First 3 Issues of Aquaman Rebirth, another Phantom Menace?

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#1 Edited by Rainshadow777 (521 posts) - - Show Bio

Edit: The arc really picks up into something special by issue 4 'Semper Fidelis', but here is my view of the first issue initially, with a rant about the next two issues in a subsequent post.

I've just received the first trade paperback for Aquaman containing issues 1-6 by Dan Abnett. I have just finished reading the first issue (the first proper #1, not the Rebirth one-shot) and I write to you with great apprehension for the future. I will update after reading the rest. I hope things get better.

What on earth is up with Abnett's first issue? It's Cullen Bunn level bad. Here is why:

1. Aquaman sounds more like Queen Amidala with the political nonsense. 80% of the issue is about how obsessed he is with connecting Atlantis with the dry world. Why? I received a massive Phantom Menace hangover when reading it with its embassies and political negotiations. I had hoped that writers of fiction had learnt to avoid the boredom of this type of thing. Aquaman has one of the most interesting worlds of any superhero - all the oceans- and one of the best narrative contexts - Greek mythology - yet like the Phantom Menace moved away from all that was fun about Star Wars, that's what we're getting here too - in issue 1!

2. Aquaman invites media and political figures for some kind of grand opening of the new Atlantean embassy Spindrift Station. He introduces himself to everyone, then before the media can ask questions he says, "But first, are you hungry" and takes them into the snack area. I can't believe what I'm reading. Three pages of Aquaman eating chowder in the Rebirth one-shot, now a page of characters wondering what the sushi crap actually is. Nice start Abnett. Hopefully in issue two you can elaborate on Aquaman's trip to the supermarket.

3. There is a reference to JJ Abrams. Why?? Is he a buddy of Abnett's? I hate this pop culture referencing in comics. "Add a little lens flare, we could be in a JJ Abrams movie, right?" Wrong Abnett. Wrong. This is the main piece of character dialogue that explains their impression of the immensity and augustness of the embassy. You could have said anything amazing to capture the essence of the place, but instead we get this.

4. Black Manta is disguised as a noisy American type from the Daily Planet. This foolishness is beyond any criticism. Sure he was using some kind of masking technology, but this is a very dodgy disguise. When he pretends to be sick from eating a sea slug sushi he asks for the restrooms and goes off presumably to throw up. And Mera... wait for this... Mera sends one of the King's Personal Guard to go and see if he's ok because "We don't want a bad Trip Advisor for our food"!! Stab me right now with the trident.

4a. Mera makes the Trip Advisor gag straight after revealing that she doesn't understand what a pun is, and in the one-shot she had never heard of chowder. So she goes from an understandably naive Atlantean who doesn't get puns and chowder, to someone cracking Trip Advisor jokes. So which is it? Is she hip or not??

5. There's a lot of PIS going on here. First of all, Black Manta sneaks several large bombs into the new Atlantean embassy Spindrift Station. A previous panel shows us the road block getting cars in, presumably to the embassy car park (great panel that - not), then a further 'checkpoint' that looks more like a nightclub doorlist where people are having their names checked off a list or something. What sort of embassy is this?? Considering it's probably the most important one in history this laughable security situation is laughable. And guess what, Black Manta blows it up. On day one. In hour one!

6. I've saved this one up for last. Lieutenant Joanna Stubbs. Apparently this book's Harper Row, she is the official representative from the United Kingdom's Royal Navy and is to take up a position as, "British Navy Liaison". This goes down as the worst diplomatic appointment of all time. She is 24 years old and says "Crikey" every other panel, as well as things like, "This is... it's a very big deal", "I'm sure this is all very normal to you" (to Captain Sark who lives underwater!!), and "I'm scared stiff..." Holy hell, why did they send this rookie. Crikey.

So yeah, this is not a great start. All we need now is a Jar Jar Binks character flopping around in issue 2 and the comparison is complete.

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#2 Posted by Rainshadow777 (521 posts) - - Show Bio

Three issues in now and things have not improved.

There is just something really wrong with Abnett's view of this world.

- Black Manta blew up the new embassy and the US close it down and blame Aquaman and Atlantis. This makes no sense as Black Manta is from dry land and clearly disturbed. The US should be helping Atlantis to bolster security, not leave the KING literally out on the sidewalk.

- One of the worst scenes I have ever read is Aquaman standing outside the checkpoint being told that he can't come inside. They're having an argument out on the street. Then, just to round things out, Aquaman and Mera want to speak with the US President and so turn up at the Whitehouse gates!! Out on the street. Surely if he's the acknowledged king of Atlantis and they have just built a state of the art embassy that obviously took a lot of political groundwork, he wouldn't be dumb enough to think that you turn up at the Whitehouse gates for a meeting. What nonsense is this.

- The Phantom Menace politics goes on and on:

"The state department revoked the embassy status", "I didn't expect them to rescind our diplomatic status", "I'm here to request the reinstatement of our diplomatic status and the resumption of dialogue between our nations" (said by Aquaman who was so naive that he thought it was kosher to turn up at the front gate of the White House and apparently has no better connections than that), "I suggest a commission to examine the ways Atlantis and the US might...".

This is so boring I can't even.

What we haven't had yet are: underwater adventures, anything underwater, a sighting of Atlantis or other cool underwater civilisation, any engagement with history/mythology, common sense from anyone in the book. Where is the wonder and awe of underwater worlds? Why didn't they vet Abnett to hear his ideas first? Why did DC green light the political nonsense that yet again trawls up the 'misunderstood Aquaman' theme. Geoff Johns showed there is much more to this character!

I'd be really interested in hearing from other Aquaman readers about their thoughts. There's no way I'm going to keep reading Aquaman if it stays like this. The New 52 blew this piece of garbage out of the water.

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#3 Posted by Ready_4_Madness (14790 posts) - - Show Bio

Everyone has an opinion, a lot of people will disagree because this book is generally well received.

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#4 Posted by Rainshadow777 (521 posts) - - Show Bio

Everyone has an opinion, a lot of people will disagree because this book is generally well received.

I'd really love to hear what people think about it. Any Aquaman fans out there? I'm very interested to hear why people think it's going well.

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#5 Posted by Rainshadow777 (521 posts) - - Show Bio

I know this is turning into Rainshadow777's personal Aquaman narrative, but I feel compelled to say that issue 4 'Semper Fidelis' is actually really good.

Finally we have underwater scenes, Atlanteans in Atlantis, powers being used in exciting ways and some rock solid dialogue that you can sink your teeth into (rather than grinding them in frustration).

I stand by what I've said about the first three issues, which are just beyond bad, but issue 4 rocks.

Come on Abnett, you can do this!

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#6 Posted by UltimatePower6 (609 posts) - - Show Bio

I think it's personal taste, like your big complaint about the first few issues being written like the Phantom Menace. I thought they were fine, not great grant you, but definitely decent. Issue 1s are always info dumps so I'd expect some dialogue to be a little wonky. It's not high political jargon, and I think that was done on purpose because we're dealing with comic readers, not wall street extravaganzas. What I took from it was the divide between Atlanteans and the surface world. I liked how the cultures were presented differently, and even though it's a tiring trope for the US government to be against change and new I found the scenes where Arthur was trying to make peace with them to be quite interesting. I'm not sure what you read Aquaman for, but when I started this book neither did I. Turns out I really like the complicated situation Aquaman is with not only his people, but the world itself. He's not just a superhero, he's a King and I think this book gives more emphasis on that where Arthur has to tangle with obstacles he never thought were obstacles. Also I'm not sure if it's a sign of long time reader vs new time reader. Other than the first volume of Geoff Johns' run this was the first time I read Aquaman. Speaking of Johns' run, he too had scenes in his first issue talking about food. As to all of your disagreements with the issues, I went back and reread the first issue to see if anything changed for me, and the scenes you pointed out were small, although I do have to agree with you on the girl Navy whatamacallit. She's not terrible, but is a way for new readers to get information. Anyway, that's just my view on Aquaman, I do think the issues get better and better as they go on, and don't worry about underwater stuff, that is coming soon enough.

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#7 Edited by Rainshadow777 (521 posts) - - Show Bio

@ultimatepower6 said:

I think it's personal taste, like your big complaint about the first few issues being written like the Phantom Menace. I thought they were fine, not great grant you, but definitely decent. Issue 1s are always info dumps so I'd expect some dialogue to be a little wonky. It's not high political jargon, and I think that was done on purpose because we're dealing with comic readers, not wall street extravaganzas. What I took from it was the divide between Atlanteans and the surface world. I liked how the cultures were presented differently, and even though it's a tiring trope for the US government to be against change and new I found the scenes where Arthur was trying to make peace with them to be quite interesting. I'm not sure what you read Aquaman for, but when I started this book neither did I. Turns out I really like the complicated situation Aquaman is with not only his people, but the world itself. He's not just a superhero, he's a King and I think this book gives more emphasis on that where Arthur has to tangle with obstacles he never thought were obstacles. Also I'm not sure if it's a sign of long time reader vs new time reader. Other than the first volume of Geoff Johns' run this was the first time I read Aquaman. Speaking of Johns' run, he too had scenes in his first issue talking about food. As to all of your disagreements with the issues, I went back and reread the first issue to see if anything changed for me, and the scenes you pointed out were small, although I do have to agree with you on the girl Navy whatamacallit. She's not terrible, but is a way for new readers to get information. Anyway, that's just my view on Aquaman, I do think the issues get better and better as they go on, and don't worry about underwater stuff, that is coming soon enough.

You're a very nice person to be so forgiving of Abnett's run. Maybe I should take a leaf out of your book and try to relax. It's just that I love Aquaman and can't stand to see poor quality output, especially as I was so pumped for Rebirth.

I really encourage you to read all of Geoff Johns' run of Aquaman as it really sets the standard. One of the things about it that I love so much - and something that is really lacking from the first five issues of Abnett, is the majesty and mystery of the underwater world. Johns and artists Ivan Reis and Paul Pelletier really nailed that aspect. It's so good. I'm going to re-read them. Look at how they draw the underwater scenes. Look at how they draw the rain! Look at the beauty of Geoff Johns' prose. Oh god, just look at it all! The final few pages of Johns' run literally put tears in my eyes at its perfection.

I guess I don't read Aquaman to see him debating politics in an office (or god help us, the street), and you would be lucky to sight a glass of water in the first three issues let alone oceanic exploits of wonder and awe. As you correctly point out, the political balancing act that Aquaman writers seem always drawn to has really been done to death. It's important, don't get me wrong, and I don't want that tension to disappear entirely, but at least have it grounded in a bit of logic. I also feel like I'm being hit over the head with Aquaman's obsession with bringing the two cultures together. We get it already!! Combining politics with clunky, unlikely dialogue and bizarre expositional Navy novices only makes it worse.

The endless political stuff is (partly) what made The Phantom Menace and Batman v Superman so irritating. Comics and Hollywood are obsessed with the 'are they good, are they bad' discussion ad nauseam. Stop over-egging the pudding and move the f on!

Anyway, I'm getting worked up again. I vote we get Aquaman back in the water and discovering/exploring unknown civilisations. I can't wait for the Rise of the Seven Seas event!!! I hope Johns has a heavy hand in it.

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#8 Edited by Ready_4_Madness (14790 posts) - - Show Bio

@rainshadow777: I get that you want it that way but wouldn't that sort of limit the storytelling, this is just a different approach that isn't for you but that doesn't necessarily make the story bad.

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#9 Posted by Rainshadow777 (521 posts) - - Show Bio

@rainshadow777: I get that you want it that way but wouldn't that sort of limit the storytelling, this is just a different approach that isn't for you but that doesn't necessarily make the story bad.

You're right, I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who thought sending a Royal Guardsman to assist a journalist throwing up in order to avoid a bad Trip Advisor review was good writing and fitted the world of Aquaman that has been so skillfully crafted over the years.

Joking aside, I actually don't believe in objective judgements when it comes to art, including comics, so I do agree with what you said. The first three issues just suck 'according to my taste' and I've provided evidence for why I feel they come up short.

I'm also interested in hearing why people think those issues are good, and what they like about them. I'm happy to have a conversation about that.

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#10 Posted by Farkam (11981 posts) - - Show Bio

Asides from Aquaman vs. The US Military and Aquaman vs. Superman, this whole arc was largely forgettable. Black Manta isn't particularly interesting, and frankly never has been (to me, at least). N.E.M.O isn't believable, and doesn't feel like it really exists outside of Aquamans book. With that said, the US/Atlantis war barely made an impact. It would have been better had it been mentioned in other books, outside of Aquamans (maybe it has been, I wouldn't know). This whole arc just felt like "Ok, that happened, anyway on to the next!" Everything that has happened has to be explained in text, rather than shown, because it doesn't feel like it really happened outside of Aquamans little world. I think this would have been better as an event instead, tbh. Still I enjoyed reading it, and continue to feverishly collect Aquaman. On to the next, lol.

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#11 Posted by ScouterV (7764 posts) - - Show Bio

@rainshadow777: I kind of agree. At the same time, Johns did a lot of what you wanted to see. I don't think it's unfair to see how Aquaman holds up in a different setting. As King first and Superhero second. In addition, it also makes the times he does fight more gratifying. His battle with Shaggyman for example.

I personally like it, just because it's something that I feel they've been building to for awhile. I liked Mera as Aquawoman too. I feel like Aquaman has more weight to it now because of what it deals with and plus, I love the dichotomy of Manta and Aquaman as leaders, and the focus on Manta as a whole. Especially considering how he came to rule NEMO.

@farkam: Well it kind of did happen as an event. Throne of Atlantis. The difference being Atlantis was the aggressor under Orms' rule. Here NEMO and the US are the aggressors.

And I feel like the event is mentioned within characters mostly associated with Aquaman. So it likely is brought up in books like Justice League, but I don't read it. Also, Deathstroke did make a reference to it when Superman showed up a couple issues back. Coincidentally, Deathstroke carries similar themes the OP doesn't like.

Also, regarding NEMO, I feel like you're right. They feel non-existant, but that appears to be the point of it. It is a Shadow Organization.

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#12 Edited by seastone98 (4524 posts) - - Show Bio

@farkam said:

Asides from Aquaman vs. The US Military and Aquaman vs. Superman, this whole arc was largely forgettable. Black Manta isn't particularly interesting, and frankly never has been (to me, at least). N.E.M.O isn't believable, and doesn't feel like it really exists outside of Aquamans book. With that said, the US/Atlantis war barely made an impact. It would have been better had it been mentioned in other books, outside of Aquamans (maybe it has been, I wouldn't know). This whole arc just felt like "Ok, that happened, anyway on to the next!" Everything that has happened has to be explained in text, rather than shown, because it doesn't feel like it really happened outside of Aquamans little world. I think this would have been better as an event instead, tbh. Still I enjoyed reading it, and continue to feverishly collect Aquaman. On to the next, lol.

agreed I want abnett 2 bring back ocean master

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#13 Posted by Rainshadow777 (521 posts) - - Show Bio

@scouterv said:

@rainshadow777: I kind of agree. At the same time, Johns did a lot of what you wanted to see. I don't think it's unfair to see how Aquaman holds up in a different setting. As King first and Superhero second. In addition, it also makes the times he does fight more gratifying. His battle with Shaggyman for example.

I personally like it, just because it's something that I feel they've been building to for awhile. I liked Mera as Aquawoman too. I feel like Aquaman has more weight to it now because of what it deals with and plus, I love the dichotomy of Manta and Aquaman as leaders, and the focus on Manta as a whole. Especially considering how he came to rule NEMO.

@farkam: Well it kind of did happen as an event. Throne of Atlantis. The difference being Atlantis was the aggressor under Orms' rule. Here NEMO and the US are the aggressors.

And I feel like the event is mentioned within characters mostly associated with Aquaman. So it likely is brought up in books like Justice League, but I don't read it. Also, Deathstroke did make a reference to it when Superman showed up a couple issues back. Coincidentally, Deathstroke carries similar themes the OP doesn't like.

Also, regarding NEMO, I feel like you're right. They feel non-existant, but that appears to be the point of it. It is a Shadow Organization.

The idea of Aquaman being tried out in a different setting is ok in theory, but personally I read certain comics for certain contexts, and I have certain expectations. I read Green Lantern books because I love the intergalactic space travel and adventures, I (sometimes) read Batman for the gothicism of Gotham City, and I read Aquaman for sea and mythological based stories. It doesn't have to be that exclusively, but that's generally what I sign up for with my $.

I'm happy for things to meander off the course from time to time, and I don't enjoy overly formulaic writing (despite what I've just said). But I just draw the line at the early Aquaman stories by Dan Abnett where, realistically, you could interchange Arthur Curry for any number of political leaders and have close to the same story. It just didn't feel like Aquaman, with none of his powers used at all and none of the potentially amazing scenes and scenery of Atlantis/the ocean being used.

I'm going with it though and I'm going to keep buying the trades because I love the character so much. I also re-read 'The Drowning' and I did enjoy it a lot more than my initial experience.

As for the idea of NEMO being a flimsy villain gang concept due to their lack of presence in any other time and context, I actually don't mind that so much and I'm happy to go with it. I actually think it is more plausible that NEMO has existed since the mid 19th century in a nautical sense than, say, the Court of Owls existing under the noses of Gotham's crime fighters including Batman from the New 52. I thought that was a bridge too far. I'm happy to see where NEMO goes. Kind of unfortunate that you can't have anything sea-based without it being bloody called Nemo though. I'm surprised Abnett doesn't have a character called Dory.

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#14 Posted by Zoch81 (422 posts) - - Show Bio

I'm glad this whole NEMO and black manta storyline is over with it wasn't interesting at all, I never find Black manta interesting at all and dislike it when ever Manta fight Arthur shouldn't be able not without getting serious injured or killed he's normal human just lower Arthur power tier wise as well as Atlanteans when ever Manta fight them. I also disliked the ending as well thought Arthur pander way to much US especially with handling over war prisoners who attacked Atlantis and killed highly ranked Atlanteans hopefully next story is better.

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#15 Posted by namelessnoname (110 posts) - - Show Bio

To add another Star Wars prequel reference when it comes to reviews of this storyline, I couldn't help but think of that line that Padme said in ROTS... So this is how Aquaman dies... with thunderous applause.

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#16 Posted by Farkam (11981 posts) - - Show Bio

@farkam said:

Asides from Aquaman vs. The US Military and Aquaman vs. Superman, this whole arc was largely forgettable. Black Manta isn't particularly interesting, and frankly never has been (to me, at least). N.E.M.O isn't believable, and doesn't feel like it really exists outside of Aquamans book. With that said, the US/Atlantis war barely made an impact. It would have been better had it been mentioned in other books, outside of Aquamans (maybe it has been, I wouldn't know). This whole arc just felt like "Ok, that happened, anyway on to the next!" Everything that has happened has to be explained in text, rather than shown, because it doesn't feel like it really happened outside of Aquamans little world. I think this would have been better as an event instead, tbh. Still I enjoyed reading it, and continue to feverishly collect Aquaman. On to the next, lol.

Oh and Aquaman vs Shaggyman was great too!

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#17 Posted by Hatutzeraze (559 posts) - - Show Bio

I'm loving Abnett's run on Aquaman. I like it when comic books feel comic booky.

I suppose you are probably right about Joanna Stubs being a little cartoonish (as are those two swooning agents - I can't remember, are they FBI?), but I'd consider that a minor sin, if it is even a sin at all. It looks like Abnett wanted a few less-than-totally-serious supporting characters around, and realistic or not, the interactions are worth a grin. Sure, Black Manta and N.E.M.O. have some capabilities that stretch our suspension of disbelief, but honestly this is a superhero comic and in my opinion I think they work best when pushing things to make over-dramatic conflict with repetitive action beats every issue.

I do understand the need to have more realistic characterization, but I read tons of comics and I can easily get that in Saga, Lazarus, Southern Bastards, Paper Girls, or even Wonder Woman. I don't need that in every title I buy, so if one title opts to cast a few supporting characters in a silly light, I'm happy to meet the writer halfway and see how well that fits with the Aquaman mythos. So far, so good, I say.

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#18 Posted by Jonny_Anonymous (45774 posts) - - Show Bio

@rainshadow777: I like Abnett generally but I am pretty sick of this version of Aquaman. It's not really Abnett's fault though as he's been written like this since he came back during Brightest Day. Aquaman used to be a badass swashbuckling, adventuring warrior-king. He's was like Kull of Atlantis, King Arthur of Camelot, Orin (Aquaman) and Orm (Ocean Master) were like Romulus and Remus from Roman myth. But now he's a real uptight stick in the mud, a straight man in pretty much every situation. Everybody pretty much just writes him like blond Kal-El. He needs to grow back that beard, grow out his hair, grab his trident and hunt monsters, go on quests and fight evil sorcerers like King Conan or John Carter, Warlord of Mars.

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#19 Posted by Rainshadow777 (521 posts) - - Show Bio

@jonny_anonymous:

I agree 100%. These are the type of adventures I want him to go on - not political bollocks. The ocean and mythology provides a virtually limitless potential for great adventure stories. I want to read some.

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