Welcome back to the latest edition of the Books of Doom. This week, we’re taking a scalpel to Aquaman #50. And by “we,” I mean Fin Fang Doom and myself, because those other Doom-holes didn’t bother to send in their thoughts. That’s why we have the comments section, I guess. Now, normally I’d just give my quick thoughts and turn it over to everyone else, but since we’re only two-strong, I’ll give Fin Fang first crack.
Kurt Busiek and Butch Guice give new meaning to the phrase “A tough act to follow.” With Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #50, a new writer and artist had to step forward and attempt to fill the enormous footsteps left by their predecessors. But I’m not sure anyone’s metaphoric feet are big enough.
I like Shawn McManus, but he’s no Butch Guice. I really enjoyed McManus’ recent work on Shadowpact, and I’m glad to see he’s got a regular gig, but he’s just not a good fit for this title. With a distinctly animated style in the vain of Mike Weiringo or Clayton Henry, McManus seems born to draw over-the-top superhero adventures. Unfortunately, Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis is not a superhero comic (and it appears as though it’ll be staying that way for the time being). To paraphrase anyone who’s ever described the book since One Year Later, Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis is Conan underwater. Guice’s gritty, realistic art was a perfect fit for the book. McManus’s style is such a departure from Guice’s that it’s possible I’m not giving it the chance it deserves, but at certain times the art just appeared silly. McManus seems destined to become an artist on a more straight-forward “fun” superhero book like Robin or Legion of Superheroes, so hopefully Aquaman is only a short stop on the journey to a book that he can excel on.
I’m not familiar with Tad Williams, but it’s obvious that he’s no Kurt Busiek. Williams seems to have the plot aspect of storytelling down. For the most part, he continues the plot threads he inherited from Busiek, weaving together an epic fantasy with a well-paced mystery. Unfortunately, Williams abandons the best seed Busiek planted in his run (the eventual betrayal of Arthur by King Shark) and kills off the most interesting character (The Dweller of the Depths) in his first issue. To compensate, he introduces a shoo-in for Worst Character of the Year, a “comical” color-changing squid-headed sidekick named Topo. Williams also seems to have a tendency to over-explain things for the reader. At least twice he makes a point to explain that the Dweller is the original Aquaman. Hopefully that was just an attempt to explain things to potential new readers and not a sign of where he sees the intelligence level of the book’s audience. Williams seems to have a solid grasp on the plot aspect of storytelling (which makes sense considering he comes from writing novels), but he’s got a long way to go before he can begin to measure up to Busiek in regards to dialogue and characterization.
I’m not really sure if I truly disliked the book or was just dissatisfied with the issue since it was such a departure from the stellar Busiek/Guice run. I have no plans to stop buying the series after one disappointing issue, but two or three might just do it.
As for JCVD: I think the marketing geniuses over at DC missed out on a serious opportunity here. With this new creative team jumping in, DC should have renamed this series Aquaman Loves Little Mermaid. After a year of great hardscrabble undersea battling from Busiek and Guice, Williams and McManus took an absolute 180 and seem to be trying for the comic book equivalent of a crappy Disney movie.
It comes complete with goofy cartoony art that bounces between idiotic and pandering, and some hideously dumb writing. All of the jokes fall flat and seem too forced. For an over-sized issue, everything seemed too rushed. None of the decisions characters made had any rationale. Only the secretive new villains seemed remotely interesting, but I’m still left to wonder how much more the previous creative team could’ve done with them.
I just don’t get it. McManus’ art on his previous books was better than this crap. I haven’t read Williams’ novels, but they’re popular enough that they have to not completely suck. Yet, they combined for one of the most annoying books I’ve read in years. I will not be giving it another shot.