Friday, April 28, 2017

AQUAMAN #57, 58, 59, & 60

Writer: David Michelinie | Artist: Jim Aparo | Colorist: Liz Berube

His son dead, Aquaman has gone out in search of the boy’s killer, Black Manta — in a rather cavalier fashion. I'm not sure David Michelinie’s script quite fits the gravity of this situation. Aquaman’s child has been murdered in cold blood, but he's going about his business here like any other mission, even tossing out a wisecrack or two along the way. It seems to me that, based on what happened, Aquaman should be functioning like a latter-day Batman at this point, speaking little, dishing out brutal beatings to anyone who gets in his way, and so forth. But instead, for the most part, it's just business as usual. I guess it's possible Michelinie is trying to show us a hero in denial, but if that's what he's going for, he doesn't explain it at all.

Quickly before I move along, I should mention something I didn't note last time. The prior story in ADVENTURE COMICS 452 featured Black Manta dramatically removing his helmet to reveal to Aquaman that he is, in fact, a — black guy! And that, folks, from his own mouth, is the reason he decided to call himself Black Manta. Not because he wears a black costume or, I dunno, has a black heart, but because he himself is black.

Yikes! Weren't we a little more enlightened about stuff like this by 1977?

Writer: David Michelinie | Artist: Jim Aparo | Colorist: Liz Berube

Writer: Paul Kupperberg | Artists: Juan Ortiz and Vince Colletta

With his second issue (which is actually numbers his 59th issue since comic publishers respected legacy numbering back in the seventies), Aquaman’s series splits into a headlining story starring the sea king and a backup featuring Mera, and things begin to get more than a little repetitive.

Remember the Fisherman, gang? One of Aquaman’s only two enemies? Remember in the first story arc, he was secretly in cahoots with Karshon, the usurper king of Atlantis? Well, the Fisherman is back and he's once more serving a mysterious master as part of some conspiracy against Aquaman. Exciting!

Meanwhile, in our backup tale, remember how Aquaman’s son, Arthur Jr. is pretty definitively dead? Well, maybe not — turns out there's a secret device in Mera’s home dimension which might be able to restore him to life, so she's off to find it. But when she gets there, she finds the place ruled by a traitor whom she had previously imprisoned. (Lots of usurping in these stories, huh?)

There are still five issues of AQUAMAN to go. Hopefully Michelinie can come up with some new story ideas, and maybe even dig up some new villains, before we finish them.

Artist: Jim Aparo | Colorist: Liz Berube | Editor: Paul Levitz
This story’s credits inexplicably lack a writer credit, but some quick Googling reveals it to be David Michelinie as per usual.

Writer: David Michelinie | Artists: Don Newton and John Celardo
Letterer: Milton Snappin | Colorist: Jerry Serpe | Editor: Paul Levitz

Aquaman continues to fight the Fisherman, who serves the mysterious King-1, in issue 59, as the villain attempts to raise the long-lost ship Bellerophon from a watery grave. But near the story’s conclusion, Bellerophon is stolen from both Aquaman and the Fisherman by a villain called the Scavenger, who Aquaman had believed dead.

This takes us into issue 60, as new artists Don Newton and John Celardo come aboard to chronicle Aquaman’s search for the Scavenger. Much as I liked Newton’s later work on DETECTIVE COMICS, here he seems a little rough. I think I've determined that when I say I'm a fan of Don Newton, I'm really a fan of Dan Adkins. The Newton/Adkins team is spectacular on Batman, turning in a gorgeous, polished product that reminds me of the likes of Alan Davis. But I've seen some of Newton’s subsequent Batman work, inked by Alfredo Alcala, and to me that work looks much like this does — rough and unfinished.

So, long story short, Jim Aparo will be sorely missed as this storyline winds down.

Writer: Paul Kupperberg | Artists: Juan Ortiz and Vince Colletta
Colorist: Liz Berube & Jerry Serpe | Letterer: Milt Snappin & Bill Morse

Meanwhile, in Mera’s backup serial, issue 59 finds her defeating the usurper Leron, who loses his mind in the process, only to learn that Leron was the only person who knew where the device which could potentially save her child’s life is hidden. This takes us into #60, where Mera dives into a deep, elemental-infested pit and retrieves the healing device—but when she returns to Atlantis, she's informed that her quest was for naught and her return too late. Her son has died.

I'll speak more to that bizarre storytelling choice next time, but for now I just want to note that this story is an incredibly amateurish affair. Paul Kupperberg’s script is fine, but Juan Ortiz’s artwork is awfully stiff and unimaginative. And I can only hope DC received a steep discount on the letters in “The Edge of Nowhere”, because Bill Morse’s work is absolutely awful. The letters are sloppy and uneven and all the word balloons are inexplicably rectangles.

So Mera’s quest ends in failure, but the true failure in this story comes on the part of editor Paul Levitz for hiring such sub-par creators.


  1. I remember one of the early issues of Marvel's Godzilla comic having a villain exclaim at SHIELD's Gabriel Jones "BUT...YOU ARE BLACK!" which I guess was meant to express his disgust that a black guy was in his base. We were not even ten years out from the race riots of the 60s, and only twelve from the passage of the Civil Rights act, so comics and race issues tended to be rather heavy handed then.

    1. Personally I think it's one thing to address racism in comics by throwing in a bigoted character; my incredulousness here is more from the fact that Black Manta, an actual black man, chose to call himself "Black Manta". I just figured that sort of thing had died out by this point, in the aftermath of characters like Black Goliath and Black Lightning. Those names all really read like they were coined by white people and it feels weird to me that a black person would choose the name unless it was done ironically.

      Though I have no problem with Black Panther, for whatever reason. It seems different to me somehow, since panthers actually are black! But then I guess so are manta rays...

      Hmm. I don't know anymore what my point was!

    2. My point was that there was a general sense of heavy handedness around race: you have a character who is black? Add Black to their name. You want to be racist? Be appalled because there's a black man in the room.

      I suppose it could be worse; there was Tyroc of the Legion of Superheroes, who...lived on the island where all the black people in the 31st Century lived.

      Like I said, heavy handed.


  2. // Yikes! Weren't we a little more enlightened about stuff like this by 1977? //