Graphic Novel Review Week
Wow. *wipes sweat from brow* That was intense!
I couldn’t say when I last read an Aquaman comic or graphic novel (if, in fact, I ever have), but I would say that this was a wonderful start. Under the helm of writer Geoff Johns, we have here a story of high drama, enriched by strong visuals in the art of Paul Pelletier.
Author Johns knows how to work a story and what makes ideas and concepts ‘big.’ A story reaches us, the readers, when we can relate to it, and we tend to relate to stories about people. This is fully a story that is relatable. People; men and women looking to restore what was once theirs.
But the story reaches out to big concepts and themes because the people here are kings and queens and possibly even gods. While their desires are often the same as ours (restoration of things lost and peace and comfort and happiness), the battleground is larger (in this case the seven seas). It is a powerful talent that Geoff Johns has, to take grand stories that encompass all the oceans (or all the galaxies — as was the case with his work on Green Lantern) and still tell stories that touch the fiber of what it means to be human.
In this story, Aquaman (Arthur Curry) learns a bit about his claim to the throne. He is not, it would seem, heir to the throne of the seven seas … that claim belongs to Atlan, who makes a return visit to try to gain the throne back. Also appearing is Arthur’s brother, Orm (aka Ocean Master), who is portrayed as extremely loyal to the throne and becomes a very sympathetic character.
Complicating the story even further is a foe called The Scavenger — a very appropriate title given recent news that junk from the surface has reached the depths of the ocean that is only just being discovered by scientists.
As the story builds and Aquaman faces these foes as well as fighting for and against the surface dwellers for peace, he has to rise above the petty fights to maintain the sense of decorum that his role as king demands.
The art of Paul Pelletier, Sean Parsons, and Rod Reis is absolutely gorgeous. The full-page and double-page spreads are worth the price of admission here and truly enhance the story. Having grown up on the comics of the 1970’s and ’80’s there’s been a sense of power missing from many comics and graphic novels lately. While the art is often slicker and more detailed, it often has not felt ‘right’ to me. This has that right feeling. I’ve already gone through, just to thumb the digital pages, to soak in the art some more.
I do tend to think that a graphic novel, an accumulation of comic book stories telling one major story arc, should be conclusive, and this one isn’t, quite. There’s a cliff-hanger here, making sure we’ll pick up the next book. Given the quality of the story and the art, that cliff-hanger isn’t necessary. We’ll buy the next one just to get more of what we’ve been through!
Looking for a good book? Geoff Johns’ story and the art of Pelletier, Parsons and Reis in Aquaman, Vol. 4: Death of a King are spectacular. If you’ve ever wondered what the fuss is all about with super-hero comics, then this is a great entry. If you already enjoy graphic novels, this one is not to be missed!
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Aquaman, Volume 4: Death of a King
author: Geoff Johns
artists: Paul Pelletier, Sean Parsons, Rod Reis
publisher: DC Comics
hardcover, 192 pages