Aquaman Annual #1 – Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Writer; Max Fiumara, Artist; Dave Stewart, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: The Temptations of Happiness
WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW!!
Ray: Phillip Kennedy Johnson, one of the 2017 crop of DC Writer’s Workshop graduates, is getting a much faster start on DC work than any of his classmates as he’s already on a major title’s annual. And this is a strong debut – which isn’t a surprise, as Johnson is already an acclaimed writer of sci-fi and futuristic comics for Boom. This issue opens with Aquaman taking Mera to explore an uncharted area of Atlantis. They begin talking about the future, expanding Atlantis, and the possibility of children – and the story then flashes forward to the future, when Atlantis is a world power with artificial cities on the surface. Aquaman, now an old king with his queen by his side, is visited by his old friends Superman, Wonder Woman, and Hal Jordan (now missing an arm which he’s recreated with his ring). There’s also another new face – Aquaman and Mera’s twelve-year-old son Tom.
Johnson’s scripting is strong, as not everything makes sense 100% of the time, but the story slowly unfolds and creates a fascinating picture. Weaker is Max Fiumara’s art, which has some irregularities – Tom looks almost deformed at times and much younger than his twelve years, and Arthur and Mera look old enough to be grandparents. The plot, involving a mysterious cult led by a ruthless Murk to take over Atlantis and kill Tom in particular, at first seems a bit random and confusing, but once the truth behind this future is revealed, it all makes sense why Murk is playing the heel role. Suffice it to say that this issue is Aquaman’s take on one of the most iconic DC stories of all time, and it’s got some great emotional punches towards the end, making good use of multiple DC icons. It seems pretty clear that Phillip Kennedy Johnson’s got a pretty strong future in DC Comics.
Corrina: Any resemblance to the classic “The Man Who Has Everything” is an intentional homage and that’s no spoiler, as anyone reading this story will catch it fairly quickly. But there’s another resonance here, especially for long-time Aquaman readers, and that’s the death of Arthur Curry Jr., the pre-Crisis son of Aquaman and Mera. That event, in retrospect, began the darker style of DC Comics, even though it predated Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen. Arthur Jr.’s death destroyed the marriage with Mera, Arthur’s relationship with Aqualad, and served as fuel for years of Aquaman comics.
Arthur Jr. has vanished from DC continuity and that’s probably a good ting but this story brings in yet another Arthur look-alike in young Tom and, well, given the time-skip and the future, you can see the sadness and tragedy coming.
It’s a fine story, with emotional depth, and a good exploration of not only Mera and Arthur’s relationship but his wary friendship with the Justice League.
Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.