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52 Skidoo: DC One Year After Relaunch
Aquaman #12

After one year, DC unleashes a series of issues in a variety of forms that sum up, slingshot and (perhaps) launch new energy into books that really should not have had the time to grow moribund in the first place. But that might be the problem with large comics universes these days; we just never get a chance to relax with a status quo before everything we know is turned upside down – again. And again. And again.

Often caught in the cross hairs of critics' wrath is the fan darling and Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns, a writer of extremes. When he executes a bad idea it resonates, and unfortunately undercuts the really good work and long-lasting contributions he does. Last week proved the point with three separate books by Johns. I'm starting our examination of DC one year after the relaunch with a look at those books, and we'll be discussing it on the podcast as well. So...

Part 1:

Aquaman #12
written by Geoff Johns
pencils by Ivan Reis
inks by various

Geoff Johns made people take Aquaman seriously – as seriously as anyone should take a superhero comic. From the first issue, he let the former king of Atlantis in on the joke, and let it be known he was tired of it. Or perhaps, just tired. Teamed with dynamic artwork from Ivan Reis, Johns vaulted Aquaman back into a top-tier character, one of the most successful relaunches of DC's "New 52."

Now we get to issue #12, that fabulous summation, and it showcases the best and worst of Johns' inclinations as a writer. We have found out that before joining the Justice League, Arthur Curry had a secret super-team called "The Others," interesting characters in their own right but admittedly unlikely to have survived a solo launch in this market.

But that revelation really came about six issues back, when Black Manta started hunting down the Others in an attempt to flush out Aquaman and gather sacred relics of Atlantis. We've gotten bits and pieces of character development out of them, but mostly – and Johns is far from the only writer guilty of this in comics – they exist to be sacrificed.

Reis has created some interesting character designs, and his composition is dynamic. His pencils are tight enough that this issue can have four different inkers without it being distracting.

However, for about three issues, Aquaman has been barely making headway. Arthur has gone rogue, trapped in a cycle of hatred and vengeance with Black Manta. (Like two political parties, it's devolved into "oh, yeah, well you killed my father FIRST!") The Others all complain about it; Mera, Aquaman's wife, is angry that her husband is so secretive. If only DC had an AR program so we could hear the melodramatic organ music and have long pauses on the puzzled faces of the characters.

A few weeks ago, the online comic strip Gutters ran "four panels that should be retired," and another famous creator took a shot at Johns, saying without them, he'd be lost. Well, one of those panels appears here, but credit goes to Reis for at least giving it a different staging.

So where is Aquaman going in Year Two of the 52? Johns and Reis will be leaving in four issues, so hopefully a new writer will be able to clear away the surprising amount of detritus Johns put on this book after so strong a start.

Derek McCaw

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