A phenomenal book like Aquaman #0 doesn't come along every day. Geoff Johns has managed to put together a truly memorable run on the book with Ivan Reis and Joe Prado. Johns has been able to do this without a costume change; and, without changing Arthur's appearance or looks. Johns, Reis and Prado have created two compelling storylines that have really redefined Arthur Curry as a much more heroic Aquaman than he has been. Aquaman #0 is the cherry on top of the sundae that the book gas been over the last twelve months.
Here's the thing about Aquaman. It is not a good sign, when the writers, editors and publisher can not figure out how awesome and cool the character is and give in the supposed weakness and shortcomings of a character that swims and talks to fish. That would be a toxic work environment for any real employee, let alone a fictional character. For too long, Aquaman has been considered a lame character, and saddled with the '70's Super Friends image. This is a character that, while similar to Namor, The Sub-Mariner, is unique in his own right. His domain is more than half the globe. He doesn't just talk to fish, he commands the sea life. And yet, more often than not, he is perceived as a radical environmental activist. A madman. Angry. Misunderstood. Perhaps only writer Mark Waid really understood him and captured him honestly and realistically in his JLA: Year One series. It is doubtful that either writer Peter David or Kevin Dooley understood Arthur Curry. Eighteen years ago, in October of 1994, this is what they came up with -
That's less than impressive. But it was the one cover from Zero Month, October 1994 that made the front page of the Life section of USAToday. Aquaman went from lame to angry in one step. Instead of trying to capture and define his uniqueness, he became more of a Namor doppleganger. Except now he had a retractable harpoon hook for a right hand. That's the image that stuck. A long-haired, angry sea king with one good hand. That's the image that crossed over into the Justice League animated series.
It's great that Geoff Johns has given him an unoffical "Reborn" treatment. Aquaman is still angry, but it is more an indignation, not wrath. Arthur Curry is searching for truth and justice, like his more well-known comrades.
This is the image of Aquaman that should have greater impact -
Johns story, with perfectly matched Ivan Reis and Joe Prado art, opens with Arthur at his father's side one final time, following Black Manta's attack on Tom Curry. With his final breath, Arthur's father tells him to find Atlantis and his mother and tell her that Tom never stopped loving her. The media intrudes on his grief and the angry young man escapes to the sea, in search of a better place to fit it. It is very cinematic, with the credits spread out over panels that take Arthur from his former lighthouse home to his new home in the depths of the ocean.
Johns is well known for finding a single theme for the characters and books he's working on. The one thing he's bringing out about Aquaman is the uniqueness that he shares with his fellow League members. What makes the Justice League members iconic is that the members have all faced personal tragedy and heroically rise above it. Kal-El's entire race faced extinction. The same is true for J'onn J'onzz. Bruce Wayne lost both his parents tragically. Hal Jordan lost his father in a tragic accident, and yet, he still became a air force and test pilot just like him. Arthur lost his father, and, it appears from previous issues of this current run, he's lost his welcome among the people of Atlantis.
Here, his search for all of that begins. The Johns, Reis and Prado story is unclear how long that search is. During a storm he rescues a father and his daughter that are being tossed about in their boat. The father tells Arthur that he might find answers from a man who lives in a fishing village on the coast of Norway. A man named Vulko.
Vulko is an exile, having escaped from Atlantis. He manages to fill in a number of gaps for Arther, and he gives him the Atlantean stones necklace that he will wear with The Others.
One of the most important things Vulko tells Arthur is that he is the true king of Atlantis.
Aquaman #0 is a really good looking book. Johns gives Reis and Prado plenty of room to shine with panels that are amazing. The time that Arthur spends with his father and grieving at the lighthouse is concise and carries the story. It drives toward the moment he runs from the media and dives off the rocky cliff into the sea. The story slows down a bit and enjoys its surroundings.
The full splash page of Arthur face to face with a shark is frame-worthy.
Here is this sequence, Arthur learns to use his ability to communicate with the subjects he will eventually command. It's a sequence that seems more Reis and Prado than Johns, because it is all visual without either dialogue or description.
The other impressive sequence is the rescue. An ocean homage to Seigel and Shuster's Superman hoisting the front end of an autombile; here Arthur stops a boat from crashing into the rocks.
Whether it is the calm or a storm, above or below the sea Reis and Prado are a real fit for Aquaman.
Aquaman seems to be one of the break-out characters of The New 52. The relaunch has set him on a new, familiar but uncharted course. This has been a long time in coming. Things are finally starting to fall into place for Aquaman.