Flashpoint: Emperor Aquaman #1(of 3) - 'Emperor Aquaman Part One' - Bedard, Syaf, Cifuentes
Story - One of the things that separates DC Comics characters from those of other companies, is that they exist as much in the reader's heads as they do in the page. There are so many different iterations of Superman, Batman, Green Lantern etc as a fan the version you come up with in your tiny fanboy mind may not necessarily be what DC wants. The version of Superman I see when I close my eyes is not Christopher Reeve, or Earth-2 Superman, or Post-Crisis John Byrne Superman, or Max Fleischer's Superman. It is all of those and more, all twisted together to form Punchy's version of Superman. It's the same with Aquaman, I haven't read much Aquaman, but I have an Aquaman in my head, he's got some 'Outrageous!' in him, he's got some Super-Friends lameness in him, he's got some Hook-Hand beardy in him. And now he's got some Emperor Aquaman in him. Because even though this mini is set in an alternative reality, it still managed to shed some light on Aquaman and make me view him differently. That's a big bonus for me, this isn't just some meaningless tie-in, it's got something to do with something that matters at least.
One of the chief problems Aquaman has is that he's perceived as being lame. He talks to fish, he's a joke. And there is humour to be found in Aquaman, but come on, there are some pretty deadly fish in the sea, and those aren't his only powers. I often wonder why people say Aquaman is lame, when the similarly powered Sub-Mariner is viewed as being a total bad-ass. A lot of it comes down to attitude, Aquaman is a fundamentally decent guy, whereas Namor is a massive twat, and therefore cool (that or it's the ankle-wings). Flashpoint rectifies this by making Aquaman a bad-ass, not in super-ficial ways like giving him a hook-hand or a water-hand, but by making literally wage war on the surface world (something Namor often promises to do bet never actually will do), by making him sink Europe. Pretty much all of Europe. Woah.
Now yes, this is an alternative reality, this is Flashpoint, but it's a handy reminder of how dangerous Aquaman could be. There but for the grace of Reverse Flash goes our Universe. I'm sure that in the upcoming Geoff Johns/Ivan Reis Aquaman solo series we'll see Arthur Curry being much more heroic, but this series will inform our view of the character, we know he could do this, we know he has an edge.
This issue itself is not without it's problems however, Tony Bedard utilises three separate time-sequences. The present, 8 months ago and 11 months ago. I found this quite confusing, and it was hard to parse where each individual scene took place, especially since he doesn't work through them in a linear direction. Jonathan Hickman's Ultimate Thor mini-series did the same thing, but managed to come together in the end. I hope this series will do so too. The timeline of this story seems muddled at the moment, there is a wedding between Aquaman and Wonder Woman mentioned, but it seemed as if Aquaman was already married to Mera at this point, do Atlanteans practice polygamy, or was it a mistake? Bedard needs to clear this stuff up.
Overall, this was an enjoyable issue. It featured everything you could want in an alternative reality story, where half the fun is spotting traditional characters in new roles. It's a base pleasure, but it's there. Evil Aquaman is a fun kick, and if you're a fan of the character I think you'll enjoy seeing Arthur and his supporting cast in a darker mode. And if you hate Aquaman, if you think he's lame and a Family Guy cut-away gag, then this issue might just change your mind. Yes it's an imaginary world, but as Alan Moore (sort of) said, they all are, and they are all equal in creating the Aquaman in your head.
Art - Ardian Syaf is a great choice for this book, pretty much because his work looks almost exactly like Andy Kubert, who is drawing the main Flashpoint mini-series, and this provides a nice sense of continuity. It's not quite as polished as Kubert, but it is very similar. Has he been given a book in the DC Revamp yet? He needs a good one.
Best Line - 'You are a metahuman King. So is my husband. It must be the most exclusive of fraternities'
Yes, a Punchy 7, it's back!