“Aquaman/Justice League: Throne of Atlantis” Review

        DC Comics’ Goldenboy Geoff Johns hasn’t exactly been knocking it out of the park on the publisher’s flagship title, Justice League, like we know he could be. When the title first launched back in 2011, Johns was paired with super star artist Jim Lee to  re-launch DC’s premiere super team to the forefront of the reading public’s consciousness. The result was a book that was loud and action packed, but little else. In fact, there were times where it was outright dumb, with the League members acting like a bunch of testosterone fueled frat boys (and one girl) who were too busy beating each other up to actually be the heroes they were meant to be.

While the book was not nearly as bad as some people made it out to be (internet hyperbole being what it is), the first two arcs left much to be desired. However, Jim Lee left the title starting with issue #13, which I reviewed back in October. This two part tale (continued in #14) reintroduced one of my favorite villains, Wonder Woman’s arch-nemesis the Cheetah, with guest art by Tony Daniel. While it was slightly underwhelming, it was certainly a step up from what came before. And probably the best story Cheetah has had in a while, and oh God, how sad is that?

 

(I never forget, and I never forgive.)

Thankfully, Johns seems to be on the upswing, as this new multi-part crossover with his Aquaman book is probably the  best thing he’s written since the New 52 started. Running from Aquaman #14-16 and Justice League #15-17, the “Throne of Atlantis” crossover brought Aquaman and his mythos to the forefront in the most kickass story both books have featured thus far.

Yeah, you read that right. Aquaman is the star, and he is awesome. See, Johns has been rehabilitating the Aquaman franchise, much like his recent success with Green Lantern. Most comic fans know that Aquaman, the King of the Seven Seas, has always been badass, but his reputation outside of comics circles as a useless joke is much more widespread. Everyone makes Aquaman jokes, and I’m no exception. Hell, in a bit of not-so-subtle meta commentary (when has Johns ever been subtle?), several civilian characters in the book make fun of Arthur and his fishy powers, only to eat their words later.

 

            The main crux of the story is Johns doing what he does best: revamping old school villains whose names are not “Joker” or “Lex Luthor” and making people appreciate them. Thanks to him, many consider the Flash to have the second best Rogues Gallery of foes next to Batman. Green Lantern’s Sinestro is now one of the most well rounded and popular villains the company has. Cheetah is working her way up to the top where she belongs, and Aquaman’s own arch-nemesis, Black Manta, has never been cooler than he is now. Johns continues his particular focus on Arthur’s Rogues Gallery by bringing his #2 villain, the Ocean Master, to the forefront of this arc.

 

         A mysterious party has hacked into a U.S Submarine an launched missiles at Atlantis, prompting current ruler (and Aquaman’s half-brother) Orm a.k.a the Ocean Master, to launch a full scale counterattack. His first action is to nearly destroy the East Coast with massive tsunami waves, before sending Atlantis’s army to shore.

The conflict between the two brothers is really the heart of this thing. In previous versions, Orm was a purely villainous character who resented his half-brother for taking the throne from him. Here, however, Orm only sits on the throne because Arthur doesn’t want it, and actually has genuine love for his brother. The conflict emerges when Arthur defends the surface world, while Orm is only trying to avenge his people. The battle between them is complex and kind of heart breaking; it’s hard not to feel a little bad form Orm in the final issue, even though he deserves his fate. Needless to say, I’ve never cared for the character before, but I’m definitely noticing him now. Can’t wait to see him come back.

Moving on from the Aquaman elements, we get to see the League expand their ranks with several guest characters: Hawkman, Black Canary, Firestorm, Black Lightning, Vixen, Zatanna, Element Woman and the new Atom are all present to join the fight. I’m excited to see which of these guys will be sticking around following this arc. Hawkman will be in the other League book, and I sadly doubt that Canary and Zatanna will be around when they’re already on teams. The others I’m less certain about, but I’m interested in all of them.

      On the last page, we get some teasers for future storylines. Aquaman is now the King of Atlantis, shock surprise. While that storyline will be carried over into his own book (which I recommend you all get NOW), this one teases at a new Secret Society of Supervillains coming together. We get to see some head shots of the villains who will be featured:

–          the aforementioned Black Manta and Cheetah

–          Captain Cold

–          The Scarecrow

–          Felix Faust (?)

–          Grodd

–          Blockbuster

–          Poison Ivy

–          Copperhead (?)

–          Killer Frost

–          And someone who could either be Mirror Master or Dr. Poison

Looks like the Society is going to play a major role the upcoming Trinity War event. With the success of the last two arcs, Johns has won me back over, and I’ll be sticking around for the long haul.