Why not Aquawoman? That’s the question this issue of Aquaman pushes me to ask as it focuses in on Mera. It’s a hectic, day in the life story for Mera that touches on where she comes from and where she is now. It puts the spotlight on a character who could be one of DC’s leading ladies, but the title of the book this takes place in is a solid reminder that she isn’t.
A few years back, Mera became the breakout star of Blackest Night. This was a character who came relatively out of nowhere and got everybody’s attention. People wanted to see more. People demanded that she be a part of a new Justice League. Readers immediately accepted Mera as a strong character in her own right with an intense level of interest that few other female characters ever find themselves on the receiving end of. So what did DC choose to do with her? They ended Blackest Night by making her Aquaman’s wife again. They had the character step just to the side of the spotlight, and they did this in favor of a character who frankly had a lot to prove in terms of popularity. Even though I have really enjoyed what has been done with Aquaman since then, I don't really agree with the decision DC made back then.
This issue reads almost like a “what could’ve been” if DC had let Mera take the lead of the Aqua-corner of the DC Universe. It’s a story that highlights the ways in which she is not like Aquaman and her own ways of resolving situation. In summary, Mera is a badass. She doesn’t have the patience or inclination to be understanding about other people’s ignorance, and she can take you out by looking at you. All this when the woman is just trying to buy some dog food.
Yeah, yeah. The set up for this story is that Aquaman’s wife goes grocery shopping. I know. Let’s not beat it up for that.
The real premise of this story is that Mera is out among the surface people without Arthur to be there as a buffer. It’s left to her own judgment to decide how to deal with the general disrespect shown to her husband’s reputation and by association, to her.
It’s not a good day for anyone.
Honestly, I hope Geoff Johns reigns in the whole “Aquaman is a joke” busness after this issue. I think the point has been made. The less than great reputation of the character has been acknowledged, and ownership has been taken of the jokes. Can we move on? Because really, the process has been a bit heavy-handed and obnoxious. I also don’t think it is doing the character any favors at this point.
But the only part of this issue that really didn’t feel like it worked was the opening scene in which Mera is hassled by a store manager. As nice as it is to see him get dealt with, this guy is totally unbelievable. Johns ramps up the jerk factor on him so high that it really just breaks the scene. Am I really supposed to believe that the man is this openly awful yet he still has this job and people around him don’t just cheer when Mera puts him in his place? The scene would have been better if the guy wasn’t such a lecherous cartoon villain and behaved like a more believable, human-level jerk.
Some preexisting fans of Mera may find this issue underwhelming, largely because this issue is meant to introduce readers to who Mera is. So if you are already familiar with the character, this story covers territory you already know and really doesn’t tell you anything new. At most, it clarifies Mera’s relationship with her father a bit and how she may still feel about him despite their falling out over Arthur. That is interesting in its own right, but it won't feel as substantial as it would to a new reader who is not as familiar with Mera. Given that this is one of the early issues of a new Aquaman series in a new continuity, I don’t think it’s fair to hold it against the story that it saw fit to cover the basics of Mera's character.
This issue also serves as a character-focused break between story arcs. It’s mostly self-contained except for the end, which sets up the next arc about the mystery of Atlantis’ cataclysm and the Aquaman’s apparent first league. I’m definitely intrigued by the idea of this earlier team Aquaman was a part of. You have to hand it to Geoff Johns. He may exploit gimmicks quite a bit, but he usually does it to pretty good effect. New characters from him are also welcome. After all, this is the guy who gave up Atrocitus and Larfleeze. I’ll be curious to see if any of the members of this team can compare to Johns’ prevous successes.
Mera could have been launched a couple years ago as one of DC’s leadng ladies, but that didn’t happen. That makes this the best readers are going to get with her. Yes, she is now just the title character’s wife, but she is still a strong and compelling character when given the chance, as she is in this issue. Aquaman continues to be one of the better books out of DC's New 52, and it just may be my favorite out of Geoff Johns' current stable of titles.