“Bridge Over Troubled Water”
Writer: Rick Veitch
Artists: Yvel Guichet (p), Mark Propst (i)
Publisher: DC Comics
The Thirst storyline comes to a close with Aquaman defeating the enemy, restoring the rivers, turning back the sorcerous evil happening in the oceans, and being allowed once again to swim the seas.
What should have ended 3 or 4 issues ago finally comes to a close in an amazingly abrupt and tidy package. It was as if the author decided this has gone on too long (which it had) and so ended a seven-issue storyline in about two pages, filling in the rest with long explanatory text. Actually the long, explanatory text was with us all along, reminding me of Chris Clairemont’s days at X-Men when a hero would throw a punch while explaining the entire second act of Henry V at the same time.
The issue opens with a poor rendering, both in the writing and the art, of members of the Justice League – Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman and Manitou Raven. They help bring us up to speed with what’s happening with the oceans, even if most of the lines they utter are completely out of character (“There’s too much at stake to let superstition affect our performance Kal” says Batman. Oh really?) We then turn to Mizen Head, Aquaman’s brief new home, to find Sweeney and McCaffrey battling the nasty sea creatures that Atlantis’ black magic has cooked up. While these characters did have promise, they were underdeveloped and never had much significance to the story. It all seems a bit forced. Why should we really care about them? Why would Aquaman considering everything that is happening to him?
We then turn to the main part of the story - what’s happening at the Fountainhead and in Aquaman’s battle with the Thirst. They have now merged into the Waterbearer and the Thirst/Aqua thing head off for the secret sea after yet more explanation with Black Manta. Cut to New Atlantis where we learn Hagen is behind all these evil beasties now roaming the oceans and basically bringing about the apocalypse. As if there was not enough to worry about. What could have been an interesting story about how the dark forces now at work in Atlantis since the Obsidian Age now seems boiled down to Aquaman can fix all with the healing hand. Speaking of which, we return to the main action where Aquaman and the Thirst battle it out inside the Waterbearer for control with Aquaman finally defeating the Thirst. With that the Rivers are restored and the pure life energy flowing from the rivers restores the oceans, destroys the beasties and all is well.
It’s all so nice and tidy that it’s like the last 10 minutes of a Star Trek episode. After building up apocalypse upon apocalypse for so many issues the day is saved in about two pages. But do we care? We’ve long since given up on getting any inside look into the characters’ personalities during this entire crisis that we don’t feel like any great threat was diverted. The Thirst was obviously supposed to be a grand epic event in Aquaman’s life, but it comes across more like a made for TV disaster movie. Real opportunities were lost here for seeing how Aquaman exists outside of Atlantis, for understanding his role as King (the fact that the lady of the lake tells him afterwards that he is now a bridge to a new age seems like an afterthought), for getting inside the man’s skin (his sheepish expression at the end “I’m not really a mammal you know?” is completely out of character) and for seeing how others react to him.
Lost in all this is the final panel. Veitch switches to an inner monologue for Arthur and in just one magnificent closing panel as he returns home to the sea you get a sense of the poetry and power this storyline could have had. It’s also summed up in the cover image, which conveys that sense of power and majesty. Unfortunately what’s in between fails to hold my attention.
The entire Thirst storyline could be skipped and you would not miss much. Let’s just see what this new team can do with Aquaman and heh, maybe Peter David is waiting in the wings.
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