Aquaman’s moment has come.
Everyone knows that when the animals start running, a smart person starts looking for cover or the nearest exit. When the fish start running, though, it means something even worse than earthquakes, forest fires, or hurricanes. We who live on the bare third of the world above water tend to forget the immensity of the rest of the planet.
From the moment we see massive schools of fish moving as fast as they can away from… something… the opening chapter of DC’s Throne of Atlantis event paints a stunning picture. The grand landscapes of Ivan Reis and Joe Prado convey a sense of scale that is presently unmatched in comics. Water is everywhere, and the use of line and color to portray its kinetic power and immensity is a testament to how the art team have honed their skills over the last year and change doing stellar work on Aquaman.
The pace at which the action unfolds is breathtaking. Geoff Johns manages to find time for brief but meaningful conversations between his cast of characters, but only just barely. Remarkably, those character moments reveal the intimacy that the members of the Justice League have developed and how it allows them to digest information quickly and work as a unit.
There is a certain sweetness to the way they look after each other, read each other, and move in concert. When the inevitable turning point in this event comes,we will likely see the breakdown of that tight-knit dynamic, especially given what Comics Nexus is reporting regarding events in “Aquaman #15″ [SPOILERS]. Johns excels at creating unique relationships between his characters, and those relationships are clearly depicted in those few moments before the characters are overwhelmed by the first catastrophic blows of this conflict. The burgeoning relationship between Superman and Wonder Woman gets its quick acknowledgement and provides an opportunity to show how delighted the two are to have someone of similar stature to consort with. More interesting is the characterization of Batman, who almost comes off like a bit of a den mother in this issue, showing a great deal of concern and understanding of his fellow leaguers. If this is to be the consistent way in which he is rendered, it will be one of the more welcome changes from the pre-New 52 universe, where he was notoriously antisocial.
Despite its density, the story did feel a bit short. The combination of the heart-stopping pace and low page count necessary to accommodate the SHAZAM backup makes it seem like a very brief opening act. If Throne of Atlantis were a film, this issue of Justice League would be the nine minutes they’d show before The Hobbit.
There is at least one major flaw with DC’s approach to this event, one that’s not unique to Justice League. It is clear that Atlantis, its politics, and the lore of Aquaman will feature prominently in the plot. Directly tying into another book is an expected part of an event. The title has been terrific, but anyone who hasn’t been reading it has little recourse as far as catching up, as the first collection of Volume 2 doesn’t hit shelves until May 21st, three months after the conclusion of Throne of Atlantis. Digital comics are a fine stopgap, but those who prefer the physical goods but still want to catch up on Aquaman must either pirate, pay twice, or confront the unenviable task of searching through eBay accounts and local comic shops for back issues. This is the best exposure for a character that DC has been working diligently to transform from punchline to powerhouse, and the event has been planned for months. If DC expects readers to start picking up Aquaman on the strength of this event and actually stay with the title afterwards, they should have done a better job with their trade release schedule.
Regardless of planning shortfalls, Throne of Atlantis is off to a fine start. It may face an uphill battle, but if it continues on its current track, it looks to be a fantastic story.