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Subj: Aquaman #21 - Into The Dark Abyss.
Posted: Sun Apr 23, 2017 at 07:22:54 pm EDT (Viewed 164 times)
Is it really Aquaman #21 already?
It's interesting to watch on with this title and see the bi-weekly scheduling show off its strengths and weaknesses, as one artist gives way to another this week sees the very capable abilities of Scott Eaton come aboard to bring to life a Dan Abnett script that pushes the series' aquatic landscape to new horizons and demands a visual approach to match. And I have to say that the ability of Mr Eaton raises the scope and quality of the so-far average 'Dead Water' storyline to above the standard reached in the last two chapters, markedly so.
If last issue showed of the story's Ridley Scott influences this issue borrows heavily from James Cameron's 1989 atmospheric cold-war thriller The Abyss. Complete with shapeless extra-terrestial mysteries and an increasingly volatile military observer with portable nuclear bomb to misuse Aquaman #21 cannot be held as being a particularly original story idea, but what it does succeed with is in exploring new areas for Arthur Curry and beloved consort Mera - areas both geographic and philosophical.
Having been entangled with the reactionary tendencies of the surface world for the entire run of this current series, and indeed for much of his adult life come to that, the journey to discovering the secret of the Dead Water and its violent emissaries brings with it a final epithany and realisation that not all things are as they seem. Not all monsters are monsters out of a lack of compassion. Rather some are acting in hostility purely out of self-defence interests.
But it is Scott Eaton's arrival to the storyline that takes it, from the readers perspective, off in another direction than what has been seen so far and both excites the imagination while restoring some of the tenderness to the bond between Mera and Arthur as they both face an uncertain choice on the ocean floor and, strengthened by the others presence, willingly plunge into the unknown. Eaton's single panel of the two throwing themselves into the golden gateway/portal that holds the key to understanding the Dead Water affliction is one of the most impressive sights so far rendered in this volume of Aquaman, but is followed by well considered full-page shots as the two are seen descending through the void and find themselves in a place that is as alien yet familiar as the pre-historic seabed might be. It's an impressive achievement between writer, artist, and colourist. if this was rendered by last issues more subdued style of Phillipe Briones the effect would be largely lost I imagine, but Scott Eaton is fresh and has no preconceptions to either story or previous artistic choices, so what we see is an exciting, and possibly chance, synergy of creative team coming together.
None of this is to hold up Aquaman as some masterpiece of storytelling, the book certainly isn't that, and given a bi-weekly schedule arguably couldn't be. But it succeeds thanks to the strength of its two main characters, and Dan Abnett's appreciation of Arthur Curry's conflicted nature as both a perennial outcast and spells as occasional monarch.
Aquaman's position, his upbringing and hardships endured, offer him an empathy for the 'others' point of view. The oppressed and different are states he has himself lived, so in a role that is more to do with ambassador than King his investigation of the gateway that lies at the bottom of Dead Water brings out the great strengths of the character. Finding themselves arriving into the aquatic environment of a distant alien planet the process of understanding leads the two to deduce the effects experienced on earth are in fact purely an instinctive defence mechanism of this probing from an alien world and its semi-sentient environment. And the dark irony that, as in James Cameron's The Abyss, it is fear of the unknown that is both catalyst for the Dead Water manifestations appearing on earth and the fear of raw fear which is the very reason for the defence mechanism in the first place.
The symbolism is darkly ironic and yet logical. As clever and effective as this divergence into science-fiction is for Aquaman however the strength that moves the story on comes from the unique perspective and ability to comprehend that Arthur has on the differing equations of either side of this problem in cultural understanding. An alien world's sentience is really no different a problem to him than the frictions between Atlantis and the surface world, the problem from his perspective is in how he can best resolve these frictions and do so in a way that not only prevents any further destruction but moves to make the two factions meet in some middle-ground and find understanding with the other.
It sounds possibly trite to say all of that, yet the warming thing about Aquaman as a title is that Arthur Curry's very life is the blueprint for virtually every story seen within. The two sides forever conflicting, outcast against a seemingly hostile world, Arthur has played out the conflicts between Atlantis and the big scary threat of the Surface world on a personal level, the war between The Trench and Atlantis was another similar battle between outcast and 'civilisation', and here now the disconnect between the alien sentience behind Dead Water and the uncomprehending militants of the Earth-people and their "precautionary measure" Nuclear bomb on the other are all substitutes for the very struggle which defined Arthur's first twenty or so years of life. But the truth, the wonderful destination he eventually arrived at when finding soulmate Mera, showed him that conflict does have a resolution. There can be a happy ending, that a life can be something other than self-destruction and endless conflict. And one strongly suspects that it is this personal discovery of the reality of happiness that moves him to do what he does today. To resolve conflict in others... to bring peace... all thanks to his beloved Mera.
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