Review: Aquaman #51
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Art: Robson Rocha & Daniel Henriques
Colors: Sunny Gho
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Reviewed by: Matthew B. Lloyd
After bailing out Jackson Hyde from jail, Aquaman attempts to avoid Jackson’s desire to become his apprentice while they assist in settling the Elder Gods on Amnesty Island. (There’s a few pages at the end with Black Manta and Luthor for the “Year of the Villain” tie-in. meh…)
For a book that is all talking, it’s no surprise that the character moments stand out. Jackson Hyde is enthusiastic, upbeat and passionate about wanting to be Arthur’s apprentice. His enthusiasm is contagious and drives a lot of the energy in Aquaman #51. Even the questionable Elder Gods have a few quips that make them seem interesting and appealing.
The Amnesty Bay regulars, even those new to the series like Officer Dwayne Fradon (Dwayne McDuffie and Ramona Fradon!- what a nice touch by DeConnick!) exemplify the relationship that Arthur and Mera have built with the town. There is a palpable camaraderie between them that is enjoyable and endearing. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the current characterization of Aquaman himself.
Mera continues to stand out as independent, a free thinker and a capable ruler with a plan. Her push and pull with the Widowhood of Atlantis keeps her rule engaging, as Mera must always have an option to keep them at bay. In Aquaman #51, Mera confidently plans her wedding to Vulko, and as Mother Cetea attempts to call her on it, Mera pulls rank. But, what does this mean for the subplot? Will Mera actually marry Vulko just to keep the Widowhood at arm’s length?
The biggest negative in Aquaman #51 is how clearly the character has been shifted from the classic Arthur Curry. Reintroduced by Geoff Johns in the “New 52” the character finally got over the lame tropes propagated by the Superfriends Cartoon. Dan Abnett continued the fine work on the character during the “Rebirth” era, imbuing the title with a prescient political themes. It wasn’t until Aquaman #25 in the current run that things began to go in a very different direction. Arthur has returned to Amnesty Bay from his “odyssey” a changed man. Classic Arthur would not throw the surfer “hang ten” hand sign to Jackson before jumping off the cliff. It’s a personality shift that is awkward and unbecoming of the King of Atlantis. Unfortunately, Aquaman no longer feels at home in his own book. It’s been a 25 issue journey to get there, but (editorial?) has managed to undo what “The New 52” and “Rebirth” did so hard to do…Aquaman is once again laughable, just in a different way. The rest of the characters would benefit if Aquaman just disappeared….
It’s most noticeable in Arthur’s reluctance to take on Jackson Hyde. Arthur seems to have lost a sense of responsibility. Aquaman seemed rather cavalier about Mera’s pregnancy last issue and he appears to be “too cool” to agree to take on Jackson this issue. It’s especially concerning since Jackson is a young man in need of direction, he’s Black Manta’s son! It’s seems quite dim of Arthur to not jump on this opportunity to shape this young man’s life. Mera would easily whip Jackson Hyde into shape!
Despite being a non-action issue, there is a lot to like about Jackson Hyde’s desire to become Aquaman’s apprentice. The supporting cast of the people of Amnesty Bay bring the right tone to the book, even if Aquaman’s personality has veered off the rails. It’s wouldn’t be a surprise for Mera to ditch him and actually marry Vulko. What seems like misdirection could become something more, but Mera’s attitude toward Mother Cetea clearly shows that Mera is waiting on Arthur. The strength of this issue lies in DeConnick’s skill in characterization, even if Aquaman himself falls too far from the mark. If you’re ready for the “new” Aquaman then this title is now for you, but if a classic take on Arthur Curry is what you want, it appears that ship has sailed…. Go buy some Skeates/Aparo books…