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Book ’em, Quisp – Aquaman #7

February 24, 2011

Aqualad makes Robin look like the Bill Buckley of sidekick wordplay.

I try very hard to love Aquaman. I’ve always felt bad for him. The man is royalty and one of the (supposed) big guns of the DC hero inventory, yet he’s a joke. A punchline. The kind of guy you see and start to laugh, even if you aren’t really sure why. I’ve never thought that all that was fair, and it seems that he’s never ever received the treatment that he deserves. How many times have they tried to relaunch his title? Fifty?

That old Alex Ross stand-up of Aquaman from about 10 years ago (one that was incorporated into a Justice League montage that graces my home office) really sums up what the guy should be about — regal, a bit haughty, a bit detached, a bit arrogant, but every bit the hero:

Plus he should always wield a mean-looking trident.

So I have a soft spot for Aquaman. Then I travel back in time to the carnival of delights known as the Silver Age, and I reevaluate that affection. Enter “The Sea Beasts of Atlantis,” written by Jack Miller with art from Nick Cardy.

My first quibble is that Aquaman (as is often the case) is portrayed as not being master of his own domain (in the literal sense, not the Seinfeld sense):

Isn’t he supposed to have command of all sea-creatures? Is it “All sea-creatures, just not big, useful ones”?

The big beasties are attacking ships, and it turns out that their underwater food supply has disappeared. Instead of getting his wet ass kicked some more, Aquaman gets a little intelligence from his oceanic answer to Mr. Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite — Quisp:

Quisp is a water-sprite who looks like a cross between an ElfQuest elf and a troll doll, and he can manipulate, you guessed it, water. He needs to soon, because when Aquaman and Aqualad go after Captain Clay — who’s the one that’s been manipulating the sea-beasts by hoarding their food source — they’re immediately snared:

Our heroes, ladies and gentlemen.

Quisp to the rescue:

Clay is captured, and Quisp tee-hees him to the nearest Coast Guard cutter at Aquaman’s bequest. One might think that this has been a full enough day for our Diluvian Duo, but unfortunately there’s been an umpteenth coup d’etat in the undersea world (seriously, both Marvel’s and DC’s Atlantean governments were toppled every other issue — they were worse than Italy’s post-war regimes).  This revolution doesn’t dispatch the old-guard with a guillotine, but with a decidedly aquatic alternative:

Hey, where’d the green tights go?

It’s at this point that Aquaman AT LAST does something useful:

The rebellion is then crushed. All in an aqua-day’s work.

Aquaman might be a hopeless cause. I’ll admit that. When The Abyss came out years ago, I remember there being talk about how an underwater movie was destined to underperform — everything just moves too slowly when it’s submerged. Perhaps there’s something in that idea that applies to our poor orange- and green-garbed hero, and for that matter his Marvel kinsman. Cardy tries very hard with his art (and I like the malevolent giant sea-horsey looking thing on the cover), though it’s a rather thankless task to make this stuff energetic. He manages to get Quisp the sprite to look, well, spritely, but keeping the comic’s engines running is too tall a task to put on that little guy’s tiny shoulders.

I guess we have to add this to the long litany of Aquaman fails.

In a final insult, I damaged this comic when I was putting it back in its mylite. You can see the crease on the lower left corner of the cover in the scan at the top of the post. The cover tore off of the spine and folded over. That made me angry. Very angry.

You know what? I give up. Fuck you, Aquaman. And the sea-horse you rode in on.

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 28, 2011 8:22 pm

    Aquaman definitely drew the short straw on editorial talent. All the other DC Silver Age reincarnations were edited by Schwartz. A-man got Schiff, and then Kashdan, both of whom subscribed to the Monster of the Month school.

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