STORY: Geoff Johns
ART: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Oclair Albert, and Andy Lanning
“The Others” has been a fantastic narrative, thus far, that has opened up a whole new chapter in Arthur Curry’s life that readers have never seen before. Of course, Geoff Johns is making Aquaman’s team before the Justice League a new incarnation, but that’s just the funniest thing; the ‘Others’ seem so familiar and normal that it feels like they’ve been around for years and we’re just now getting to know them. I’m sure that’s the sentiment Johns was going for, but he pulls it off spectacularly well. Paying a writer to pen an origin story?: $2,000 (I’m thinking, I don’t know). Feeling close to characters you just met?: Priceless.
In Aquaman #9, the search for the rest of the Others continues with the Prisoner, a man who can construct things out of water? It’s not entirely clear at this point what the Prisoner’s powers are as opposed to what power he gains from the golden gauntlets when Black Manta attacks him in his hospital bed. Ya’wara and Arthur discuss the rest of the gang: Vostok is coming to meet them from his self-imposed isolation on the Moon, the ‘Operative’ “will find us. He always does,” explains Arthur, with only the Prisoner’s fate left up to chance. Aquaman is so good because it builds and shows rather than tells readers what is happening. Basically, Aquaman is the exact opposite of Scott Lobdell’s Superboy.
The latter six or seven pages are dedicated to Dr. Shin’s recount of Arthur’s history with Black Manta. An understandably impatient Mera demands the tale out of the cowardly doctor who reveals that, indirectly, it was Shin himself who was responsible for most of Arthur’s misfortune. After studying and helping Arthur for years during his childhood, Shin expressed interest in taking Arthur’s abilities public. Arrhur’s father, Thomas, hated the idea and immediately took Arthur and cut off all ties and communication with Shin. Shin went on to publish his findings, but without proof, he became a laughing stock in the scientific community. Desperate to reclaim his reputation, Shin hired Black Manta to retrieve a sample of Arthur’s DNA. Manta and Thomas Curry fight and Manta manages to escape, albeit without the DNA. See, this was the point in the old Aquaman story where Manta killed Thomas Curry and sent Arthur on his path toward righteous redemption. This time around, Thomas lives. Unfortunately, he dies of a heart attack a week later and – in a fit of rage – Arthur murders Black Manta’s father.
See what they did there? THEY JUST BLEW OUR MINDS! It’s interesting and awesome how writers are using the ‘New 52’ relaunch to make DC’s heroes more human. No one is perfect, and the original origin stories that have followed my favorite characters around for decades made them all look like saints and martyrs in every way. Reality is less polished and writers like Geoff Johns and Scott Snyder know this, which is why their books are consistently the best ones.
Johns has fundamentally changed the game between Aquaman and Black Manta. While their histories still intertwine significantly, Arthur’s former golden-boy status is gone and Manta’s evil ways are no longer as arbitrary. Everything is better than the pre-‘New 52’ Aquaman and it shows no signs of slowing down soon.