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Aquaman #16

Posted: Sunday, March 28, 2004
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: Will Pfeifer
Artists: Patrick Gleason (p), Christina Alamy (i)

Publisher: DC

The Plot:
After another survivor emerges from the ocean in the middle of a press conference, we see Aquaman is quick to get this young woman back into the water, and from there he has her transported to a sedative laced tank at the JLA Watchtower. After the sedatives set in and the woman's mind is calm enough for J'Onn to read her memories, we learn she was a the Zoo when the tragedy occurred, and while she was knocked unconscious when the wall of water swept over her, she woke up to see that thousands of others also looked to be very much alive under the water, and this has Aquaman racing back to the scene to locate them.

The Good:
While this issue didn't really offer any truly unexpected developments, this lack of surprise is largely my own fault for not stopping myself when it became clear Will Pfeifer was discussing his opening arc in far greater depth than one normally would encounter. Still, while the setup material for this arc was revealed in advance of the actual issues, in the end the mystery that has been set up looks quite promising, as we're left to ask if these events were the result of a villain's attack, or is the survival of these people the result of something less ominous. Now at the moment I'm leaning more toward the latter, as the issue has made it clear that both survivors were visiting the Zoo, and as such their survival is likely the result of their proximity to something or someone who was able to change them so that they could survive the event. Now the issue also has some interesting moments that aren't tied into directly to the main plot, as Aquaman's brief tirade about the location of the Watchtower was a great little Aquaman moment, and the nightmare that Aquaman suffers trough in this issue does a solid job of showing us where his head is at. The issue also manages to give us a solid look at the moments that this latest survivor lived before she became one of the thousands who seemingly died when the half the city was dumped into the ocean. I mean this sequence does a great job of taking us of a quick little tour of her life, as we see she has a bit of a loser boyfriend, but that they seem to have plans and that these plans are thrown completely off the rails by the tragedy. The overwhelming quality of the event is also well presented by her last moments.

Patrick Gleason has a style that is detailed enough that one can't help but be impressed, but there are the occasional moments where I find myself a bit disappointed by the rather rigid nature of his figures. Still he does deliver the big impact moments of the issue quite well, as the shot of the wall of water as it closes in on Lorena is the highlight visual of the issue. The credit page shot of Lorean breaking the surface of the water in the middle of Aquaman's press conference also made for a powerful shot to carry us into the issue. I do have to question the scene where Aquaman confronts J'Onn about the idea that they put the Watchtower on the Moon though, as Aquaman looks downright tiny, and while J'onn's a shape-shifter who can adjust his height, on has to wonder why he would choose to suddenly tower over Aquaman. Still, the cover to the issue makes for a powerful visual, and it nicely ties into the equally disturbing nightmare that Aquaman has inside the issue.

The Bad:
I really shouldn't have read the online interviews with Will Pfeifer where he was discussing this book's new direction, as he was bit of a blabbermouth when it comes to the plot elements of this opening arc. I mean last issue's big surprise was that a young man emerged from the ocean more than a month after the tragedy very much alive, but he mysteriously died on route to hospital. However, thanks to my having read those early interviews I not only knew that the kid was going to die, but also the reason why. Now this issue's big revelation arrives in the final pages but once again thanks to my curiosity about Aquaman's new direction I knew what the big surprise was before Aquaman encountered it. Now I realize that Will Pfeifer was looking to draw in new readers, and as such he had to turn over more cards than most writers would prefer. However the downside to this extra insight is that all the big surprises in the setup phase of this arc have already been revealed and I'm getting a little impatient to get to the part of the story where I don't know what's going to happen next. Now the end of the issue would seem to have brought us up to this point of the story, as Aquaman now has about the same amount of information that I entered this arc with, so my fingers are crossed that next issue will be more engaging than this chapter. There's also a sense that the book is somewhat formulamatic in its delivery of certain plot elements, such as the perfect timing of the survivor's arrival, and while I enjoyed Aquaman speech about the moon base, its placement in the story felt a bit disjointed from the material that preceded it.

Where Life Is Better, Down Where It's Wetter:
This issue is following the path that I pretty much entered this arc expecting it to, and while this does result in a couple issues that have been devoid of any real surprises, now that the story has caught up to pretty much the end of the story that Will Pfeiffer detailed in his interviews, I can sit back and hopefully enjoy the rest of the story, as he proceeds to explain the how and why of this setup. Right now I'm leaning toward the notion that the tragedy was a natural disaster, and that the survival of these people is the result of a single individual who possessed a power to give the people in his/her general vicinity the ability to breathe underwater. The issue also manages to set up an engaging little look at the moments before the tragedy struck through the eyes of one of the survivors, as we see she's enjoying the day out with her boyfriend, when she is caught up in a rather impressive wall of water. Her memories of her time after the tragedy also manage to nicely set up what acts as this issue's big revelation, as while I knew it was coming, the final page declaration by Aquaman makes for a powerful closing note to carry us into the next issue.



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