July 31, 2012

Judging the New 52 #10: Aquaman

I have always loved Aquaman - indeed, I have always loved him unironically. He was a childhood favourite, alongside Batman and the Incredible Hulk. I thought his costume looked cool, I loved that he had underwater adventures. I even loved that he could talk to fish. He's not the easiest character in DC Comics to write for, but I think he's pretty damn cool. As a character he's always struggled, however. He went okay at first: a solid run from 1962 (that's right, he's 50 this year - pity DC forgot to celebrate it) to 1978, but then had to endure an eight-year hiatus before getting two miniseries in 1986 and 1989. An attempt at a second regular book got cancelled in 1992 after 13 issues, then a soft reboot by Peter David in 1994 (including cutting off Aquaman's hand) gave him his longest run ever: 77 issues up to 2001. Then the character was killed off, brought back, given a new hand made of water in 2003, vanished in 2006 and was replaced by a pseudo-fantasy replacement before getting the axe again in 2007. After another hiatus (four years this time), Aquaman came back with a splash (ha!) as one of the flagship titles of the New 52: written by Geoff Johns with art by Ivan Reis, the new run restored Aquaman's original look and powers while making him a much meaner, less openly friendly type of character.

There's a lot to recommend about the Johns/Reis run on Aquaman. The art is vivid and clean, and a lot of the scripts have been engaging and enjoyable. But - and this should really be a bold-type, underlined, italicised BUT - Johns seems to have this bee in his bonnet that need to be swatted dead.

When reading Aquaman I can't help feel that every issue Johns is going to ram down my throat that Aquaman is a cooler superhero than the stand-up comedians give him credit for. The character has always been a target for mockery, and understandably so: his primary powers are that he swims really fast and talks to fish. Sure, these powers have their uses but they don't come up too frequently when he's fighting alongside the Justice League. He's a bit of a daggy superhero - I don't think there's any avoiding that. The problem with Johns trying to shout Aquaman's awesome powers to the rooftops is that he's preaching to the converted. I know Aquaman is cool. I already think he's awesome. If I didn't, I wouldn't be reading the god-damned comic.

You can't deny the relaunch has helped the character out though: check out those sales figures! First up is the last 24 issues of the previous run: sales in the high teens at the tail end of the "hand made of water" era, then a significant bump to almost 38,000 once the Tad Williams-enhanced Sword of Atlantis era kicks in. Then it's a fairly relentless decline to cancellation in 2007 with less than 13,000 readers.

With the relaunch, however? More than 72,000 copies sold in the first month. Even after 10 issues the sales are still considerably higher than any issue in the last two years of the previous version. If I compare 10th issues of multiple volumes, the previous volume (2003) sold 26,522 copies of its 10th issue. June 2012's issue sold 59,288. I suspect DC are very happy with this one.


  1. Aquaman was my favourite #1, largely because of the humour. That aspect seems to have declined a bit, perhaps inevitably, but it's still one of my favourite of the New 52

  2. You didn't find it was a bit too "I'm a hardcore hero, people should stop teasing me dammit!!"?


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