So, last week I was clearly frustrated with Geoff Johns' first installment with Captain Marvel. It was frustrating to read and by the end of it, I was left to wonder why in the hell I keep running into a brick wall every Wednesday, then getting frustrated when the wall doesn't move.
I read fewer comics than I ever have when I actually consider myself an active reader. I feel little-to-no connection to the majority of the New 52, though I am still reading a handful of books.
Aquaman is one of them. This issue is why, despite my frustrations, I stick with this hobby and continue to deal with frustration. Because you never know when you're going to get a book that you truly enjoy for what it is.
I have always put my money where my mouth is with this stuff. Going back to the days of the 'Rama's message boards, I had always maintained that you can tell Aquaman stories, interesting Aquaman stories, quite easily. I felt it took only the slightest bit of imagination to use the character well, and the biggest thing the character needed was for the writer to show no weakness with Arthur Curry. You can't make the character incompetent or indecisive or a navel-gazer, constantly whining about his lot in life.
I had always felt that if you just played Aquaman straight, just made the character really confident and competent, a writer could do the one thing that is missing from many comics today and from the last few years: You can actually make a reader look at the book, read the book, with a sense of wonder. A sense of scale, of how powerful the ocean could be. Of how competent a character has to be to operate in that environment.
As much as I question some other things Johns has done over the years, I have absolutely no questions about Aquaman. I've enjoyed each of the issues at varying degrees and for different reasons, because to my way of thinking, Johns has been at his best with this run by doing the things he does best: Taking a character who, while well-known, doesn't really have a truly defining set of stories or personality characteristics. When Johns has that and is on his game, he absolutely has the skill to start dropping in pieces of "new history" here and there that make sense, make the lead character more interesting, and leads to better stories.
So, with that, I make this statement: Aquaman #7 is one of the best books I've read from Johns in many years, likely since the opening arc of the Justice Society relaunch for OYL.
Because Black Manta has never really been defined all that well in comics over the years despite nearly everyone knowing the character from cartoons, Johns is able to make him fit into what every superhero needs: A villain who is so freaking dangerous, you don't KNOW that the hero is going to win when they face off. Black Manta is nasty. He's really, really good at what he does. He's....scary. I don't know that Johns writes a scarier character than Black Manta.
Johns' first six issues have been planting seeds all along -- I knew that, some of them were obvious. The difference between this and the first installment of Captain Marvel was that I honestly feel, in how I perceive Johns' writing -- and I've read, what, hundreds upon hundreds of his books by now -- is that I truly feel that he is, for whatever reason, invested in this book, this concept.
I don't know, but I think Johns enjoys writing this set of characters, perhaps moreso than some of the books/concepts he's been involved with for years.
I would encourage anyone who hasn't been reading this book to pick up a copy of Aquaman #7. I'm not pretending this issue is revolutionary -- it isn't. It's the beginning of a "quest arc," where the hero and villain are going to reveal past history as they inevitably wind up in the same place at the same time and have a throwdown to end all throwdowns.
But see, that's what Aquaman needs. He just needs storylines that makes sense, do not reinvent the wheel. The character desperately needed to appear in straight-up superhero comic book, with art that is extremely strong and a writer with skill who isn't in a hurry to change everything in order to appear clever.
This one's going to be Aquaman vs. Black Manta, at the end of the day, folks. And that's OK. Because with comic books, it's how you get there that matters. It's always been that way for serial characters. It will always be that way. And that's OK.
With Aquaman, Johns gets that. This issue is exactly why I continue to read comic books. It was fun to read, fun to look at, fun to wonder what is coming next.
I hope that I get a few more of those from anyone/everyone working in the industry today.
*Sniff, sniff* "Damn it, Diana...If I'd known they would trade us in for a JT Krul-written Captain Atom and "The Savage Hawkman," I'd have let Superboy-Prime destroy all reality.""Superman flies and is really strong...what the fuck else do you need to know?!"
-- Hitler, expressing his displeasure about DC rebooting and complaints about continuity