One year in, and "The New 52" has now shifted to "The 52." How's it been? Steve Morris investigates in a series we're calling "One Year Later."
You can tell that some of the New 52 writers had more confidence in their series than others. While getting the job writing Mr. Terrific may be, well, terrific, there’s little guarantee that fans will support the title for longer than a year. Which, sadly, they didn’t. If you’re writing a member of the Justice League, however, then you have a much better chance of a long run with the book, especially if your name is Geoff Johns and you are not just a writer… but also DC’s Chief Creative Officer.
Which is why, while many books wrapped up a story at the end of their first year, Johns has been allowed to go on for one month longer. The end of Aquaman’s first year doesn’t end his second arc — it serves instead as the penultimate issue. Issue #13 is going to finish the ‘Black Manta’ story which has taken up a long period of time for the series, so obviously Johns has been aware for some time that the book is a success.
And it has been, more or less! Struggling to keep up a reputation as an A-List character, let alone stay alive for more than two years at a time, Aquaman wasn’t exactly a character people swooned over. But Johns took the character, poked accurate (if slightly over-extended) fun at the aspects which fans didn’t like, and then started to move him forwards. Much like his work when he first took over Green Lantern, Johns first made Aquaman accessible for comic book fans, and then started to build a mythology.
The first arc was a fairly simple fight against sea monsters, but the focus was on Aquaman and the — let’s admit it — real star of the book, his wife Mera. Their relationship was light and frothy, with touches of ice and irritation. The dialogue between them flowed constantly, and the fight scenes drawn by Ivan Reis made both of them seem cool. While the dialogue was cheesy fun, Johns set about filling in a new backstory and context for the characters.
And this is what has served the book best. If Johns ever steps down from full time comic book writing, somebody should hire him to simply sit down and create mythology for other characters. It’s his strongest suit as a writer, and boosted Green Lantern into the limelight. Aquaman isn’t at that sort of level yet, but you can tell that Johns likes the character best. The background and history has been established, with new villains and allies created every few issues. It’s been a fun read.
It’s also been a very simplistic read, as with much of Johns work recently. The characters are fun and style entertaining, but the stories aren’t exactly complex. The main criticism with the book (other than Aquaman being perhaps too aggressive and confrontational all the time) is that the arcs haven’t tried anything daring or surprising. Take issue #12: the main villain fights Aquaman, Aquaman’s friends arrive, and the villain attempts a sneak attack. One of the allies jumps in the way, dies heroically, and Aquaman swears revenge. We’ve seen this scene a million times before.
It’s a popcorn title, drawn beautifully by Ivan Reis (as if Reis could ever draw something which wasn’t brilliant, right?) and gallops around entertainingly. It may not be a solid book like Batman or Wonder Woman, but it delivers uncomplicated entertainment for the masses, without being dumb. It’s the book you see on the shelf and think ‘well, why not?’ It’s not DC’s best book, but on any month you can pick it up and read something diverting. And one year ago, who would’ve predicted that for Aquaman?
For more not-so-new-52 coverage, check out Steve's other One Year Later essays:
- One Year Later: Animal Man/Swamp Thing
- One Year Later: Demon Knights
- One Year Later: Suicide Squad
- One Year Later: Catwoman
- One Year Later: Batwing
- One Year Later: Aquaman
- One Year Later: Wonder Woman
- One Year Later: Birds of Prey
- One Year Later: Justice League Dark
- One Year Later: The Flash
Steve Morris is the head and indeed only writer for Comics Vanguard, the internet's 139th most-favorite comic-book website. You can find him on Twitter at @stevewmorris, which is mostly nonsensical gibberish you may enjoy or despise. His favorite Marvel character is Darkstar, while his favorite DC character is, also, Darkstar. He's on Team X-Men, you guys.