Review: Aquaman #3

The revitalization of the sea king continues to be the best thing Geoff Johns is doing in the New 52.

Iann Robinsonby Iann Robinson

Aquaman #3

Aquaman continues to be the best thing Geoff Johns is writing for the New 52. While most of the attention has been on Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, this new slant on the king of Atlantis is the quiet champion. Why, you ask? Well, it not only reboots Aquaman but also deals with the decades of misperception by humanity. In Aquaman #3, things begin to open up, not just about the threat of the creatures from the trench, but also Arthur’s past and how that divide between surface dweller and icon of the deep has pushed him into a stoic existence. One that masks a deep sense of hurt and rage.

The action in Aquaman #3 comes from the humanoids from the deep (come on, I had to) that have descended on a coastal town looking for food. This new, angrier and more focused Aquaman comes through even in the scenes with no dialog. Arthur is harsher, more violent, and more prone to bloodshed than he’s been in the past. He’s not the benevolent punchline he once was – this Aquaman uses his battles to work out the rage dwelling within him and it’s unnerving to watch. There’s also comic book gold being struck with the humanoids, who have a real presence on every page. If played correctly, this new evolution in sea monster could become a classic Aquaman villain. They are more elemental than say Black Manta, the way Killer Croc is for Batman or Bizarro is to Superman. Not exactly mindless, but driven much more by instinct than evil plots.

Weaving itself through all this action is the meat of the story. The people of the world still see Aquaman as that punchline, a hero to be condescended to and looked down on. In one of the best-written scenes Geoff Johns has done in a while, an arrogant SWAT team member treats Aquaman like a child who has tried to help but failed. The way he addresses Arthur, the pat on the shoulder and “you did your best but let the grown ups handle it” attitude will have you yelling at the book for Arthur to punch this guy into next year.

Along with the humanity problem, we also meet Stephen Chin, a person from Aquaman’s past. It’s in these panels that Johns opens up the story. Chin was once a mentor to Aquaman until things went horribly wrong. The tension in this scene is palpable, you can feel the damage that the betrayal of Chin has done to Aquaman and the difficulty he has in asking for Chin’s help. There’s also an interesting clue dropped about Aquaman’s trident. Nothing concrete, just an exchange between Arthur and Chin that will leave you curious. The issue ends with Mera and Aquaman heading into the ocean and down to the trench to try and stop the humanoids.

Bringing Johns words to life is artist Ivan Reis, who just kicks all kinds of ass. The motion he captures in every panel is astonishing. The shining moment of this movement is the battle, but everything has it. In panels with nothing happening, Reis draws hair or background in such away that they move and breathe. The real gift is how the rich detail doesn’t get lost in the action. I also have to congratulate Joe Prann, whose ink work holds Reis’s vision together and colorist Rod Reis who does gorgeous work here as well.

Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman may be the shining stars of the DC Universe but with this reboot, Aquaman is becoming the hero to watch.