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Aquaman #15
writer: Will Pfeifer
artists: Patrick Gleason and Christian Alamy

It looks like there wonít be a ComicCon this year. At least, not in the DC Universe, for most of San Diego has mysteriously fallen into the sea.

If that isnít good enough to grab your attention on this book, I donít know what is. How about the patience to let a new art team show their stuff and tell the story for a few pages without any interference from caption boxes, aside from one ironic place name?

Being an Aquaman fan is frustrating, because every relaunch promises great things and then seems to sputter out. Case in point: a little over a year ago, this title had a daring new direction, with daring new powers, and quickly began repeating itself in order to stretch the arc out twelve issues. And now itís gone.

New writer (or ďdaring new direction writerĒ) Pfeifer has kept the hard water hand (admittedly, better than the hook) but otherwise seems to have thrown out the last few years of character development. And it works, returning Aquaman to his status as a guy that the public more or less trusts. How long has it been since that happened?

Oh, Gleason and Alamy have done a bit of modification on the original costume, but itís still recognizable as the guy from SuperFriends. Thatís not a bad thing, either, because no matter what comedians have said, that guy rocked. Holding Pfeiferís place for the past two issues, John Ostrander certainly knew it, presenting two of the best Aquaman stories in quite a while. Iím almost afraid to say it, but Pfeifer looks on track to top them.

From that subtle, terrible and surprisingly affecting opening image of a drowned panda, it may seem like this new team is out simply to shock us. It may take that for some readers, and we get four pages of the sea king desperately trying to find survivors. It plays out mutely, and his grief is palpable. We can keep the gruff aspects Peter David brought to the character, but itís good to see that heís not aloof. Aquaman can be touched, especially by his own failures, without completely breaking down.

All of this serves as a set-up, of course, for some strange new foe. For now itís a mystery. Aquaman even dons a trench coat for the occasion, bringing a really new angle on the character ≠ hard-boiled detective with a heart of gold.

Alamyís inking is still a bit too heavy, but it may just be a holdover from working over Yvel Guichetís blocky pencils. Give him a couple of issues to lighten up a bit, and give this book a chance.

Rating:

Chosen #1
writer: Mark Millar
artist: Peter Gross

Mark Millar and Dark Horse Comics would have the average buyer believe that this series has something controversial to say. The cover alone is calculated to send fundamentalists (those few that may stumble past the Archie rack) into paroxysms of outrage.

Yes, it is daring to tackle the subject matter of Jesus reappearing on Earth, unless youíre one of those writers of the Left Behind series. But the most surprising thing about Chosen is how unsurprising it is.

Jodie Christianson (oh, why be subtle now?) seems like your ordinary twelve-year-old boy. Actually, heís a little on the troubled side, cutting class fairly often, doing badly in school, and a bit fixated on horror films. Until one day death greets Jodie face to face, and realizes heís come for the wrong guy.

Miraculously unhurt in an accident terrifically laid out by Peter Gross, Jodie awakens in the hospital. Unhurt, yes, but definitely not unchanged. People know things about him, and for some reason, he knows things he could not have known before. One might almost call him Öomniscient.

The adult Jodie narrates this first issue, with occasional flash-forwards to his audience of twelve. Remaining in silhouette in his scenes as an adult, Jodie nonetheless has something about him. His apostles, at least, are rapt.

A lot of the story merely echoes and updates the Gospels, but the big picture may be more slyly satirical than we can understand so far. To parallel Jesus teaching the Rabbis, Jodie begins by spouting off about the Kennedy Administration, then putting on a show for the entire faculty of his school. Itís not quite the same thing, but didnít Kennedy have a time of near-veneration in this country?

But itís not together yet, and knowing that Millar has ventured into this territory before in the little-read Saviour, it just doesnít have much impact. The real surprise may be if Jodie actually is what he thinks he is, but somehow I doubt it.

Still, itís a decent read, as even at his worst, Millar still tells a story well. And the artwork from Gross is absolutely appropriate, with brilliant coloring from Jeanne McGee that gives the whole book a slightly ethereal feel.

Rating:

Derek McCaw

 

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