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Subj: Aquaman #20 - Into The Dark.
Posted: Sun Apr 16, 2017 at 09:38:16 am EDT (Viewed 199 times)
It's difficult quite often, to write these commentaries I mean. Oh certainly fatigue and a lack of time are prime culprits, an outcome of my working six-day weeks too often. But there is the other reason, to do with comics that are either uninspiring mediocre products of the sausage factory production-line, such as the X-Men titles or Green Lantern, or just books that have entered a bad patch and and are temporarily rather dull due to a distracted writer who has entered a poor phase and is turning out middle-of-the-road fare at best. I could cite Bryan Hitch on the Justice League as an example of this, Greg Rucka's Wonder Woman is perhaps another, and then there is Dan Abnett on Aquaman...
It's just a phase. I tell myself that as Abnett has steered DC's successful underwater hero with some confidence thus far. Astutely recognising the elements which have made the title so appealing since its relaunch in the wake of 'Blackest Night' and wisely maintaining that equilibrium for his own preferred direction for the to main characters of the series. So with the current ongoing storyline dropping Arthur Curry and the lovely Mera into a remote island base wwhere all contact has been lost and something violently fishy lurks in the darkened bowels out of sight all the elements are recognisable straight away as those pioneered by television and cinema - the base under siege format.
A product of the realities of budget and small studio space the story of a small cast finding themselves cut off from the wider world and isolated to a confined remote location became adopted by broadcasters the world over out of pure forced necessity, that it often turned out fine strong character based drama was a most welcome bonus. The comicbook medium, being unrestricted by such budget concerns or logistics, never ventured into the 'Siege' format and so the possibilities for its tight drama never shaped the medium in any appreciable way. But being a writer who contributes various television spin-off scripts and audio-plays Abnett's familiarity with the style of drama may well be what feeds into the story of Dead Water, quite what Dead Water is as yet is all rather unclear admittedly, but as we have followed Arthur and Mera to the tropical island setting in the Gulf of Mexico and watched on as they encounter a research base devoid of its personnel and now visited by a hand-picked band of metahuman marines it all unfolds in a highly derivative and therefore predictable fashion. And this then is the problem with Dan Abnett's scripting for Dead Water, there is nothing whatsoever different or remarkable here by which to report on.
Actually... it may be I am being a tad unjust in that. Certainly there's no denying the storyline thus far hasn't gone much past what the basic plot to Ridley Scott's Alien films was about so far - chiefly the remote claustrophobic setting, and a gung-ho squad of heavily armed soldiers with too much testesterone and little common sense chasing some vicious unstoppable monstrosity through a tight warren of corridors and spaces with predictably bloody results. The ultra-cocky hunters becoming the hunted.
And yet due to that plot motifs sheer overfamiliarity we as an audience are already prejudiced going into any new such storyline using these elements as with the familiarity comes the sense of cliche' to what we are being asked to follow and accept. There is on the surface nothing in Abnett's Dead Water that adds a compelling new presentation to the story device, indeed there isn't even a figure inserted into the narrative for audience identification purposes, so as The Ultra-Marines chew into the scenery, in more ways than one, what develops with this latest issue is a brief culmination to all these cinematic tropes as in a moment of calm and relative security it falls to Mera to rise up and take on the required role of the screens conscience and voice of reason.
Which is fitting as for virtually the lifetime of the series since its relaunch back in 'Blackest Night' mediation and good sense has been one of Mera's finest contributions to both series and the oft pressured life of Arthur. The fundamental importance of her role of mediator and conscience in both book and Arthur's life is made further clear as she is the only person present in the story who has compassion enough to question the execution of the defenceless and probobly innocent Doctor Quinn. Despite his role as supposed hero and titular figurehead of the book even Arthur kept silent in the aftermath of the disturbing murder of this proboble victim of circumstance, but then as we have seen in the past Arthur himself has played the executioners role in circumstances not too far removed from these, so possibly he feels too compromised morally to criticise others who are also feel duly authorised for taking similar harsh measures in the name of defence and peace-keeping.
A study on ethics however seems not to be Abnett's primary concern for the storyline, at least not on the basis of what is seen here. Further installments may well clarify what the purpose of the tale unfolding actually is but taken on balance there seems so far to be no real substance to events than a chase around a gloomy base setting chasing a nasty monster and some quietly depressive art from Phillipe Briones as he correctly grasps the flavour of Abnett's plot and designs a book that mixes tight cramped panel design with a not altogether successful finish that renders heavy inks in an attempt to create a suitably suffocating atmosphere. It really doesn't work on the finished page, but his ambition is to be congratulated on taking the effort. In the end his finished art is adequate, servicable, and therefore in line with the flatness and unremarkability of the script he is being asked to render.
Servicable. Yes, that is about the kindest platitude I can ascribe to Aquaman at the moment...
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