Friday, May 5, 2017

AQUAMAN #61, 62, & 63

Story: David Michelinie (with thanks to Richard “Comic Media News” Burton)
Art: Don Newton and Bob McLeod | Letterer: Milt Snappin
Colorist: Adrienne Roy | Editor: Paul Levitz

The story arc dating back to issue 58 concludes in AQUAMAN 61, as our hero teams up with Batman and Green Lantern to stop the Kobra’s plot to destroy Lisbon, Portugal. Kobra (who was the Fisherman's mysterious master, "King-1") has apparently faced Batman before, and the Caped Crusader speaks often of how deadly he is, even going on a couple of wildly out-of-character rants berating Aquaman for prioritizing the lives of hostages over capturing the villain. But there are no footnotes in the story to indicate where these two crossed paths before, nor do we get any sort of flashback or exposition explaining exactly why Batman feels so strongly about Kobra.

Indeed, this entire story feels a bit off, as if something is missing. It almost seems like a crossover with JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, as we're told that a number of developments in the heroes’ hunt for Kobra occurred off-panel and are touched upon only extremely briefly here.

But this is David Michelinie’s final issue of AQUAMAN, so perhaps he knew he was on the way out and felt a need to wrap up his Kobra story before someone else came in to take it over. When he arrived, back in ADVENTURE COMICS #443, it was in the station of mere scripter, and he alternated that duty with a couple other writers. But eventually he returned on a permanent basis with ADVENTURE 450, becoming the longest-running writer in this stretch of issues. But his run has come to an end and writing chores are turned over to the writer of the Mera serial from the past few installments to close out the DEATH OF A PRINCE storyline.

Writer: Paul Kupperberg | Colorist: Adrienne Roy | Editor: Paul Levitz

Artists: Don Newton & Bob McLeod | Letterer: Shelley Leferman
Artists: Don Newton & Dave Hunt | Letterer: Clem Robins

And Paul Kupperberg does a decent job of tying things up, at that. First off, and most noticeable to me, is his scripting. It never really registered with me previously, but David Michelinie and, I think, the other writers on this serial, never seemed to have a great grasp of Aquaman’s voice, but don't think I could've put my finger on why until reading Kupperberg’s version: it's the epithets! Suddenly our hero is spouting off expressions like “Great Neptune!” and he finally sounds like Aquaman. No idea why the other writers didn't do that.

All that said, I'm still bemused by the fact that everyone calls Aquaman “Aquaman”, even his own wife. Not once does she call him Arthur, as you might expect. It's just “Aquaman” non-stop from everyone, which is kind of silly.

Beyond his script, Kupperberg also brings us a pretty good conclusion to this whole storyline. I noted last time that I would touch on the apparent pointlessness of Mera’s mission here, but now, having read the entire thing, it turns out there was some reasoning behind that seemingly unnecessary excursion: Kupperberg uses it to show us that Aquaman was so dead-set on catching Black Manta to avenge his son that he failed to realize Arthur Jr. was still alive. The implication here is that if he had returned immediately to Atlantis with Junior, then there would have been more time in which he and Mera together might have been successful in the mission to save the child's life.

It's pretty heavy, serious, borderline depressing stuff for a kids’ comic. We have a toddler seemingly murdered, then clinging to life as his mother goes in search of a device to save him, only to return successfully to find that the boy perished because she took too long. The fact that she believes Aquaman could have made the difference is further salt in an already sodium-rich wound. I'm not sure why anyone at DC thought this would be enjoyable entertainment for children, but I’m really kind of uncomfortable with it as an adult and, had I read it as a child, I'm sure I would've been downright horrified by it!

But like I said, at least Kupperberg comes up with a decent ending, even if the entire affair leaves a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. This is essentially a two-parter pitting Aquaman against his half-brother, the Ocean Master, and it sees Aquaman, Aqualad, and Mera reunited as the full Aqua-team goes in search of the villain. If nothing else, at least we get that out of this — the very first time in the entire serial where all three characters are seen acting together.

Now, as we close the book on more than four years worth of AQUAMAN stories, I'll quickly mention the artwork in these final chapters. After being let down by the inks on Don Newton’s first Aquaman tale, things tick up a notch here. Bob McLeod and Dave Hunt are far more suitable to Newton’s style and the result is not unlike the Newton/Adkins team I love so much from DETECTIVE COMICS. Indeed, the Batman guest spot in “The Armageddon Conspiracy” reminds me very much of those later stories! I'm still not sure Newton is a lateral move from Jim Aparo, but he's definitely a very nice fit for Aquaman with the correct finishers.


  1. I don’t have anything to say about these particular issues as I haven’t read them…

    Yet. Turns out my LCS had a copy of Aquaman: Death of a Prince on the shelves. It’s a pretty well-stocked place, but subject to the same laws of inventory as everybody else — customers purchase books, the publisher sooner or later stops going back to press, the store sells out its stock, and should customers who bought copies want to get rid of them they’re more likely to attempt to sell them at a premium online than to sell them back to the store at well below cover price (never mind that most comics shops don't traffic in used items beyond back issues unless they're highly collectible). Several times over the past year I’ve come up empty there trying to find stuff that’s out of print, which made this a very pleasant surprise. Of course, with my luck, DC will announce a deluxe-edition hardcover next week that InStockTrades lists for less than my TPB cost.

    I concur again on the stuff not specific to these issues, like the morbid, miserable nature of Arthur Jr.’s death and how even family members refer to Arthur as Aquaman.

    1. I'm glad you found a copy of the book! It seems to have built up some demand, as all the copies I could find on Amazon and eBay were being offered for way more than cover price. If my blog has accomplished nothing else in the past few years, I'm happy it let you know that this volume existed and led you to acquire it.