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Aquaman #14

Posted: Wednesday, January 14, 2004
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: John Ostrander
Artists: Tom Grummett (p), Wade von Grawbadger (i)

Publisher: D.C. Comics

The Plot:
When a reporter is assigned to deliver an article about Aquaman, we see he decides to get a man on the street article about the hero. However he soon discovers that Aquaman is a figure that lends himself to wild flights of fantasy, as over half the stories he's told about encounters that people have had with the hero are clearly bold faced lies, or greatly embellished. However, he does manage to stumble across one story that seems genuine as Aquaman saves a suicidal young woman.

The Good:
John Ostrander does manage to tap into the idea that Aquaman is a bit like Batman in that most of his heroic deeds are seen by relatively few people and as such people are more inclined to look upon the character as an urban legend than a real, flesh and blood hero. To this extent we see most of the people that our reporter discusses Aquaman with have wildly differing opinions of the character, with the opening sequence with the children being a cute nod of the head to the various takes that writers have offered up during the character's long history. There's also a fun sequence where a woman offers up a romantic encounter that she had with the hero beneath the waves in a bid to make the reporter jealous, and while it's clear that this is a complete lie, it is yet another interesting take on the how the public views Aquaman. There's also a fairly typical but enjoyable display of Silver Age heroism offered up as a firefighter details his encounter with Aquaman that I'm guess is the truth, as nothing about the scene would seem to indicate that the teller was pulling our leg. The final story that is offered up by the woman about her potential suicide also does a fairly nice job of reminding readers of the tragedies that Aquaman himself has suffered in his own life. In the end this story is a bit unremarkable, but for a fill-in issue it's not half bad.

The Bad:
The problem with this issue is that it's a little too obvious that this is a fill-in issue as the very structure of the story makes it clear that nothing this issue offers up is going to change anything in Aquaman's world, and as such it's a bit difficult to get overly worked up by these different opinions of Aquaman from the Joe and Jane Publics of the DCU. I mean it's one thing to get the opinions of characters like his teammates in the JLA, which if nothing else would act to define the character's place in the super-hero community, but by turning to the man on the street, John Ostrander is forced to offer up wildly different takes on Aquaman by a number of character who are never going to grace the pages of a comic again, and as such their opinions seem almost unimportant. There's also the sense that the issue doesn't really offer up any new insight into the character, as the scene with the children is more of an inside joke, as the children's takes mirror different eras of the character's history, while the scene with the women, the character is used simply as a means to make an ex-boyfriend jealous. I also found the important section of the issue where a woman details a real encounter that she had Aquaman felt a bit artificial, as the dialogue reads like it was ripped from an after-school special that dealt with suicide.

I didn't dislike the art so much as I was a bit disappointed to see Tom Grummett seemed to be trying out a new style on this issue that was more cartoonish than his regular style which I'm quite fond of. I mean the character have all been given these odd looking balloon heads, and the only section of the issue where I found myself impressed with the art was when it was delivering the sequence where Aquaman is working to save those people in the collapsing building, though part of this could be due to the return of Aquaman's old costume, which I must say I've become increasingly fond of. The anguish of the suicidal woman during the final story was a bit off though, as the character's grief is rather unconvincing, which is a bit surprising considering Tom Grummett has always impressed me with his ability to deliver the emotions of his characters. I'm also a bit concerned about this issue's cover, as Howard Porter is lined up to be the new artist over on the Flash, and this cover makes its clear that he still has difficulty with some elements of the human form, as Aquaman's head looks too small when compared to the rest of his body.

Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back In The Water:
An issue that isn't all that bad, but it's far from being John Ostrander's best work either as this is clearly an issue that is clearly filling time between creative teams. I mean this issue is why I've never been overly fond of fill-in issues, as most times they are written so that they make absolutely no impact on the book, and this issue manages to further remove itself from being important by making so the story is told largely by people who have never even met Aquaman. Now this could be fun if the characters had amusing or engaging tall tales to tell, but the only one that made me smile was the two page comic that is offered up by the one child, which resents Aquaman in a furious battle with his hated rival Octo-Man. As it stands this is a marginally entertaining look at how Aquaman is viewed by the general public to the DCU, and while there's a little insight in all the stories, for the most part the material manages to be quite ordinary in what it offers up about the character of Aquaman.



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