Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #54


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Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #54


  • Words: Tad Williams
  • Art: Shawn McManus
  • Inks: Shawn McManus
  • Colors: Guy Major
  • Story Title: Waiting for the Son
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Jul 18, 2007

Secrets of the new Arthur Curry’s heretofore unknown origin are revealed, as the major villains behind the last three years of Aquaman stories stand revealed!

Tad Williams’ opening epic trucks right on along, moving an ever-growing cast of characters to investigate the mysteries surrounding the sinking of Sub Diego, the birth of the (second) Arthur Curry, and the many, many bizarre attacks suffered at the hands of Black Manta, Ocean Master, Progene Tech, and Tri-Dent Industries (amongst others). Mysteries abound, a new villain – the Flying Fish – is introduced (he’s tougher than his name implies), and the big bad masterminds behind the whole rigmarole make a final page appearance.

While I’m horribly disappointed that Busiek’s superb dark fantasy approach has been waived for what seems little more than a comedy of super-heroic errors, at least DC is allowing Williams to take his sweet jolly time in wrapping up – at long, long last – the crazy number of dangling plot threads this latest volume of Aquaman has left drifting like shipwrecked detritus ever since its inception. Unlike the vast majority of restarts/relaunches/reboots of the Modern Age, wherein continuity is largely a thing not to be contradicted but equally never to be mentioned (if at all possible), it’s satisfying as hell to finally get a "new direction" that in fact deals with everything that’s come before, even if, yes, it’s convoluted and seems a bit helter-skelter in plot (the reason most books don’t do it).

Williams does manage to drop integral information inside every issue, making sure to advance the plot in exciting ways no matter how out-of-sight the end may seem, and this issue is no exception. Lots of new insights into the new Aquaman’s point and purpose, to the original Aquaman’s fate (c’mon, he’s not really dead), and to all the nasty, villainous goings-on in the shadows. Williams’ skills as a novelist are apparent in his story’s complexity and incessantly growing cast of supporting characters (more than most comics would ever strive for). He fleshes out the undersea world wonderfully, adding unknown angles to the fathoms-deep universe and bringing back all number of long forgotten persons and locations.

I draw the line at the Saturday morning cartoon humor, though (hate it, with a passion), especially as jarring as this sensibility is following Busiek’s take, especially right after the utterly unnerving revamp of the Fisherman in issues #48-49 (those directly preceding Williams’ first issue). I commend the writer for sticking with all the details, literally carving an already existing work into what he eventually wants it to be (rather than outright replacing it), but I feel the shift could have been treated with the same care aesthetically, chiseling away the darker, more genre-specific elements one issue at a time. Ultimately, the comic reads like Tad Williams, which isn’t a bad thing, but it does entail that – in tone and style – he’s just not trying, not stretching in the least.

The art by Shawn McManus has been the greatest about-face, though in this I feel the book may actually be strengthened. Again, it would have been better to transition a bit more, but McManus has evolved impressively since his 90’s action-adventure days, and now seems to be taking on Kyle Baker-like artistry. Imagine Baker mixed with Bruce Timm – you’d think any book would prove a lavish thing under such mastery. And Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis is, though due to the suddenness of the change, even a lover of the look like me is still mulling it over, trying to accept such a total paradigm shift.

If anything, this fourth volume of Aquaman will surely go down as the most ridiculously experimental, almost desperate series of attempts to give the king of the seas his own best-selling title. An Arthurian hand of mystical water, the sinking of San Diego to become Sub Diego, a thoroughly Swords & Sorcery approach, and now this, an amalgamate of all of the above, with a Young Adult fiction style that works, but may or may not honestly fit.

The truest test, I suppose, will be to see where Williams and McManus go when the continuity clean-up is through. I hope for something a bit denser stylistically, both in script and art (cut loose, McManus! Go for it!), but even if not, the current team is a strong one, though unless they up the ante in certain ways and stand out as something more, the book will likely remain below super-star status, its perpetual plight.

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