Geoff Johns Gives Aquaman A Hand: Review of Aquaman #1

According to USA Today, Geoff Johns has the following to say about Aquaman, the latest superhero to get the patented Johns Silver Age spit polish:

“Everybody around has at least heard of Aquaman, and they’ve probably heard all the jokes — the same jokes Aquaman’s heard — and they have their opinion on Aquaman,” the writer says. “Whether it’s good or bad, that’s what the book’s all about.”

All you need to know to jump into this book is

He talks to fish. And he swims.

What? I’m not going to need to bone up on my knowledge of The Elder Gods, the way I benefited from my previous knowledge of Greek mythology while reading Wonder Woman (which I still think was pretty awesome, but Rob resented having to, you know, know stuff)? I can just sit down and blow through this without having to think about it or have any real knowledge of the DC continuity? Really?


Poor Aquaman. He is the Rodney Dangerfield of the DC universe. What’s that Arthur? Your super power? You can talk to fish? Ok, Moonbeam. That’s…adorable. I talk to fish too. Right before I eat them. “Gosh, don’t you look yummy”, I say. Then I eat them. You just go sit over there while we deal with Solomon Grundy. We’re serious people who have work to do.

Sorry. I was channeling my inner Guy Gardner there for a minute. I’m back now.

But, this is the issue that Geoff Johns wants to tackle in this relaunch. The world sees Aquaman like he’s Charlie Brown and he soldiers on and tries to be the best hero he can be despite it all:

No, he doesn't need a glass of water. Do you need a douchectomy?

Well, on the upside, at least Geoff Johns and artist Ivan Reis, who worked with Johns on Blackest Night and continues his run of expressive, fluid pencil work, have given him back both his hands. But, seriously, our boy puts up with a lot – like this guy, who wants to interview Aquaman for his blog, which clearly must be some sort of shitty hobby site written by and for drunks serious news site:

This is why I stopped letting Rob do interviews.

Why does he do it? Why would Aquaman want to continue to fight the good fight and protect us from the bad guys? We can’t even seem to show him the common decency and courtesy we’d give to any other defender of a team that constantly exhibits the tendency to be a losing proposition, like the LA Clippers, the Boston Red Sox or the Democratic Party. What keeps him in it?

The love of a good woman:

Awwww. It's nice to want things.

And here, Johns begins to set up another classical story telling trope, which one can find in plenty of myth and legend: the hero’s journey. Sorry, Rob. There may be thinking ahead.

We learn that Arthur has assisted the city of Atlantis and managed to become their king, despite the fact that they shun him because he is only half Atlantean. That’s the “Call To Adventure”. It’s how all these hero stories start. Now, he wants to turn his back on them and just try to live his life out as a normal guy. This is the stage of the journey that we call “Refusing The Call”. But a hero, a true hero, ultimately can’t turn his back on his responsibilities for long.

Do you need to have read Joseph Campbell to enjoy this book? No, but it certainly does make it a somewhat more fun intellectual exercise to play Heroic Journey Bingo while you read it. Hey, I’m weird like that. However, Geoff Johns writes a fun, compelling story that gently pokes fun at this history of the character and, no, you don’t need to bring anything with you to the table other than what you already think you know about Aquaman when you read it to enjoy this book – even if what you know about it is nothing at all.