Writer: Rick Veitch
Artists: Yvel Guichet (p), Mark Propst and Rob Leigh (i)
Publisher: D.C. Comics
The book opens with a group of scientists investigating ruins that were recently unearthed during a flood, and we see them stumble across a ship that looks to be in fairly good condition. As they explore the vessel we see the group comes across what they believe is an ancient statue in the captain's cabin, but when this statue comes to life we see this group makes a disturbing discovery. The book then looks in on Aquaman, as he takes Garth with him on a trip into the Secret Sea, as Arthur feels he needs to help defeat the threat that he unleashed when he used his new powers in anger, before he can move on to free Atlantis. To this end we see the mystery figure we were introduced to in the opening sequence is what threatens the Secret Sea, as the entity calls itself the Thirst, and in effect it is drawing the Secret Sea into itself to quench its never ending thirst. We then look in on this creature, as we see it possesses the ability to draw all the moisture out of people in his general vicinity, and the dried up husks that are left behind of his victims, become his undead minions. To this end we see the Thirst has his slaves go to work on the ship, as the vessel is rocked free from the underground cavern where it's lied buried for centuries, and it takes flight.
When one takes a good look at Aquaman's rogues gallery, it's rather difficult to say that the character even has one, as once you get past the Black Manta & the Ocean Master, the pickings get a bit slim. Sure the Fisherman has a nice goofy Silver Age quality going for him, and Peter David had Charybdis make a fairly impressive splash during his debut appearance by having him cost Aquaman his left hand. However, I'm delighted to see Rick Veitch has created a new villain for Aquaman to face, as his rogues gallery has never been all that deep. The Thirst is a fairly creepy creation, and the opening six pages of this issue do a wonderful job of introducing the character. I also enjoy the idea that his power is such a strong match for Aquaman, as his ability to draw the water out of anyone within his general proximity makes the character very dangerous to Aquaman, as it draws upon the character's main weakness. It's a bit like pairing J'Onn up against a man made of fire, or Superman squaring off against a villain who leeches off his solar energies. Now Aquaman's new magic powers do change things up, and based on this issue this battle is going to take place on the metaphysical plane more than the physical one. Still I do like the general idea of the villain, and he does make a strong impression in the opening pages of this issue.
My main problem with this book is that in its bid to establish a new direction for this book it seems to have forgotten that many of this book's readers rather enjoyed the old direction. I mean I'm sure Aquaman's fan base probably isn't sizable enough to really warrant a monthly series, but he is a fairly high profile character nonetheless thanks to his JLA connection. So I'm thinking the best chance this book has for success in today's market is to appease the fans who would be buying this series because they are already Aquaman fans, while at the same time adding new elements that would spark the interest of newer fans who were drawn in by the hype. So far Rick Veitch seems to be taking the approach of not appealing to either group, as the new magic hand, secret dimension is too far removed from what we had been getting before to really please this longtime fan of the character, and the new elements really don't strike me as engaging enough to grab & hold on to newer readers. I mean I admire his willingness to take the book in a new direction, but truthfully I'm starting to look around & notice that this new direction is not exactly sparking my imagination, and the book is a little too nebulous about where it's heading for me to really get the sense that it's moving toward anything all that interesting.
Yvel Guichet bring an interesting look to this series, as his art does manage to deliver the more surreal aspects of the material quite nicely, as one has to love the location where we are first introduced to the Thirst, and the book also does some wonderful work capturing the sheer horror of the villain's ability to kill a man by drawing all the moisture out of their body. The book also impresses when Aquaman & Garth enter the Secret Sea, as even the panel design work gets in on the show. Now our look at the Thirst later in the issue, where we see his body has been restored to a more human looking appearance was a bit disappointing, as I rather enjoyed the horrific appearance the character was sporting during the opening sequence, but the art does manage to redeem itself later in the issue when it shows the corpses of his victims rise up and carry out his wishes. The scene where the ship breaks free of it's resting place is also a fairly impressive visual, as is the final page shot of the ship flying over the city. Also while it's a little detail, I did enjoy the panel where the Thirst is behind the ship's wheel, as it projects a sense of authority that nicely contrasts the creepy, monster lurking in the shadows quality established in the opening half of the issue. I also have to give the cover full marks, as that visual nicely captures the nightmarish qualities of the Thirst.
An interesting new villain, and a fairly creepy debut appearance, simply isn't enough to make me over look the fact that this issue delivers almost no real moments of excitement. I mean I understand that writers have to set up a threat before they can kick the action into gear, but this issue needed a serious kick in the pants when it came to its forward momentum, as beyond introducing the villain, showing off his power, and revealing him to be the threat to the Secret Sea, this issue accomplishes very little. Now I guess it's interesting to learn Aquaman's healing power isn't a lasting cure when it comes to the lighthouse keeper McCaffrey, and the linking of the JLA members to the ancient gods is a interesting notion, but little details simply aren't enough to carry an issue. Still, I do like the Thirst, and I look forward to his impending meeting with Aquaman, as if nothing else Aquaman could certainly stand another villain in his rogues gallery.
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