“…when in the fortunes of opposing forces are decided on the basis of matters as deliberate and dispassionate as the tides”
It was with these words that I was able to understand, possibly for the first time, what Aquaman’s true motivation is: balance. Balance between his kingdom and the seas at large; balance between his life in the sea and his life on land. Thank you Penguin Random House Canada for providing me with my copy of The Legend of Aquaman.
We meet Aquaman as a baby, currently known as Orin, where he has been abandoned above water. Orin is discovered by an older, land-walking human named Arthur Curry, who takes in Orin until his death. Following the death of Arthur, Orin finds a note written by his father that provokes him to search for his true home – Atlantis. Once he finds home, he is imprisoned by his people. Within prison, he is forced to see his mother every day but is unable to speak to her. He befriends Vulko to help him learn how to communicate with his mother. Unfortunately, Orion’s mom passes away and this leads to his escape from prison. In the following years, Orion returns a hero – having fought with the Justice League – and becomes king. He losses someone very near a dear to him which causes him to leave his family in Atlantis.
Flashforward a few months, and Aquaman returns only to be imprisoned once again. Here he learns that Atlantis is overrun by another species and that there is a group of individuals leading a resistance that Aquaman is asked to join. After an issue with the errand, Aquaman declares that the resistance will be following his rules now. At the same time, we learn that Aquaman’s wife, Mera, is losing her mental capacities and has escaped the mental institution. Both, the invaders and the resistance, look for the Queen while the tension between the two sides continues to grow. The resistance side seems to have an advantage, Aquaman knows the palace passageways to aid in gathering intelligence, as they are preparing for the ‘main offensive.’ Just prior to the fight, Aquaman is confronted by Mera and a fight ensues. Thus, the resistance and the populace are forced to fight the invaders without the help of Aquaman. Success is found but for Aquaman it is at considerable cost.
Following the ‘main offensive,’ Atlantis is cut-off from the rest of the sea causing mass shortages. Along the defence lines, the Atlantean defenders are tired and hungry. The General orders a strike that is essentially a suicide mission but is considered better than the alternative: slow starvation. As a result, Aquaman realizes that he has not been much of a leader recently. The invaders continue resisting the attacks made by the Atlanteans; however, the General declares that they will die like warriors. Rather than losing his entire populace, Aquaman recruits his secret weapons to win the war and, at the same time, shows them how much power he truly possess.
Considering the original publication of this story was in 1986, there is not much to really describe with respect to the art style and pages, as they followed the classical layout from the early period of the Modern Age.
Specifically, the page layout is straightforward and very consistent as demonstrated in the panels imaged above and below. The artists, Shanower, Swan and Vey, used a very bright, pastel colour palate. This makes sense considering that the underwater environment is colourful, and full of bright looking fish and algae, The downfall of this colour palate is that it contributes to a happy and upbeat story, especially when combined with a cartoon art style, for a subject matter that is not necessarily happy. In general, the backgrounds are crude, with more detailed backgrounds being used to situate the reader. For example, the background provides clues to the reader about whether or not the panel is taking place in the prison, in the seas or on land. As a result, the art focuses the reader on the movements of the characters throughout the story.
Overall, the plot of The Legend of Aquaman is very repetitive as he leaves Atlantis then returns just to leave again. However, I would recommend reading this book, regardless of being a fan of Aquaman, because it does a great job of providing the reader with an understanding of the characters motivations. This is important because this understanding will contribute to the storylines that Aquaman is involved in that are separate from his own stories (for example, his appearances in Justice League comics).
Our copy of Aquaman: The Legend of Aquaman was provided by Penguin Random House Canada, you can get your copy here.