There are a number of constants in geekdom. Stormtroopers from Star Wars never hit anything they fire their weapons at, Kenny McCormick from South Park is killed off from time to time (although granted, not as often as he used to be), and every so often, Aquaman gets stranded in the middle of a desert.
Yep, this often-redone Aquaman story premise makes you want to channel some of the recent Battlestar Galactica and go "All of this has happened before...and will happen again." Adventure Comics #256, Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #115, Justice League of America (vol.1) #12, DC Special Series #1 (a personal favorite), DC Challenge #4, Outsiders: Five of a Kind #1, and probably some others I'm forgetting have all featured this rather obvious plot with some variations here and there. So what makes this version stand out?
Well, Geoff Johns' script for one thing. Still playing with fan preconceptions of Aquaman, Johns uses this desert story "Lost" as a framework to develop the personality of the Post-Flashpoint Arthur Curry and also set up a significant mystery. As revealed at the end of last issue, the question of "Who sank Atlantis?" is the next major storyline and some tidbits are dropped here that will hopefully pay off somewhere down the road. A discovered artifact shaped like the letter "A" adorning Aquaman's belt begins emitting a high-pitched chatter, ultimately revealed to be a visual recording hinting at the ominous "enemy" that sank Atlantis. In addition, we also gain some insight into this new Arthur's persona, as a hallucination from dehydration reveals that he views himself as someone desperate to belong somewhere but terrified that he never will. A nice upgrade in characterization from "the guy who talks to fish."
Ivan Reis, meanwhile, continues to excel as the title's artist. The issue's opening scene of Aquaman falling from the sky into a double-page spread desert crater sets the tone nicely, especially with some solid coloring from Rod Reis. Some of the later desert pages seem to echo Neal Adams mixed with bronze-age Aquaman artist Jim Aparo, while retaining Reis' own style in the process. He also designed a visually distinctive set of armor for the recorded Atlantean warrior, which should look even more impressive whenever we flash back to see hordes of Atlanteans fighting in vain against the "enemy."
So it looks like Aquaman should be interesting reading for the foreseeable future, which is very reassuring. Next month promises "Mera vs. The World" and if Johns' take on Mera in Blackest Night and Brightest Day was any indication of what could be in store, my money's definitely on her.