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Aquaman #17

Posted: Thursday, April 15, 2004
By: Jason Cornwell



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

Publisher: D.C. Comics

The Plot:
As Aquaman frees the people who were trapped under the rubble, we see he has to stop them from rushing to the surface, as he spells out their situation and makes it clear that if they attempt to leave the ocean they'll die. We then see the young woman that Aquaman saved in the previous issue arrives to lend a helping hand, and with her at his side Aquaman begins to investigate the mystery of how these people were transformed into water-breathers, and along the way discover if the sinking of San Diego was a natural disaster, or a deliberate act of aggression.

The Good:
There's some wonderful Aquaman moments in this issue which is always a welcome sight as one of the best ways a writer can dispel the notion that a character is unworthy of the attention they are getting is to offer up the fanboy moments that deftly present the idea that the character is question can do more than breathe underwater and talk to the fishes. I mean one has to love the credit page shot where Aquaman frees the crowd trapped under a mountain of rubble, and the means that he employs to keep them from rushing to the surface does a great job of selling how dangerous Aquaman could be if he put his mind to it. This issue also offers up a fairly powerful little exchange where we see Aquaman clearly spells out the situation to the gathered crowd, as there's something refreshing about his willingness to get right to the heart of the matter, and let them know that they can never go home. I also have to give the book credit for coming up with a likeable sidekick for Aquaman to interact with, as she acts as a fun way for Will Pfeifer to ask the questions that readers would be asking, and she makes Aquaman into a more likable character as her acceptance of her situation means he has to be nice, as she has done nothing to incur his wrath. Watching Lorena making various discoveries about her new life was also a lot of fun, from her reaction when she discovers she can talk underwater, to her annoyance when a school of fish starts swimming around her face. The discovery that is made on that final page was also a curious element to carry us into the next issue.

Patrick Gleason turns in some wonderful art on this issue, as I loved the credit page shot of Aquaman lifting a massive structure to free the people trapped underneath it, and the water full of sharks that are circling above to keep the people from rushing to the surface was a great visual. The issue also manages to perfectly capture the overwhelming nature of the scene where the people are reacting to the news that they can never go home, and the one-page spread that details the arrival of the Red Cross was a powerful visual. The underwater ruins of the city also make for an unique visual environment, as shots like the underwater playground manage to convey the impact of the tragedy, but there's also a wonderfully surreal quality to the images of entire buildings below the surface of the ocean. The art also does a pretty solid job on the facial expressions, from Lorena's reaction to the discovery she can talk underwater, to her face on the final page when she's reminded of the tragedy.

The Bad:
The one problem that I always have with a new direction is that many times in a bid to actively distance themselves from the previous arc the new writer will avoid any lingering plot threads from the previous stories, and while I'm rather happy to see the Lady in the Lake mysticism has been pushed into the background, I'm less enthused about the loose ends that were left hanging back in Atlantis. I mean, I realize that he's looking to appeal to a new audience, and the Atlantis and it's host of supporting players would be a daunting element to unload on the unsuspecting reader, but ignoring them completely and hoping readers will forget about them is not an approach that'll work for very long. I mean I want to know what's happening in the lives of Mera, Dolphin and Garth. Now I'll concede this opening arc is probably stronger for its ability to focus completely on only the ideas that it's introduced into the mix, but if nothing else I'm a bit disappointed that we didn't get at least one or two pages in each issue to acknowledge the existence of these important elements in the character's life. It also doesn't help matters much that Aquaman hasn't offered up so much as a single thought about the life he was forced to leave behind. I guess what I'm trying to say here is that this book has the appearance of a title that is trying to pretend it doesn't have a past that the longtime readers would be curious about, and here's hoping that once this opening arc has reached its conclusion, the book will at least offer up a running subplot that provides some insight into the Atlantis situation.

Swimming With The Fishes:
The big idea of this arc is an interesting one as Will Pfeifer looks to have set up a new underwater environment that Aquaman can interact with that I suspect will be more engaging than Atlantis, as if nothing else I suspect the people of this undersea community won't be looking to exile Aquaman every time the writer decides they want to have the character play around on the surface world. Now he could very well restore these people to normal at the end of this arc, but I have to say I'd prefer it if he left this community in place as they act as a nice bridging point between the surface world and the ocean, and in a way I suspect Aquaman would more comfortable interacting with this group than either his people in Atlantis, or the people he encounters on the surface world. The issue also does a pretty fair job of selling Aquaman as the squared-jawed hero that he needs to be in the crisis, as there's several moments in this issue where the character projects a sense of authority that nicely plays off the idea that this character is a born leader. The book also does a nice job of playing up the emotional impact of the scene where the people are told that they can't go home.



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