Writer: Rick Veitch
Artists: Yvel Guichet (p), Mark Propst (i)
The book opens with Aquaman being stricken by a vision of a lighthouse keeper in grave danger, and as such when his journey in search of a safe haven on land has him coming across a rundown, old lighthouse he decides to investigate. At the lighthouse he finds an elderly gentleman who is quite vocal in his belief that lighthouses can still perform an invaluable service, in spite of the idea that most ships at sea are guided past trouble spots by their global positioning devices. As this man heads out to sea to bring up the lobster traps he laid down, we see he's picked a bad night to be out on the water, as a hurricane is closing in, and the Atlantean warriors who are gunning for Aquaman's head have developed a means of disabling global positioning devices in that area of the ocean, which leaves a nearby oil tanker completely lost & in danger of smashing upon the reefs that the lighthouse used to warn ships about. As the elderly gentleman attempts to guide the floundering tanker to safety with his own ship, we see he's struck down by the Atlantean warriors, as they want Aquaman to be forced to come to the rescue. While this plan works, and Aquaman rushes into danger, we see his new magical hand manages to save the day and the Atlantean warriors are forced to withdraw.
Rick Veitch seems to be hoping that the reader won't notice how utterly contrived the crisis he creates in this issue is, and while a large degree of this problem can be seen as the handiwork that was set up by the evil villains who now rule Atlantis, there's also elements where the writer's hand is a little too noticeable. From the development of a situation where you can almost feel the plot straining to come up with a reason for why a lighthouse would be useful in today's era of high technology, to the simple idea that Aquaman hooks up with the marine commissioner so he has a instant means of getting a situation report of the crisis forming out in the ocean, the book has itself a few too many moments where I found myself trying to ignore how poorly this situation had been constructed. Now I enjoyed the complete lack of hesitation shown by Aquaman when he learned of the situation, as he dove into the ocean without expressing any concern about his own safety. I also found the simple way that he overcame the shark's "eat Aquaman" programming rather clever, and the development of a supporting cast of the surface is a step in the right direction, if Aquaman's stay is going to be an extended one.
I'll say right here and now that I dislike Aquaman's new magical hand. Now I was willing to accept the rather nebulous backstory that went with the new hand, as the Lady of the Lake looked like a fairly interesting element that could be inserted into Aquaman's world. I'll even accept that the hand acts as a way for the Lady of the Lake to send Aquaman messages, and give him a heads up on an impending crisis that she feels he should attend to. What is do not like about the new hand is it's ability to act as the quick fix solution to whatever problem Aquaman comes up against. I mean he's faced with a massive mutated creature who is endangering the ships above, or he finds that the elderly man he's befriended has himself a massive heart attack & won't survive the trip to the hospital. Thanks to the new magic hand both of these two problems are dismissed with quite literally, a wave of his hand. I don't like when writers go for the easy solutions in a story, and with this new magic hand Rick Veitch has given himself the ultimate easy out, as when ever the problem gets too immense for Aquaman to handle, all he has to do is call upon the seemingly all encompassing power of Aquaman's new hand.
There are moments in this issue where Yvel Guichet's art seems to be a perfect fit for the material, such as during the opening pages when Aquaman is being subjected to a nightmarish vision. The art also does some wonderful work on the scenes out in the ocean, as the power of the storm is quite impressive, and Aquaman's battle beneath the surface is quite exciting. From the sense of speed at which he moves through the water, to the sense of urgency & danger developed when we see how outnumbered Aquaman is, the art does some nice work on this issue's central action piece. Also while I dislike the quick fix ability of his new magic hand, I will concede that the art does a nice job conveying the raw power that is at Aquaman's command. Where the art loses a bit of its luster though is with its rather lighthearted expressions, and its rather loose grasp in sections of the issue when it comes to the figure work. I mean Aquaman's strained expression as he calls out for the Lady in the Lake looked outright goofy, as does his expression in that final panel when he states that he has nothing to hide. This issue does have itself a wonderfully moody cover though, as Alex Maleev manages to convey a nice sense of danger with a single image.
I'm a big Aquaman fan, so it's likely I'm more forgiving of this title than I would be of most. However, while I like the idea of Aquaman being cast out of the ocean, I would prefered the reason for this exile had been fleshed out far more than it was, and what's more I would've like to have seen the people who cast him out be portrayed in a light that wasn't quite so obvious in its presentation that they are villains, as all they are missing in this issue are the mustaches to twirl before the carry out their evil deeds. This issue is also ask the reader to accept a crisis that is put together rather poorly, as one can almost see the writer steering the situation from one stage to the next. However this issue's worst crime is it's use of Aquaman's new magic hand as a quick fix solution, as there's nothing worse than a writer who decides to craft a plot device that will allow him to have an instant easy out whenever the going gets too tough for his hero.
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