It’s a brand new day for Aquaman. Washed up on the shores of an unknown island after the Drowned Earth crossover, he’s been taken in by an old couple. Outside, a storm rages, and a young woman walks, scattering flowers over a dead rabbit.
The Justice Leaguer has lost his memory, and no one seems to recognise him. The ‘A’ on his belt has led the old man and woman, Loc and Wee, to call him Andy. The flower girl, Caille, has a different name for him.
She suggests that as she found him, washed up and unconscious, she should get to decide what he’s called.
Which is annoying.
And that may be Kelly Sue DeConnick’s intention as she begins a run on Aquaman. Irksome characters can spark tension that makes for an interesting story. Think Mantis in the Avengers, Guy Gardner in JLI. Loc is also a bit irritating, with his constant giggling…presumably he’s gone a little mad as a result of information he and the unfortunately named Wee share with Aquaman as the issue progresses. I won’t spoil that, as it’s this revelation that piqued my interest after spending time with Wee, Loc and Caille when I’d rather be hanging out with Mera, Vulko, Garth, Murk, Tula and the rest of the Aquaman regulars. And there is a hint that it won’t be long before at least one of them joins the story. My big hope is that Arthur gets his memory back sharpish, I’ve never been a fan of blank slate heroes… I don’t need issue after issue of Aquaman rediscovering who he is for the benefit of likely imaginary fresh readers brought in by the new movie. I’ve been reading about this guy for decades, I’m already invested – let the newbies buy a trade or two!
DeConnick’s command of pacing, the speed with which she sketches characters and her ability to set a tone is impressive. I like her ‘Andy’ – practical, no-nonsense, a nice guy everyman who doesn’t know that whatever the sea throws at him, he can take it. By issue’s end DeConnick has me wondering about the nature of this odd community, Unspoken Waters, and I’ll certainly be back next issue to find out more. I especially like that, through the stories of Wee and Loc, she makes the sea, that most familiar of Aquaman backgrounds, feel strange once more.
The art by penciller Robson Rocha, inker Daniel Henriques and colourist Sunny Gho adds further life to DeConnick’s story, with the setting plausible and the characters full of, well, character. Especially Loc, so distinctive that I can barely bear to look at him. Caille is somewhere between Red Riding Hood and Gaia, while her mother – glimpsed only in shadowy flashback – looks terrifying. And the environments are terrific, real and fantastic at the same time. As for Aquaman, he looks powerful, but not regal – the Nineties hair and beard make him look like a hobo, which is fair enough for this storyline. Clayton Cowles does his usual great job with the letters, particular in the narration boxes.
Given the film, DC could, for once, be easily forgiven for relaunching this book, but they don’t; instead, the cover bears a big ‘Part 1’ blurb, reminiscent of those ‘1st DC issue’ flashes we’d get in the Seventies when the company took on a new licence, Tarzan, say, or the Shadow. Said cover is a nice heroic image by the interior artists while Nicola Scott and Annette Kwok’s attractive variant features Jason Momoa and Amber Heard.
I’m hoping Memory Loss Aquaman isn’t a new direction so much as a quick diversion – I’m a fan of Aquaman the superhero, not the fantasy warrior. How about you?