The Vanier Report: Tales From A DC Pull List (Aquaman #43 Review)

The Vanier Report: Week 29

Aquaman 43 largeAquaman #43
Written by: Cullen Bunn
Pencils by: Trevor McCarthy
Inks by: Trevor McCarthy & Jesus Merino
Colours by: Guy Major
Letters by: Tom Napolitano

There is something to be said for giving the people what they want.

As storytellers, I think there’s a certain reflex against that logic. It feels too easy, or worse, too facile. True art has depth and breadth and layers and often that means concealing the full truth to be revealed when the time is just right. This is even more true in terms of serialized storytelling like episodic television or monthly comic books – providing all the answers up front or being too linear with the narrative leaves little to keep the audience coming back for more. The irony, of course, is that in concealing the truth or breaking up the narrative, one risks losing the audience completely, either through confusion or frustration.

Aquaman #43 – written by Cullen Bunn with art from Trevor McCarthy et al. – saved the current arc from that horrible fate by finally answering a number of questions about the King of the Seas’ new status quo.

Continuing the narrative device of flipping between “then” and “now”, Bunn finally reveals that Aquaman’s new trident and storm powers come from Poseidon himself, after Aquaman seeks answers to the Thule problem from the sea god. Poseidon also reveals the secret history of Thule – one shrouded in dark sorcery and tied to Atlan and ancient Atlantis itself.

Aquaman 43 Atlan and Thule

In the “now”, Aquaman’s battle against Mera’s hit squad – which includes King Shark, Charybdis, and the long-awaited appearance of Garth – is put on hold, as the monster from Thule can only be defeated by their combined strength. Bunn and McCarthy use this battle to fully depict the new, full extent of Aquaman’s new powers. His strength and ferocity seem bolstered, and the added effect of the lightning of Poseidon’s storms takes what Aquaman fans have known for a long time – that the hero possessed incredible power worthy of his Justice League membership – and gives it a visual presence in a way it seldom has had before. But what I like best about that action sequence is that the Arthur of old (represented by his traditional marine telepathy) that wins the day.

This issue is a win for both Bunn and McCarthy. The narrative pace of this issue is fast and full of action, intrigue, and revelations. Bunn finally pays readers off for sticking through what I consider to be two tedious issues. In #41 and #42, the frenetic back-and-forth of the “then” and “now” were the only real source of kinetic energy – the story itself failed to progress in any meaningful way, feeling mostly like it was buying for time. Even McCarthy’s artwork was not enough to generate interest. But in this issue, his artwork is dynamic and powerful enough to match the upped intensity of Bunn’s narrative. Guy Major’s colours are a wonderful finishing touch – from the brightness and electricity of Aquaman’s storm powers to the otherworldly secondary colours of the various undersea characters and environments, he has managed to imbue the Thule invasion with the power to make the ocean feel even more alien.

That’s not to say that the issue is perfect – there are some moments of awkward dialogue and inconsistent artwork – but the leap in quality in this issue compared to the previous two more than makes up for it. The final page reveal of the arc’s true villain will hopefully carry this issue’s momentum forward in the push to the conclusion of the arc, which is at last something for which it is worth being excited.

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Feature Written By: Reid Vanier

“Reid is a comic book fan masquerading as a theatre artist. His love of comics (specifically DC) was inherited by his father’s collections of Flash, Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes, and Justice League of America. Reid is now the Editor and Lead Writer of Modern Mythologies.”

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