For years, Aquaman has been a favorite pop-culture punching bag whenever superheroes are brought up, as evidenced on comedy shows such as MTV's late, lamented The State, FOX's Family Guy, CBS' The Big Bang Theory, and Cartoon Network's Robot Chicken on the Adult Swim block. He's been around since the Golden Age of comics but gets less respect than the late Rodney Dangerfield.
And now...Now he's a badass.
Seemingly on a mission, writer Geoff Johns goes right at all the misconceptions and jokes about Aquaman. He takes out some bank robbers by upending their getaway truck in the middle of the street with no ocean and no fish anywhere in sight. He walks right into a seafood restaurant and orders fish and chips, telling an obnoxious know-it-all that he doesn't talk to fish. And best of all, he shuts down said know-it-all riding him about being nobody's favorite superhero with nothing more than a hardened glare and a large, pointy trident. This could get a bit annoying if Johns oversells the "Aquaman isn't a joke" campaign issue after issue, but for now it's more than appreciated.
This first issue may be a bit lightweight in terms of story, but Johns sets the tone for the series in a very straightforward, uncluttered way that hasn't really been felt since his run on the Wally West Flash series. The reader isn't bogged down in a rainbow spectrum of ring-wielding characters or hampered by setup for an upcoming Big Event mini-series. And unlike Johns' recent Green Lantern #1, anyone picking up this comic isn't thrown into the next phase of an existing long-running storyline and expected to catch up. Nope, you're introduced to Aquaman, getting a feel for his character and background, and introduced to his wife Mera just long enough to get a feel for her as well. The whole thing is bookended with the looming threat of menacing undersea creatures called The Trench and that's it, that's all you need to tell a successful introductory issue.
Well, it does help that Johns has such an incredibly talented artist like Ivan Reis working on the title. Reis first got everyone's attention with the "Sinestro Corps War" storyline in the previous Green Lantern volume and then his impressive work on the Blackest Night mini-series. He shows no sign of taking his foot off the gas here, making the Trench look like something out of a Hellboy movie or a creepy episode of Doctor Who. But as Reis demonstrated in his issues of Brightest Day, he draws an absolutely stellar Aquaman, arguably the best ever. And thankfully, he does some solid work with facial expressions, giving Aquaman's reactions to various comments throughout the issue far more weight and substance. Some top-notch stuff here.
If you've ever wondered what some comics fans find so appealing about Aquaman, despite all the smacktalk the character has received over the years, do yourself a favor and pick up this issue. You may just find yourself laughing at all the Aquaman smacktalkers instead of with them.