Strange Xenomorph/Predator-like creatures have finally discovered that there is an “above” to the Atlantic Ocean. They are coming for us, and their razor-sharp teeth and phosphorescent claws are fearsome-looking. Another thing—they clearly view humans as a food source. But don’t worry! Aquaman is (hopefully) here to save us! And thus opens the newly released “Aquaman” #1. DC Comics has recently released “The New 52,” an attempt to relaunch their superheroes to a new demographic, for all those who haven’t been keeping up with the previously impenetrable comic book market. Try to open a Batman comic—your viewing of “The Dark Knight” would not be able to help you decipher what the heck is going on in Gotham.
It’s nice to be able to have a fresh beginning for all of the superheroes, and Aquaman, the usually forgotten and mostly unknown merman/king of Atlantis may finally get the recognition he deserves, except when James Cameron made a pre-"Avatar" billion-dollar film version of the hero on "Entourage."
The book is set in Boston, and portrays Aquaman—real name Arthur—as an unsung hero. Despite helping out the city police by taking care of gun-wielding criminals, the cops remain annoyed and unappreciative. When Aquaman sits down for a bite at a seafood restaurant, the other customers are aghast that he’d eat fish, since he supposedly talks to them. (Actually, fish are too “primitive” to talk and Aquaman simply reaches into their brain to control their movements.) An inquisitive blogger accosts him and unashamedly asks him how he feels when Saturday Night Live makes fun of him as “a punch line, laughingstock, and nobody’s favorite superhero.” As a lesser-known hero, DC is certainly acknowledging the public perception of Aquaman. However, the majority of this issue is spent setting up the Sea King as a YouTube punchline, and fails to really deliver any exciting superhero fare. It seems strange that a superhero could be so unappreciated and mocked. The police officers even condescendingly offer him a glass of water after he quickly handled their own problem.
The storyline doesn’t necessarily start right from the beginning, but it does helpfully and sneakily add in the major things you need to know about Aquaman. It is apparent that: first, his dad was a human and his mom was the queen of Atlantis; second, for reasons unknown to the audience, he somehow came to Atlantis’s rescue and subsequently became their king; and his love interest is Mera, a “Little Mermaid” lookalike who is supposedly stronger than Wonder Woman.
The book is easy to follow, and although it is unclear exactly what Aquaman’s powers are, apparently he can jump really high, control marine creatures, deflect bullets with his golden-scaled armor, and use his golden trident to do some cool stuff (flip over a truck, intimidate a pesky blogger, etc.).
Aquaman is not as well-known as the movie-made stars like Batman, Superman, and Spiderman—or even Green Lantern and Daredevil. His relative obscurity does give him some appeal as a fresh-faced hero. He's also a throwback to ancient gods, unlike the aliens, radioactive spiders, and angry billionaire citizens looking for justice in the more well-known superhero market.
Ivan Reis's artwork is exceptional. It’s realistic without getting creepy. The story alone is a bit lacking in depth; most of the plot is glossed over. It leaves the reader asking questions like: Does the public really not like Aquaman? What’s the deal with Atlantis? But most importantly, what will happen next? Will Aquaman defeat those human-eating creatures from the deep? Will they attack people on land? How will Atlantis fare with these monsters? I guess we’ll have to wait until the next issue to find out.
Over all, this introduction to the world of Aquaman is sufficient, but definitely doesn’t do enough (if anything at all) to enliven his lackluster reputation. But Aquaman is different than the many superheroes plastered all over movie theaters and toy stores, which is a welcome relief, and he provides a nice outlet for those looking to start reading a comic series from the beginning. Who knows? Maybe soon Aquaman will turn into an overblown, over-marketed hero, but for now he’s humble, helpful, and sentimental.