REVIEW: ‘Aquaman and the Others’ #1

(DC Comics, 2014)

Written by Dan Jurgens
Pencils by Lan Medina
Inks by Allen Martinez
Color Artwork by Matt Milla

Aquaman has long deserved the kind of readership and critical acclaim the character is finally receiving. Not since Peter David’s harpoon-handed, shaggy-haired, bearded version of the Atlantean King ruled the seas in his series of the late 80’s has Arthur Curry received so much positive press. Usually reserved for the butt of jokes made by a largely non-comic book reading public, Aquaman holds the dubious honor of being one of the most misunderstood and wrongly maligned super heroes of all time; very often written off as being powerless when out of water and possessing a mere single super power, to communicate with sea creatures. Much of this blame can be placed squarely on the Super Friends cartoon circa the 1970’s in which most of the DCU heroes were portrayed as campy caricatures of their comic book incarnations and the villains were bumbling embodiments of ineptitude but, this show was written for children and as a child I couldn’t wait for Saturday mornings to see all my favorite comic book heroes come to life through the magic of animation. No other hero suffered a backlash anything close to that of Aquaman and sadly many people still cling to that image of him riding a giant seahorse, trident in hand and speaking to schools of fish via telepathy.  Not even the campy escapades of a spandex clad Adam West has damaged the Dark Knight anywhere near as much. Clearly the reigning king of Atlantis deserves some recompense.  Enter Geoff Johns.

Johns is predominately responsible for restoring the dignity of this great character and keeping a solo Aquaman series running for almost three years. Recently replaced by Jeff Parker, Johns crafted a consistently entertaining series that remains engrossing and fun to read with Parker at the helm. With all of this pro-Aquaman momentum going it only seems right that DC strike while the iron is hot and launch the first spin-off to come from Johns’ re-imagining of the once disparaged dignitary from Atlantis.

Aquaman and the Others spin directly out of a 2012 story arc written by Johns and later expanded on by John Ostrander in a two part story arc. This material provides most of the foundation for Dan Jurgens’ narrative in this first issue.  However, a good bit of the issue is taken up re-introducing the Others – Prisoner of War, Ya’Wara, The Operative and Sky Alchesay, and spotlighting each individual member in these kind of short vignettes that Jurgens eventually ties together to form the basis of his plot. Jurgens uses these scenes to show that the team members’ Atlantean artifacts are failing to activate when they are needed, thus leaving them vulnerable to their attackers. This is a clever approach to bring new readers up to speed and Jurgens handles the task with precision and just plain good writing. He doesn’t go overboard with excessive exposition or beat the back story to death with endless verbatim recounting of previous story lines; instead he concisely presents pertinent plot elements in an engrossing and entertaining narrative that moves along at an efficient pace. Jurgens also methodically and thoroughly explains the Others’ affiliation with Aquaman and how it came to exist. There is a lot to take in as is the case with any first issue but once Jurgens gets the obligatory introductions taken care of the pace quickens and the story becomes quite engrossing and full of intrigue.

The Others as a team are diverse and extremely engaging. Jurgens does an impressive job of giving them individually unique voices and providing them each with ample personality. He creates a somewhat volatile chemistry between the team members giving The Others a completely original dynamic that is like no team currently in the DCU. The purpose and inspiration that keeps these characters unified is not as clearly cut and dried as it is with a conventional team; each member has his or her own reasons for being there but the Atlantean artifacts possessed by each member provides the team with its unifying element.

One problem I did have with the narrative was the inclusion of a Future’s End teaser that felt kind of tacked on. For Jurgens to abandon his planned story arcs to accommodate a crossover event tie-in at this early point might not be the best move, especially when there is so much to accomplish in this series. It was a bit jarring to have that thrown in at the very end of this issue, but I will definitely be onboard for the entire event so whether or not that is going to pay is something we are going to have to wait to see.

Lan Medina does a fabulous job on the visuals in this first issue. Definitely not as dark as some of Medina’s other work, this book maintains the style that Ivan Reis, Paul Pelletier and the other artists who have worked on the original series have established over the length of the run. The action scenes are kinetic and full of subtle details that add a dimension of realism without looking needlessly busy. Medina’s character designs are inventive and original with a sense of pulp novel covers that works extremely well with this team of eclectic characters.

Overall this is a fine first issue that sets the stage for what promises to be an action packed series full of wildly imaginative characters and lavishly exotic settings. Jurgens does a first rate job of making this issue new reader friendly as well as entertaining and engaging for long time readers of Aquaman. If you missed out on Geoff Johns’ amazing run on the original series, I recommend grabbing the trades but this new series can be enjoyed without any extensive knowledge of the characters. I suggest you dive in and have fun, the water’s fine. (4/5)

You can purchase “Aquaman & the Others” #1 HERE.

 

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ShawnWarner-bio-pic1-crop

Shawn is an aspiring writer/ artist who has been reading, collecting and living comic books for over 30 years. He lives in Baltimore with his wife, their son, lots of cats, dogs and other various finned and furry friends.

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