Waiting for the Trade Aquaman & the JLA


Aquaman (vol. 3): Throne of

by Geoff Johns, Ivan
Reis, Paul Pelletier and Pete Woods

collects Aquaman 0,
14-16 and Justice League 15-17

Why I Bought This: I
liked the first volume of New 52 Aquaman quite a bit. While volume 2 was not
nearly as good, I still bought volume 3 on preorder from Amazon because of the
quality of the first one. But even if I hadn’t read the other volumes I likely
would have picked this up to see a JLA story with Aquaman in the lead.

The Plot: Atlantis
declares war on America
leaving Aquaman caught in the middle.

 (spoilers below)

Chapter 1 – In a flashback issue we see young Aquaman at his
father’s deathbed six years ago and he tells him his Atlantean heritage. In his
grief he dives into the ocean and gets into a fight with a shark. He rescues
two people on a boat, tells them his story and they just happen to know were
another Atlantean lives. This turns out to be Vulko, who informs Arthur that
his mother is dead. He also lets Aquaman know he has a younger brother Orm, who
may have murdered their mother and then exiled Vulko 10 years ago. Vulko takes
him to Atlantis.

Chapter 2 – In 1820 some sailors are torturing an Atlantean
until the Atlantean army surrounds their boat. In the present Aquaman sends his
fish to arrange a meeting with his brother Ocean Master. Meanwhile in jail the
government attempts to recruit Black Manta to the Suicide Squad but he turns
them down. Aquaman asks his brother if he was involved in the one-off Atlantean
attack in the first trade and with hiring Black Manta in the second trade and
he denies it. In Norway Vulko finds a dead Atlantean warrior and dives into the
ocean. Ocean Master tells Aquaman the story of the 1820 boat—it ends with all
the sailors drowning. His point Atlantis could sink every boat on the ocean if
it wanted to and yet they don’t. He says whoever hired Manta is trying to make
Aquaman think Atlantis is to blame. In the cliffhanger the Trench monsters from
volume one are freed by an unseen person.

Chapter 3 – A battleship is in the Atlantic
Ocean when its systems are taken over and it launches all of its
missiles on Atlantis. Cut to Smallville where Superman shows Wonder Woman how
to assume a secret identity. In Gotham Batman is fighting some of the
Scarecrow’s minions on a boat when Aquaman arrives to lend a hand. He is there
to warn Batman that he thinks the Trench monsters are heading to the East Coast
and he will need the League to stop them this time. Mera has come with him and
reports fish are fleeing from the area. In Metropolis Clark and Diana are on a
date until the city is hit by a tidal wave. They suit up and save those they
can as Lois gets herself in danger only to be saved by Vulko. We also learn Boston was hit with a tidal wave and another wave is heading
towards Gotham. Aquaman realizes these are the
Atlantean war plans to invade the surface world that he himself wrote when he
was king. 

Chapter 4 – Batman and Aquaman save who they can but a lot
of people die. Mera manages to push back some of the wave until she passes out.
Mera, Aquaman and Vulko are all concerned about what Atlantis does next if they
follow the plan but no one says it out loud. Aquaman tells Batman the Atlantean
army will hit whichever city was hit hardest. He also believes Atlantis would
not attack without provocation so the missiles must have detonated in the city.
Aquaman then recounts how he first claimed the Atlantean throne and accepted
their superstitions about the surface world until the Darkseid attack that
formed the League made him see things differently. Batman says there is no
justifying the attacks on the cities and the League has to bring Ocean Master
in. The Atlanteans shoot down the Batplane but the heroes are okay. Aquaman
says Dr. Shin will be targeted next. The League regroups at the watchtower with
Vulko. The Trench monsters are getting closer. Aquaman & Vulko want to
reason with Ocean Master, let him know the missile attack was a setup and avert
a war; but Superman says Ocean Master must answer for his crimes. Batman offers
Aquaman one chance to talk peace with his brother. Ocean Master emerges in Boston and demands two
civilians take him to their king. They wonder if he means the president, but
Ocean Master assumes Aquaman is king of the surface world. Aquaman shows up and
Ocean Master is agog that he does not rule the surface world if he gave up the Atlantean
throne. He tries to explain the surface world does not even know Atlantis
exists. Ocean Masters notes he has grieving Atlantean citizens to answer to and
refuses to stand down. He promises to sink Boston. The League teleports in on that line.
Aquaman asks for more time. They refuse so Aquaman attacks Superman.

 Chapter 5 – Cyborg is sent to protect to Dr. Shin. Aquaman
tries to get the league to back down before the Atlantean army arrives but the
big three won’t listen and so after a brief melee the Atlanteans emerge from
the ocean. Cyborg teleports Shin to the Watchtower. Back at the main event
where we see Ocean Master has magic weapons that let him live up to his name as
he controls the ocean water as a weapon. When Superman evaporates the water
with his heat vision Ocean Master also takes control of the weather and uses
lightening to KO Superman (???) and Wonder Woman. He then takes the captured
League including Aquaman below the ocean. Cyborg sees this and asks his father
to replace his lungs so he can breathe underwater. He also sends out a general
alert to recruit 10 new heroes to the League.

Chapter 6 – While Cyborg undergoes surgery he is also
running a program to find out who hacked the battleship’s missile system to
start all this. The four leaguers are locked in pods at the bottom of the
ocean. Aquaman breaks out of his and establishes contact with Batman, who is
awake and has a radio and sonar on him but can’t be freed since he would be
instantly crushed at this depth. Aquaman is attacked by two Trench monsters. He
slays them but realizes they don’t have much time before the entire horde
arrives. In Boston
we see Hawkman leading the new recruits against the Atlantean army. They
include Firestorm, Black Lightening, Vixen and Black Canary. The Atlanteans
meanwhile are detonating bombs in Boston
with the intent to sink the city. Cyborg is awake and Mera joins him in a
rescue mission. Aquaman and Batman are in the trench and find ancient ruins
showing an Atlantean king controlling the Trench monsters with a magic scepter.
They also find Superman and Wonder Woman held hostage by a giant jellyfish.
Aquaman attempts to free them only for the Trench monsters to attack. Mera and
Cyborg arrive just in time to save Batman. As the heroes regroup the Trench
monsters emerge in Boston
and attack the Atlanteans. In the cliffhanger we learn Vulko is controlling
them and orchestrated the attack on Atlantis.

Chapter 7 – The heroes learn the truth about Vulko. Everything
is chaos in Boston
as Orm assumes Aquaman is controlling the Trench monsters but he still manages
to defeat the League reserves (in part because they don’t work well together as
a team). The League’s A-team teleports in and begins disabling the bombs and
clear a path for Aquaman to take on his brother one-on-one. Orm is a given a
real nice monologue during the battle on how he loves Aquaman and why he hates
the surface world and then seems to win the fight. The League destroys the
bombs so Orm goes back to summoning tidal waves. Mera halts the wave long
enough for Firestorm and Element Girl to freeze it. Aquaman recovers, defeats
his brother and reclaims the Atlantean throne. Vulko surrenders without a
fight. The League and Atlantis unite to fight the Trench. Vulko tells Aquaman
he did all of this for him so he could be king again and Aquaman decks him.
With Vulko’s scepter he gets the Trench monsters to go home. Vulko is arrested
by Atlantis and Ocean Master is arrested by the League. Orm is stunned that
Aquaman would let this happen to him when he was acting to protect their
people; and because Arthur knows how much he hates and fears the surface world
but nevertheless we end on Orm alone in a cell. In the epilogue Mera tells
Aquaman she will not live with him in Atlantis but this time he will not
relinquish the throne. As Aquaman descends into the ocean we see the everyman’s
opinion of him has changed to fear. A final epilogue shows both the League and
Suicide Squad intending to use this event as a reason to increase their


Critical Thoughts: I
really liked Ocean Master’s characterization in this story and he’s not a
character I’ve cared about before so that is really well done. The rest of this
not so much.

First off the League comes off like A-holes in this story. Like
I get people died and their upset but they refuse to let Aquaman deal with his
brother and refuse to accept his explanation on how Atlantean politics and
culture work annoyed the heck out of me. Indeed the whole treatment of Ocean
Master in this story annoyed me. He’s not a super villain. He is the leader of
a sovereign nation and his nation was attacked first: his capital city in fact
and civilians died. So he’s perfectly entitled to go to war to defend his
country and that does not make a villain or a terrorist that belongs in prison.
Indeed the League members are having the exact same furious reaction for the
cities being attacked and people dying yet somehow they’re rage is justifiable
and Ocean Master’s is not. And Aquaman turning his brother over at the end to
sit alone in prison in a foreign land makes him a jerk. Especially since Orm
was following war plans the Aquaman wrote himself! So yea that whole dynamic
annoyed me.

Furthermore if the goal of this story is to make the general
public now hate and fear Aquaman moving forward wouldn’t that work better if he
grants his brother diplomatic immunity and takes him back into the ocean rather
than he turns him over for a prison sentence?

I hate that they made Vulko a villain. Why can’t
supporting characters just be supporting characters anymore? Why do they all
have to become heroes and villains themselves? This is sort of an industry-wide
problem but it does annoy me and I’m tired of perfectly good supporting
characters being altered for no particular reason.

On the other hand I will say Mera remains an interesting
supporting character. She’s consistently portrayed as strong with a unique perspective.
Her relationship with the lead adds to the title’s drama; while her powers also
compliment his without being redundant.

Also from chapter one I’m just not a big fan of Aquaman’s
New 52 origin. I much prefer the Peter David version from Time and Tide. The flashbacks here make no sense. Aquaman was
raised in America
in a lighthouse with no clue about his powers or heritage. Then after the death
of his father he finds Atlantis. And upon assuming the throne he just forgets
his entire childhood and fears the surface world and writes these plans of
destruction. But then fighting Darkseid makes him change his mind again. What a
ping pong of characterization.

Not a complaint I care much about, but why is Superman hurt
by lightening and a giant jellyfish? And why can Wonder Woman breathe underwater?
I know Superman is always problem of how do you find enough villains who can be
a threat to him but lightening, really? Because electricity is a fairly common
power in comic books so I feel like this is a big step down for Supes’

As for the Justice League portion of the story, I thought
the League calling in the reserves via a general SOS was a nice moment as was
the fact that the new members didn’t know how to work together. Hawkman’s New
52 interpretation is sort of interesting so I may grab one his trades if I can
find it on the cheap.

Finally I will say the art is pretty good, particularly the
splash pages.

Grade C+.  Ocean Master’s dialogue in the final
chapter and his sailor story in chapter 2 are pushing this up from C- to C+.
Otherwise the only other positives are Mera’s role, the Trench monsters are
still visually interesting and some of the mystic mythology could have
potential down the line. Beyond that I disliked most of this to the point that
I am now on the fence on whether to drop this title or not. Also as far as
being a crossover there is nothing here that makes me want to start picking up Justice League again.

Waiting for the Trade – JLI

Waiting for the Trade

by Bill Miller


Justice League
International: Volume 1 – The Signal Masters

by Dan Jurgens, Aaron
Lopresti and Matt Ryan

collects Justice
League International 1-6.

Why I Bought This: This
was the third of my first three New 52 samples on Cyber Monday. In this case
the original comedic JLI series is the only DC book I ever bought off the racks
on an issue by issue die-hard basis, so a relaunch of that title is something I
would of course be interested in.
The Plot: The
United Nations decides it needs a Justice League of its own that it can control
so they hand-pick a team of international heroes just in time for them to deal
with an emerging cosmic threat.

Chapter 1 – We see the UN select the team’s membership:
Booster Gold will be leader and classic JLI members Fire (of Brazil), Ice (of Norway),
Guy Gardner and Rocket Red (Russia)
are back along with Vixen (Zimbabwe),
August General in Iron (China)
and Godiva (United Kingdom).
Meanwhile in Peru
some UN scientists fall into a hole in the ground. Back in the U.S. the UN gives the JLI the Hall of Justice
(looking exactly as it did in Superfriends)
set in Washington DC. There are protestors against the
building being used by superheroes. The team meets for the first time inside.
Guy is his usual jerk-self and leaves in a huff over Booster being appointed
leader. Batman shows up and tries to talk sense into Guy as Bats believes
Booster can be a fine team leader, but Guy flies off anyway. The team gets the
distress call from Peru
and heads off in a UN provided jet that Batman sneaks aboard. Despite the UN
not approving Batman for the team, Bats says the real Justice League thinks
it’s a good idea for the two teams to have a connection. Back in DC some
protestors blow up the Hall of Justice. Back in Peru little rock people attack the
JLI. The team beats them back only for the ground to break open and reveal a
giant robot.

Chapter 2 – The heroes aren’t terribly effective against the
robot. When Ice gets injured Booster orders a retreat. While some of the team
doubts his leadership, Batman offers a pep talk. Guy sees Ice injured on the
news, and heads off to meet up with the team at the ruins of the Hall of
Justice. Intel shows three more robots have awoken around the world and they
are sending a signal into outer space, which is received by a villain who looks
like Galactus carrying an energized scythe.

Chapter 3 – The JLI splits into teams of two to deal with
the robots. All of them successfully distract the robots long enough to burrow
under them, where they all then meet a horde of the rock people and lose to
their numbers. Meanwhile Guy follows the robot transmission signal into space
and encounters Scythe Dude, who defeats Guy in one panel.

Chapter 4 – Guy recovers and fights the villain, whose name
is Peraxxus, and loses again. Peraxxus teleports the captured heroes to him and
reveals his plan, which is to break the Earth down to its component minerals
and the sell the minerals on the intergalactic market. He admits the robots
predate him, they were built by a long gone ancient alien civilization but he
has learned to trace the signal over the years and make use of them for his
profit scheme. Godiva, whose power is living hair ala Medusa of the Inhumans,
manages to get a laser scalpel off Batman’s utility belt and free everyone. The
heroes are mostly on the losing end again until Peraxxus teleports away and
activates the robots’ planet disintegration mode.

Chapter 5 – The government tries to nuke Peraxxus ship but
of course he has a force field. Guy whips up a space ship for the team with his
ring and they charge Peraxxus, who blasts them out of the sky. However it is a ruse
and JLI are able to sneak aboard his ship and split up with Batman, Rocket Red
and Ice in charge of disabling Peraxxus’s ship, while everyone else takes the
fight to him. Peraxxus again decimates the heroes, leaving only Godiva cowering
in a corner as she’s been having doubts that she belongs on a team that deals
with cosmic threats given her laughable powers. However when Booster is about
to be decapitated she steps up long enough to give the others a chance to
recover. This time the heroes manage to drive him off, while Red successfully
shuts off the ship’s power. Guy’s ring ensures the heroes survive the crash
landing. The heroes celebrate their victory as a new mystery foe electronically
spies on them.

Chapter 6 – Batman and Booster track down the Hall of
Justice bombers, after which Batman returns to the main JLA title. The
remaining heroes deal with clean-up from the last mission, while some of the
foreigners begin to adjust to life in America. Booster appears before the
UN as the team gets officially chartered. The mystery villain from last issue
blows something up.


Critical Thoughts: I’m
very much of a mixed opinion on this. On its own merits it is a fine little
superhero story. The team dynamic between these heroes is pretty good, and
grows organically throughout the story. There is lots of little character that
I didn’t mention in my recap whenever the team breaks into smaller groups. In a
lot of ways this book reminds me of West
Coast Avengers
, which to this day is one of my all time favorite titles (at
least the first 41-issues, once Englehart left that title was never the same).
Like that title, this one focuses on a bunch of second tier heroes being led by
an unproved leader and trying to live up to the name of their universe’s
premiere superhero team. I think this book shows a lot of potential to grow.

My two problems with the title have nothing to do with the
actual story Jurgerns is choosing to tell, but rather what this book doesn’t do
based on the expectation of the name. The original JLI title was far and away the funniest comic book I’ve ever read
but there isn’t a joke to be found in this volume. And it begs the question why
name this title after the other one, which I assume was pretty popular in its
day seeing as it ended up with two spin-off titles, if you aren’t go to try to
recapture what made that one popular? I’ll also say as a fan of the original series
the lack of Blue Beetle is a jarring absence. When I think of JLI the very first thing I think of is
the camaraderie between Booster and Beetle. I know DC killed the real Blue
Beetle off awhile ago, but seeing as you just relaunched your universe (in fact
this book implies the entire original JLI
series never happened with the exception of Guy and Ice briefly dating) then
there is no reason not to bring Ted Kord back and let the alien teenager from
the Brave and the Bold cartoon pick
another name.

Also that Chinese Superhero has the worst name ever.
Seriously couldn’t they just call him Iron General or really anything less
awkwardly worded?

On the positives I should also say the art looks very good


Grade: B-. This
is a fine start to a new title, but if you are buying this based on memories of
the original series it is not that at all.