So, we have all heard it. The jokes on Aquaman. He is worthless, powerless, and dumb. His stigma is so well known that late night comedy spares no expense to make an Aquaman joke. Even in the New 52 continuity breaks the fourth wall to show how worthless. (See Aquaman Issue 1, Justice League Vol. 3. You know what? Pick up something by DC that is remotely related to Aquaman and you’re good).
However, Geoff Johns made it his personal crusade to make Aquaman relevant in this climate of interesting superheroes. And in my opinion, he not only succeeded, he succeeded wonderfully. He made Aquaman a distinguished king who is an elitist, standing tall with pride. He comes across as arrogant, distant and alienated by the only people he can call family. Roll it all together and fans come out with a strangely relate-able character that is more than crucial to the Justice League, who stands tall in his own continuity and comes an entity that stands out among all of the DC New 52.
With that being said, DC takes side plots that had been building in Aquaman and Justice League and brings it to a head in this arc of Throne of Atlantis.
It’s story, which I am going to be forthcoming and say is actually quite complicated, brings almost every character, including Black Manta, that Aquaman knows into the fray so that Arthur might become King of Atlantis. And yet, no one makes a single King Arthur or Camelot joke. How saddening.
The justice league on its own looks to be having problems what with Batman as leader and Aquaman trying to usurp, so it sets up how Arthur feels like he meant to lead something. With members coming and going, its becoming clear in this arc, that the league is as imperfect as ever when their troubles starts. Gotham, Metropolis and more and great cities come under siege from Atlantis.
Clearly the League must intervene and Arthur’s loyalties are tested. Whose side is he really on? The man who was rejected by his own people and accepted by the League is going to have a problem picking a side? Nope. Not even a little. But that is why I like New 52‘s take on Aquaman. Sure he knows for whom he fights for. But how and when he fights are up to him. Even when Superman and Wonder Woman are clearly the superior beings, Aquaman stand proudly, without fear or hesitance.
So this story unfolds the way it does all because of Aquaman. This story is very much about him, so if it’s any wonder why he is being brought up. The story is not necessarily well rounded so every character is given proper screen time. How the other characters react and have attention for the situations is why this story even works. While Aquaman is an amazing character who is more revamped than ever, he is still a man who is above average in ability and morality, his power and interest could not hold the story all on his own. He does try though.
The one thing that Throne of Atlantis shows us is Aquaman is his own person. He is prepared to do whatever it takes to help his own interests and acts out on his own with no regrets for his decisions. It’s really quite compelling. In fact in this arc, he is even prepared to punch his own teammates and ignite a war between the League and Atlantis just so he can stop a war between Atlantis and Earth.
And it’s not that he lacks faith in mankind, either. Aquaman just knows the score. Atlantis – 1, Earth – 0.
As for other characters, this story illustrates the weaknesses and strengths of the rest of the League. Batman is clearly paranoid and distrusting of everyone else, except for Superman who he seems to trust the most and the least. Superman seemed to be changing from the fallout of his new relationship he has obtained with Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman, ever the warrior, wants to instigate the war with Atlantians. Flash actually seems a bit neglected while Cyborg seems to be building to a new arc with his continuing problem with feeling more and more like a machine. And Green Lantern…well, he quit the team.
The story is does an excellent job of taking what is there and continuing side plots while setting up for something new. However, with that said, this arc really focused on Arthur and his right to be king, which might not be bad. But the story takes a lot of time doing that when it stretched out certain parts, like looking at other characters just so Arthur could become something that was obvious from the beginning. Some might say it’s not the destination, its the journey. The journey was not exactly spectacular if that were the case. It was a page turner to be sure, but aspects of this story could have been stronger. Relationships with the Leaguers should have been brought up more instead of Arthur’s allegiance to the Atlantians.
Focusing that much on Atlantis shows where Arthur will end up. If you like suspense, it’s not really given, but the story does an excellent job of making Aquaman useful to DC. But that is the problem, it hinders other characters and focuses almost solely on him. If the title of this comic were Aquaman and the Justice League, cool. But it is not. It’s not a big deal, but it could be annoying to some readers.
But for a newly established character, this story just what it needs to. It reinforces interest in Aquaman and gives him his place in the DC Universe. He chose his side. While he can help the world as a Justice Leaguer, He can do so much more by being the King of Atlantis in his mind though. So it’s ending is obvious, but it tries to give its audience a journey it would like to follow. It may not have hit it’s mark, but this arc certainly was on the dartboard.