Sunday, October 17, 2010

_Aquaman: Once and Future_ by Kurt Busiek

I'm on a little bit of a Kurt Busiek kick. I'm a big fan of Astro City and I feel like I've come late to the party there...though it means I can catch up via trade paperback volumes in the library.

This was a reboot of the whole Aquaman story, most of which I'm ignorant about (he got a water hand? What the hell do you do with a water hand?).

(This particular story doesn't contain a water hand.)

Anyway, this story was pretty good. The only quibble I'd have is that it introduces a new Aquaman who is made out to be a great deal like old Aquaman reborn, but it doesn't do much of anything to set up the new guy. I dunno how it should have gone though. It had a good plot, and the new guy's plight is pretty interesting. He's a guy who was raised in isolation because of his birth-defect-need-to-breathe-water, who gets tossed into the sea by a storm that kills his family.  I think we needed to spend some time with him in his normal life before we meet him in the crazy undersea adventure world of DC comics, where his buddy is a humanoid shark named King Shark.

Not to diss King Shark. He was my favorite character, and the cover art of him is great. I'd like to build a facsimile of the spear/sword thing he's holding.

If this whole setting appealed to me a little more, I could see following along to volume 2 to see if it fills in some more background and really grabs me.

Funny thing: I was checking this book out at the library, and the fellow checking me out said, "Aquaman? Who's that?" He said he recognized some other superheroes, but not that one. Aquaman, of course, never gets any respect, which is the reason for a reboot.

I had a similar reaction to the John Constantine: Joyride book I read recently, and perhaps this explains why not everyone is as much in love with The Ultimates as I am: The Ultimates is an Avengers reboot, and the Avengers have some heavily iconic Marvel characters. I know the Marvel history better, I've read a lot more Marvel comics, I revere them. So a reboot of those is an easy sell. The DC reboots don't have any such chords to strum.


  1. Anonymous1:09 PM

    Hmm. Lisa always liked Aquaman and I've always made fun of her for it. I mean, it's one of the few cases where if you compare the Marvel and DC equivalents head-to-head, Submariner is clearly cooler and more interesting than Aquaman. Even with those ridiculous winged ankles.

    I tend to think of the major DC characters as being MORE iconic than their Marvel counterparts. Certainly the Justice League feels more iconic than the Avengers. The appeal of the Ultimates has to do as much with how it approached those characters; I think it really emphasized key ideas behind each character that had been sort of lost over time. Also, it cut down the ridiculous number of people IN the Avengers.

    Funny thing about the Avengers is that they never made any sense as a team. At least the core membership of the Justice League includes the BEST representative of each basic type: the strongest hero, the best human hero, the fastest hero, the best energy projector, the strongest psychic, and a goddess. The key Avengers include: a sociopathic brute, a tiny woman with wings, a mentally unstable inventor, a narcissistic genius, the best human hero, a guy with a bow and arrow, and a god. It works partly because it is funny.


  2. Huh, having a team whose members seem to be carefully selected as 'best' at this or that reveals the man behind the curtain. The problems that the Avengers' wacky membership creates just create more interest. I think I liked the emphasis on those problems that the Ultimates brought.

    The bow and arrow thing...that's like the contrast between Batman and Superman. I rather like having the multi-power-level contrasts in a group. Batman, though, has been made into such a smartie, such a strategist, such an everything, that I no longer see him as representing a voice of humanity in a group. The more badass he seems, the less one can glory in the fact that he's the nonpowered guy.

  3. Anonymous2:11 PM

    Yeah, I think a lot of fans "credit" Grant Morrison for creating the so-called "Bat God" version of Batman in his run on the Justice League, which bears almost no resemblance to the gritty Batman shown populating the streets of Gotham PD or the main Batman comic.

    If handled well, as they were in the Ultimates comic, then I think the Avenger's idiosyncrasies are pretty cool. The thing I struggled with was that, as written, it made sense for Captain America, Banner/Hulk, Wasp, and Giantman to be on a U.S. military national superteam, but NO sense for either Iron Man or Thor to be on it given their personalities and beliefs. Would have all worked better as a corporate thing. I guess the Ultimates eventually did become a private group after the Ultimates II series, but Ultimates III was such a horrifying pile of crap that I stopped cold and haven't looked back. I thought that nothing could derail a franchise as brutally as that terrible George Clooney Batman movie, but the sheer awfulness of the art and writing on Ultimates II was staggering.

    Marvel had the same problem on New X-Men when Quitely couldn't keep up and they had no one competent to take his place for multiple issues. I don't know why, but they've had some trouble with flagship titles and quality control.


  4. Wait, was it Ultimates II or III that you hated? I guess it must be Ultimates II, because I don't think there is a III. Must be a typo.

    I'd read that Ult II was bad. However, I still liked it. I really like series.

    I get a kick out of Batman being a badass and handing Guy Gardner his ass. I accept that there shall be many versions of Batman (oooh, and I love what they do with that in Planetary: Crossing Worlds).

    I reread a JLA series recently that I got from the library. It was fun.

  5. Anonymous5:53 PM

    Nope, there was an Ultimates 12 issue limited series followed by an Ultimates 2 12 Issue limited series, both by Millar and Hitch. I really liked both of those. Then Jeph Loeb and Joe Madeura (sp?) urinated all over the concept with Ultimates III.

    If you read that one, it starts out with a leaked sex tape of Tony Stark and the Black Widow, retcons Ultimate Thor so that he starts talking in bad Shakespearian English (verily and dost and thou) like the old Thor, and goes downhill from there like a runaway semi on an icy road. If you liked that one, I have a couple issues from before I could cancel my standing subscription that you can have; I wouldn't wipe my ass with them. :-)

    The Planetary "iterations of Batmen" thing was pretty cool. A setting in which multiple contrary versions of a main character like that existed simultaneously would be cool, if everyone knew about them all being different. "The seven Wayne brothers all reacted differently to the murder of their parents . . . "


  6. Anonymous6:13 PM

    Here's the link to info on Ultimates 3:

    Jeph Loeb did good work on Smallville and Heroes, but after he left Heroes and started back in with full-time comic book writing in 2008, with abominable work like Ultimates 3 and Ultimatum, he either started mailing stuff in or perhaps had a brain tumor. It's like his writing fell off a cliff. Then again, I thought much of his earlier and celebrated comic work, like the wildly popular Batman: Hush, was overrated.

    I've had that reaction before. I always defended Keith Giffen's writing on Legion of Superheroes and Justice League International against some of his critics, but his recent work on Suicide Squad was nigh unintelligible and his Formerly Known as the Justice League fell very, very flat.

    A lot of people like "Joe Mad", and I've seen concept art that he's done for some video games and such that was very cool. But Ultimates 3 looks awful and even worse compared with what Hitch did.


  7. Ok, so I read something negative about the new Ultimates series not written by Millar, but lost track of the numbering, and when I finally got to read II, I was confused, because it was still by Millar and it was good. So Ult III is what they were talking about. So what I'll probably do is never read it. Kinda the way I'm never watching the 2nd & 3rd Matrix movies, and never watching the 3rd Star Wars prequel. That list of things I'm not consuming gets longer.

  8. Doug,
    It's probably unreasonable to expect every darn thing by a writer to be great. Some of those Shakespeare plays seem boring. And I think you said some of Busiek's earlier stuff didn't thrill you.