Writer: Rick Veitch
Artists: Yvel Guichet (p), Mark Propst (i)
The book opens with a somewhat disjointed recap of Aquaman's past, and we soon discover this trip down memory lane is being triggered by painful looking attack, as Aquaman is being shocked into a semiconscious state by the Atlantean guard. As Aquaman is bound to a clinging reef, and left to die by dehydration, we learn this punishment is the direct result of Aquaman's actions during the recent arc that was running over in the pages of the "JLA", as Arthur sent the city of Atlantis back to the bottom of the ocean in order to break the powerful spell that had been cast over its inhabitants. As Aquaman manages to rip himself loose of the clinging corral reef, we see he unable to replenish his strength in the nearby waters, as the Atlantean guard are on hand to drive him away with their high-power rail guns. Aquaman is also rather distressed to discover that powerful spells have been put into place to turn the marine life against him, and Arthur is barely able to escape from a swarm of attacking crabs. As he staggers his way inland in search of another water source, we see he comes across a mysterious forest, but his strength gives out mere feet from the edge of a lake that sits in the middle of this forest. We then see Aquaman discovers there's far more to this lake than it would appear.
I've always enjoyed the quizzical look I get from fellow comic fans when I admit that Aquaman is one of my all-time favorite DC characters, but ever since I first encountered the character in the pages of the Justice League of America, I've found myself quite attached to the character. Now I'll concede that originally, a large part of my like for the character was simply to be different from the rest who spent their time debating the merits of being a fan of Batman or Superman, but truth be told Aquaman has been given a raw deal when it comes to how he's seen by the casual fan, as he can do more than talk to fishes & breath underwater. In fact this opening issue it looks like Rick Veitch is doing his best to play against this idea, as he's effectively cut Aquaman off from the ocean. Now the traditionalist in me is a bit dubious when it comes to the idea of Aquaman sporting a magical hand, and having him working to advance the interests of a long forgotten goddess also has me a bit concerned that Rick Veitch has wandered a bit too far a field in his search for a new direction. However, I'm intrigued by the idea that he does look to be taking the character in a new direction, and it would be wrong to dismiss it based solely on it being unlike anything we've seen in the past.
Aquaman gets another shot at a monthly series, and with video game lurking on the horizon to lure in the younger fans, and that fact that his previous series ran for a fairly impressive 75 issues, here's hoping Aquaman's fourth crack at the bat is a success. It's certainly off to an interesting start as by effectively cutting the character off from his ocean environment, Rick Veitch has removed a defining element from the character, as while I'm sure this anti-Aquaman sentiment will eventually be resolved, for the moment it should be interesting to see how Arthur deals with this situation. Having the character landlocked for the foreseeable future should allow for more interaction with the DCU, as while Aquaman is bullheaded enough that he'll keep trying to access the ocean, truth be told his ties to the ocean have effectively cut the character off from the rest of the DCU, and if not for his ties to the JLA then I seriously doubt the character would be anything more than the occasional guest-hero (much like Namor over in the Marvel Universe). Now a recent interview with Joe Kelly made it sound like Aquaman's membership in the JLA is going to be put off for some time, while he deals with events in his own book, but as long as I'm back to getting my monthly dose of Aquaman, then I'm happy.
Yvel Guichet turns in a pretty solid effort as his work details the material in a visually exciting manner, and the key moments in the story, such as Aquaman's escape from his corral bindings are given a nice sense of impact. The art also captures the surreal quality of Aquaman's little trips into the land of his inner mind, as the opening pages are quite surreal, and the arrival of the maidens of the lake does a nice job of making one question the reality of this situation. Now some of the action isn't conveyed as clearly as I would like to see, and there are scenes like the crab attack that were horribly undersold by the art. Still the art does a pretty solid job of conveying Arthur's desperation as he tries to reach the water, and I absolutely loved the expression on his face when he loses his temper, and tosses his harpoon into the lake in frustration. I also have to make mention of the cover to this issue, as Alex Maleev turns into a wonderfully powerful shot of the character that instantly tells you Aquaman is not a man one would want to mess with, and the mystery of his restored hand was enough to grab the attention of this longtime fan. The last page shot of this new hand inside isn't quite as impressive though.
On one hand I suspect that most Aquaman fans would've made the effort the read the recent JLA arc that detail the character's return to the DCU, and as such there wasn't an overwhelming need for Rick Veitch to recap that material. There's also the simple fact that there is something rather refreshing about a first issue that simply throws the reader into the deep end, as if nothing else Aquaman's plight in this issue certainly gives the reader a great deal to mull over, as our beloved king is been marked a traitor by his own people, and has been effectively cut off from the ocean & the life he once had. Still, looking at this issue from the standpoint of a reader who is making their first foray into Aquaman's corner of the DCU, there are elements to this issue that are a bit daunting, as the opening sequence is far more rewarding if you are familiar with the previous history of the character, with a heavy focus of Peter David's "Aquaman: Time & Tide" miniseries. Still, Aquaman fans should be happy with this opening issue, as it certainly starts off with a full head of steam.
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