Aquaman #1 (1989)

Aquaman #1 (June, 1989)
Plot/Layouts – Keith Giffen
Pencils – Curt Swan
Script – Rober Loren Fleming
Inks – Al Vey
Letters – John Costanza
Colors – Tom McCraw
Edits – Barbara Kesel
Cover Price: $1.00

Now for another on from the “hey, check out that cover!” file, the first issue from a five-issue Aquaman miniseries from 1989.  Don’t get your hopes up, however, it is not indicative of the art on the inside… but we’ll get to that later on.

Now outside of the more recent Aquaman and the Peter David volume, I don’t have all that much experience with the character… at least in his own book.  This looks as though it is a bit of an attempt at a (soft?) reboot… so, let’s give it a look see.

We open on an Aquaman who is returning to Atlantis after a few months away on a sort of expedition.  As he swims he recounts a time in which he was held captive for three years… it was where he was given the name “Aquaman”.  As he nears in his approach he is shocked to see an outpost has been destroyed, and so he decides to investigate.

He continues… swimming among the wreckage and the bodies… he comes across a big glob of Bazooka bubblegum… or a bit of jellyfish tissue.  I always kinda assumed if you were to try and touch a jellyfish, your hand would kinda phase right through it.  I doubt that’s actually the case, but it seems like Arthur here has found quite the concentrated sample.  He is a bit shaken by this… and he ought to be… he decides to bee-line it to Atlantis to check on his home.

He arrives to find that the entire city of Atlantis has been captured… but, by who?  All he can see are Atlanteans… hard at work Atlanteans.  The only signs of a conquering force are a fleet of strange boxy ships patrolling the perimeter.

Aquaman heads around back to the salt processing plant.  This I really like… as I’d never considered that Atlantis had any sort of trade contracts with the above-sea-level world.  We… or I learn here that Atlantis’ key export is… salt!  That makes total and complete sense, and I really dig it.  Sadly, the plant is being dismantled… but, why?

Well, Aquaman intends to find out.  He figures his best way into the dome is to be taken in as a prisoner.  He comments that he’s “dressed for it”… whatever that means… and gets himself caught by one of the patrols’ (electrified… oops) nets.

He wakes up inside the “Aquarium” which is the prison of Atlantis… Arthur is in the political-prisoner (minimal security) wing and is surrounded by a gaggle of folks with very similar fashion sense… I’m starting to understand what he meant when he said he was “dressed for it”.  The classic Aquaman togs are the prison uniforms!  One of the prisoners seems to recognize Arthur… however, he is stopped by another fella before he can verbalize it.

Aquaman is taken on a tour where the past several months of Atlantean turmoil is shared with him.  After he had left, the government struggled with finding a replacement.  Lord Wexel wished that the throne return to the proper bloodline and so backed a man called Pletus… who he saw as an easily manipulated fool.  The army, however, maintained that Arthur’s wife Mera should remain as Queen… sooooo… Wexel had her committed, on the grounds that her mental capacity had dwindled since the death of her son.  I am ignorant of many things Aquaman… so this is all news to me.  Aqualad would turn the responsibility down… and so, ultimately Pletus got the (literal) keys to the castle.

Until, of course, “they” invaded.  During times of war, the leadership of Atlantis falls to the General of the Atlantean Army… luckily for Pletus, the poor bugger died his first day out.  At which time, Pletus seized the throne and just lost his damn mind… even poisoning his top booster, Wexel.  It isn’t long before Pletus gets captured by the baddies… and is drawn and quartered… along with the entire ruling council of Atlantis… there be some gross swimming for days.

We shift scenes to the Atlantean Royal Palace where we find out who was behind the invasion… some very casual giant alien jellyfish… oi.  They plan on enacting something they call the “final solution” to wipe humanity off the globe… oi again.

We now join Mera who is still in rehab.  Her eyes pop open… and she somehow knows that “he” is back.  She beats on the doors of the facility to try and get out to join him at his side.  Now, who “he” is… I’m not sure… depends on Mera’s sanity, I suppose… for all I know, she’s talking about her baby.

That night, Aquaman decides he is going to escape.  He is not even being guarded… and there is no door on the Aquarium… so, why not, right?  His tour guide from earlier soon appears to try and stop him.  It turns to fisticuffs… the bald fella blames the loss of his wife on Arthur’s absence.  The fight gets more and more personal… even bringing Arthur’s dead child into it.

The fight is stopped by yet another prisoner… the same one from earlier who recognized Aquaman.  He introduces himself as Jared… and he is the leader of the resistance.  Aquaman is invited to join their ranks, and he quickly obliges.

This was pretty good… kind of weird, but pretty good.

Let’s get one thing out of the way to start… while the cover (by Dave DeVries) is really quite striking, inside is the competent but comparably bland, Curt Swan.  This makes the book look and feel old before its time.  At first glance, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn it was a pre-Crisis story.  Just so… safe.

I think “safe” might be an apt descriptor for this issue.  The art is safe… even the writing is safe.  This being a Giffen story, I would assume there’d be at least a bit of humor here… but, no… the entire story is played straight.  Aquaman doesn’t feel terribly interesting here… he basically just stands… er floats around having the plot thrown at him.

I was surprised to learn that the familiar orange Aquaman shirt is in actuality the prisoner’s outfit.  Does that mean the “A” on his belt stands for the prison, “Aquarium” rather than “Aquaman”?  This is probably my key takeaway from this issue… and probably this series should I choose to continue reading it.  Well, there’s also Atlantis exporting salt to the dry world… that’s actually a really cool touch!

Overall… not a whole lot to say about this one.  It’s very much a “part one”… it introduces the threat and conflict… and ends with Aquaman joining the rebellion.  If you’re an Aquaman fan who is interested in a pre-Geoff Johns take on the character, you’ll probably find this interesting… otherwise, I definitely think this is a safe one to skip.  To be fair, the cover itself might just be worth the cost of admission… you shouldn’t have to dig too far into the cheap-o bins to find this… that cover is definitely worth two-bits.

(Not the) Letters Page:

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