Collected Comic Review - Aquaman by Geoff Johns Omnibus

Aquaman by Geoff Johns Omnibus - Collecting Aquaman (2011) #0-19, 21-25 (including 23.1 and 23.2), and Justice League (2011) #15-17.

Daredevil may be my favorite comic book character, but you'd be hard pressed to find a hardcover collection that I have looked forward to more than this volume, the Aquaman by Geoff Johns Omnibus.  It is a book that, over the last four years, has had three solicitations and two cancellations.  Fortunately, the third time was the charm as DC finally saw fit to make this collection a reality in conjunction with the live-action Aquaman film hitting theaters this week.

Prior to this run, I had never read any Aquaman.  Honestly, I hadn't really had any interest in the character either.  But that all changed when DC announced their New 52 initiative: a reboot of their entire comic book universe in an effort to be more new reader friendly.  Aquaman launched with the creative team of Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis: a combo that had produced a good chunk of Johns' epic Green Lantern run (including the Blackest Night event).  Johns' involvement alone would have been enough of a reason to give the title a shot, but Reis' first teaser images sealed the New 52 Aquaman title as a must read for me.

Aquaman (2011) #1 (Reis)

Arthur Curry (Aquaman) is the product of two worlds: the land and the sea.  He's the son of a lighthouse keeper (Thomas Curry) and Atlantean Royalty (Queen Atlanna), and is equal parts at home and outsider in either environment.  As the run begins, Arthur has renounced his right to the Throne of Atlantis and is trying to live the quiet life with Mera (the strong, fierce Queen of Xebel with aqua-kinetic abilities) in Amnesty Bay, Maine.  Johns takes little time in setting Arthur up as a formidable hero (his Atlantean physiology makes him super strong and virtually bullet-proof) while simultaneously addressing stereotypes that have plagued the character throughout his history.  In the opening pages Arthur single-handedly thwarts a bank heist in Boston while local police openly question why he's there.  "We're not in the ocean, and I don't see any fish around." one comments.  To which Arthur replies "I heard the sirens from the harbor." as he explains that he's just trying to help.  As Arthur departs, the police mutter to themselves that they can't believe they have been upstaged by Aquaman of all heroes and that no one back at the station will ever let them live it down.  At one point Arthur is asked about being able to 'talk to fish'.  He explains that he doesn't talk to them per se, but has a telepathic connection to sea life. 

Aquaman (2011) #3 (Reis)

The first arc comes to a close seemingly setting up Arthur and Mera's new life in Amnesty Bay, quite literally on the edge of two worlds (land and sea).  Johns then begins to weave more and more story elements into his tale, expanding upon Atlantean lore, introducing new allies (The Others, characters that spun off into a second monthly Aqua-centric title called Aquaman and The Others by Dan Jurgens), arch-nemesis Black Manta, Arthur's half-brother and present King of Atlantis, Orm and even the Justice League (a title also written by Johns at the time).  Arthur realizes that his ties to both land and sea make him uniquely qualified to keep the peace between his two worlds as Orm and Black Manta have other plans. 

Aquaman (2011) #6 (Reis/Prado)

While not quite as extensive as his universe contributions during his Green Lantern run, Johns does expand upon Atlantean lore, introducing the idea that when Atlantis sank, it broke into seven kingdoms, four of which are now extinct.  The remaining three play a large part in this run, and I don't want to spoil anything so I'll leave it at that.  After this run came to an end, Johns had said that he had an outline for another arc titled 'Rise of the Seven Seas' that would have explored the split kingdom concept in greater depth.  Unfortunately, almost five years later, it has yet to happen.  Hopefully one day we'll see Johns be able to tell that tale.

Aquaman (2011) #0 (Reis/Prado)

The artwork throughout this run is gorgeous.  Ivan Reis' attention to detail, especially in underwater environments is amazing.  Joe Prado provides finishes on a couple of issues for Reis' layouts, and Paul Pelletier takes over part way through the Throne of Atlantis arc.  Neither artist misses a beat, giving the book a visual continuity that remains stunning.  The splash pages that occur are implemented to full effect, either illustrating a dramatic or scene-sprawling moment.  I'm really not doing the art team justice by not saying more, but it really is just a beautiful book across the board.  Hopefully the pictures that I have included will help illustrate that point better. 

Aquaman (2011) #18 (Pelletier)

The book itself is a gorgeous and well put together collection.  The dust jacket has a nice, clean design and the cover boards sport a great wraparound image of Aquaman and Black Manta brawling.  I can't really speak for DC's other modern omnibus collections (as I really don't have any of them), but I was surprised at the quality of the paper stock used here.  It is much sturdier than what we are getting from Marvel these days.  Also, it may also be a small detail, but I love the way DC formatted the table of contents (issue number, name, and original release date along with the page number it begins on) and page numbering where the page layout allows.  It makes it very easy to skip to a particular place in the book (something that has been challenging in some other DC collections where issue or page numbering is inexplicably non-existent).  The final arc of this run was interrupted by the Forever Evil event but DC includes an overview page explaining where those events can be read.  Fortunately, those events don't really impact this story aside from the inclusion of the two villain-centric issues focusing on Black Manta and Orm respectively (co-plotted by Johns, written by Tony Bedard).  As far as extras go, there aren't many, but what is included is really cool: a few variant covers, promotional artwork, character sketches with design notes from Ivan Reis, and some cover layouts/sketches by Jim Lee, Pete Woods, Eddy Barrows, and Paul Pelletier.  You may have noticed that issue #20 is missing from this collection.  That's because it was a solo filler issue written by John Ostrander to keep the book shipping regularly while the primary creative team got caught up (it focused on The Others and is collected in the Aquaman and the Others Vol. 1: Legacy of Gold TPB).

Aquaman (2011) #24 (Pelletier)

I first read this run digitally as it was originally released.  I enjoyed it so much that I then purchased the four premiere sized hardcovers when they came out (the previous nicest format that it was available in).  Those collections I subsequently sold as soon as this omnibus was solicited the first time, a decision that I regretted more and more each time it was cancelled.  I held out hopes that this all inclusive hardcover would one day see the light of day, so I was ecstatic when it finally became a reality.  I was so excited that I read the entire thing in just over a day once it arrived (a feat for me, as I'm not a fast reader).

Character Sketches (Reiss)

Whether you are a long time Aquaman fan, new to the character, or even just a fan of Geoff Johns' work, the Aquaman by Geoff Johns Omnibus is a great (and affordable) read.  It means a lot to me personally as it is the run that has sparked my interest in the character twice now (the first time I read it, and now as I want to go back and explore the Peter David Aquaman run, which also tends to receive high praise).  Hopefully between this run finally being reprinted and the live-action film, Aquaman will gain some of the respect and love that the Paul Norris/Mort Weisinger creation has long deserved.

Cover w/o Dust Jacket (Reis)
    

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