[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers.]
Writer: Dan Abnett
Artist: Philippe Briones
Colorist: Gabe Eltaeb
Aquaman has been imagined as a joke for so many years, it may be difficult for some readers to think of the King of the Seven Seas as a real bad ass. James Wan, the director of the upcoming Aquaman solo film recently called Arthur Curry the “Wolverine” of the Justice League. It may seem like pre-production hype, but he’s not far from wrong. These elements of Aquaman’s character that both Dan Abnett and Geoff Johns have tried to spotlight in their respective runs are found in the more classic runs of the character. Going all the way back to the Golden Age and through the ‘70’s with stories by Steve Skeates and Paul Levitz, Aquaman has been a formidable individual.
In Aquaman #5 we see the power and intensity of the character contrasted with his desire to do the right thing. This only works because we, as readers, know he’s holding back. It would be very easy for the always easily riled Arthur Curry to let go and take out his aggression on the American military. It’s easy to see the United States government as the villain because we know Aquaman so well. It’s a really nice juxtaposition by Abnett as he uses our faith and trust in Arthur Curry as a true hero that he is able to put him in this position and still have the reader pulling for him and hope to see the misunderstanding resolved in his favor.
Arthur and Mera are on the run, trying to escape from the U.S. military and Arthur expresses his displeasure at Mera’s decision to break him out last issue. We also get to see Tula escalate her response to the situation with the attack by The Drift, the Atlantean terrorists on the American ship. As the issue concludes, Arthur and Mera are met with a surprise: Superman, who is clearly trying to diffuse the situation and bring about some clarity.
The restraint shown by Aquaman is a true testament to his character as he tries his best to hold back and not unleash his ire on the American military. This is a really important aspect of the book, especially if one believes Aquaman to be a bit of a hothead and easily angered. This has been a trait of the character through most of his incarnations throughout the years. This emphasis on character is the greatest strength of this title. Mera ends up being the one to let her anger get the best of her. It’s a cathartic release for the reader as Mera does what the reader wants to see Aquaman cut loose in this manner. The fact that both of the lead characters’ character is being examined is the most important factor in the quality of this book.
It’s easy to laud the positives of this book as a life-long Aquaman fan. However, this book is not dependent on the plot, it is the actions of the characters that really make this book what it is. Any reader will see that upon examination. By focusing on character and a plot that allows the exploration of character, Abnett is writing a story that is easily understood. I find it very difficult to find fault with that storyline.
When was the last time an acknowledged member of the Justice League was branded as a terrorist and identified as the leader of a hostile nation? Never? Aquaman is probably the only member of the League that could fit that description. If that alone doesn’t draw you in, the exploration of Aquaman and Mera’s characters and their relationship should. Go buy this comic. You will enjoy.