Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The many phases of Aquaman

Aquaman by Alan Davis, 2004

i could have titled this the many "faces" of aquaman, but rather i chose "phases" because with each new look for the protector of earth's oceans came a new purpose. i have been a long-time aquaman fan since i started reading my father's tattered copies of Adventure Comics from the seventies. something about a hero who could control sea life and explore such a vast undersea world always appealed to me. unfortunately i never completely stuck through each incarnation of arthur curry. while i enjoyed the '89 mini-series by keith giffen, robert loren flemming, and curt swan, for the most part, it wasn't until '94 i started following aquaman's adventures regularly. up till then aquaman had been crowned king of poseidonis (the capital city of sunken atlantis), lost his crown, branded a traitor, cleared his name and became king again, but gave up the throne, and became ambassador of atlantis. all the while aquaman continued to be atlantis' hero and savior. aquaman also endured the loss of his infant son and abandonment of his mentally ill wife (who was the reason he abdicated his role as leader to the justice league). possibly the most startling change to the hero came with a new look and aggressive attitude when he lost his hand and replaced it with a cybernetic harpoon.

Aquaman by Martin Egeland, 1995
each new writer and artist seemed to take aquaman in a new direction or motivation and soon it seemed the sea king's history would continue to grow more and more convoluted. was aquaman a superhero steeped in science fiction or a king immersed in mythology? what writer peter david did in the mid-nineties series was wade through this history and reconstruct it in a clearer fashion. but not by retelling stories, rather building off of them and filling in gaps and holes that made it richer and more clear. david and writers after him reaffirmed aquaman's role as king of atlantis and superhero in the surface world. unfortunately aquaman would loose this again be given a new role in his life. after his apparent death and later resurrection (or something) thanks to his justice league teammates, arthur wound up being labeled a traitor to atlantis for a second time, and aquaman found himself an agent of the lady of the lake, from king arthur lore. oh and the harpoon was replaced with a magical hand of water.


flash forward to now, the slate has been wiped clean for aquaman and all of the other heroes of the dc universe.

thankfully writer geoff johns, with artists ivan reis and joe prado, have returned aquaman to a level of greatness he may not have seen since the '40s when he was first created or '60s when his cartoon was popular on airwaves across the country.  no longer is aquaman the adoptive son of a dolphin (did i forget to mention that?), but again the son of an atlantean queen and lighthouse keeper. arthur is looking for his place in both the surface and underwater worlds. aquaman has two hands and proudly wields a golden trident against any enemy foolish to face him and his army of aquatic aids. i'm also pleased that his long-time wife, mera, is no longer crazy and a stalwart supporter as his partner against crime. oh and the villains are cool, as in serious threats to aquaman's domain. johns is rebuilding, from the ground up, the history of aquaman and atlantis by using bits and pieces of past continuity as a foundation, much like peter david did in the mid-nineties. one can only hope this progression continues and the past does not completely  repeat itself. aquaman can be both superhero, husband, king, average joe, and environmental activist, but it takes the right creative and editorial team to get it right. as of the date of this posting, so far so good.

Aquaman is published monthly from DC Comics.

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