Updated on December 10, 2021
Aquaman #1 (2011 reboot)
Written by: Geoff Johns
Art by: Ivan Reis
I thought I’d read this issue, after seeing a lot of praise online about how it “makes Aquaman a badass” (to use such a crude term as “badass”). This issue, part of the linewide DC Comics reboot, is meant to reboot Aquaman for “today’s readers” and make him a more viable/popular property. It’s also meant to try to dispel some of the jokes/putdowns about the Sea King over the years by trying to address them head-on in the story, which comes off feeling awkward at best.
After stopping a bank robbery (to the derision of the bank robbers, as well as the police themselves), Aquaman heads to a seafood restaurant where he orders fish and chips. Telling the questioning/surprised patrons that he *does* eat fish, he also informs them that he doesn’t talk to them—they’re too primitive to converse with, so he just telepathically “nudges” them to do what he needs. After some more questions from other patrons about his lack of popularity, Aquaman leaves, reuniting with his wife Mera and deciding to spend more time on the surface. Meanwhile, various aquatic monster-creatures (“the Trench”) emerge, apparently planning on more over-the-top violence in upcoming issues (if the “not for the squeamish!” promo for an upcoming issue is true).
I didn’t care much for this issue, unfortunately. Part of it may be that I never had a problem with Aquaman as he is, powers and all. One praise of this issue I saw on Twitter was that it “makes him more like Namor,” which isn’t a positive for me, as I never liked the Sub-Mariner. One reason I always liked Aquaman was that he’s one of the more cheerful/optimistic heroes, even when up against various problems thrown at him (the usual supervillains, but also what humans do to the oceans). Never did like “angry/surly Aquaman” (as 90s comics gave us) much, or see why such qualities makes one “badass.”
Also not big on the idea he doesn’t communicate with his sea creature cohorts *or* that he willingly eats said sea creatures, which to me feels odd when seen played straight, in a non-parody (or non-survival-based) situation. Why didn’t they just declare Arthur as a vegetarian, if the old debate of “what does Aquaman eat?” bugged DC so much? It’d be a fairly unique idea for a big-name Justice Leaguer. Though I cynically suspect the answer to that is that being a vegetarian (or even semi-vegetarian) isn’t considered “badass.” Meh. (For the record, *I* don’t eat seafood, mainly out of never liking the taste, though I still eat meat otherwise…).
As for “talking to fish,” I’ve always accepted that it was possible to telepathically communicate with fish (and sea life as a whole) in DC Comics’ world, just as I accept Superman can fool his friends by wearing a pair of glasses and Batman can somehow outrun machine gun fire from crooks/jump from rooftop to rooftop without breaking his legs. Not sure how going an about-face on decades of such by claiming “he doesn’t talk to them, and he’ll even eat them!” makes Aquaman “cooler,” or more “convincing” to the new readers they’re hoping to attract. So he talks to fish… and whales, sharks, giant squid, and other creatures that would definitely be a threat to villains; I don’t have a problem with that. But I suppose not being able to communicate with fish makes the guy that can breathe underwater “more realistic,” so that’s out the window…
Finally, the people of the DCNU apparently view Aquaman as the same as people in real life do (mocking him on “Saturday Night Live,” etc.), which is also odd. Other than the occasional crack or dismissal by someone, Aquaman has usually been treated seriously by people in-universe as a respected hero/JLAer. He was even the favorite hero of an entire city (fictional New Venice)! I’d rather not see the real-world “haters” of Arthur imported en masse and wholesale into the DC(N)U…
Next issues, as noted above, sees Aquaman face “the Trench.” Between what’s likely more over-the-top violence coming up, and this issue, I don’t think I’ll be back. I’ll stick with older back issues and the various TV series (such as the great Aquaman on “Batman: The Brave and the Bold”) for my fill of the Sea King…
Anthony Dean is the owner of Diverse Tech Geek and Diverse Media Notes.