they’ll be a problem for Aquaman. Five pages book-ending issue 1 is all you get about the evil sea monsters, the rest is Johns giving an artistic middle finger to everybody who ever laughed at the titan of the oceans. He starts by having Aquaman foil a robber by flipping over the getaway van and then smashing one of the crooks through a window. This is more stoic, more badass hero than we’ve seen in the past. When the cops arrive on the scene they ask Aquaman if he needs a glass of water. A disgusted Aquaman leaps away. Apparently, the legend of him only being able to live outside the water for an hour is a thing of the past.

Johns’ next move is my favorite. Arthur heads into a seafood restaurant for lunch. The reaction you’re having to the idea is the same as the patrons. Aquaman here? Isn’t that cannibalism or something? The entire restaurant event could be some of Johns best writing all year. The sudden guilt the staff feels, the dismay at the idea that Aquaman would eat fish and chips, it’s laugh out loud funny. What gives this comedy true heart is that the restaurant is a place Arthur’s dad used to take him. It’s that little poignant touch that adds humanity to the scene as opposed to riding it out as a joke.

The crux of the issues comes in the form of a jerk blogger that confronts Aquaman. Johns has played coy with Aquaman’s history, now it’s time to confront it. The blogger takes us step by step through everything. The parodies on SNL and You Tube, the fact nobody believes in Atlantis, even Mera isn’t safe. A scientific explanation of how Aquaman talks to fish. Finally Aquaman is asked “How does it feel to be a punch line, to be nobody’s favorite superhero?” The whole scene effectively scrapes away Aquaman’s past and creates a new lease on life, one that will be cut short by the evil sea creatures when they hit the surface. Johns really seems to be focusing on the human vs Atlantean war inside Aquaman’s head. By the close of issue #1 the fully rebooted hero is ready for a new definition from comic book readers.

Ivan Reis’ art is top notch, of course. I absolutely loved his vision for the humanoid sea creatures and the story being light on action gives Reis a chance to really flesh out how Aquaman should look in this new light. The last Aquaman series started strong and turned to crap. Let’s hope this time the man from the sea gets the respect he deserves.