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Hey, Aquaman has a new blue costume. Kids will LOVE him now. – Aquaman (1986 Mini-Series)

May 11, 2012

Lord knows that I rip on Aquaman just as much as anybody. Maybe more than most. It’s so easy. Anyone with water-based powers is susceptible to whatever the equivalent of bullying is within comic book fandom, from Namor to the Man from Atlantis. But you want to know what I find even more infuriating than Aquaman himself? When people try to shine him up, gussy him up with a new costume and a new grooming style. That always sucks. Own him, you know? If you’re going to write and draw a damn Aquaman story, man up and do it, with the green pants and orange top and clean-shaven looks. What the hell was that look he sported in the past decade? No shirt, a cyborg arm, long hair and a beard? Was he supposed to be underwater Cable or something?

Lame. The kind of lame you only get when you try to tart up lame. Lame².

This series, published after DC’s first massive spring cleaning of their ever-jumbled universe, gives us a fresh take on the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths Aquaman. (Unlike the old Wonder Woman’s rearview mirror post-Crisis sendoff, this mini looks forward.) Not that there are any radical departures from the nuts and bolts of Aquaman’s Atlantean lore. Familiar faces are found in their customary roles, whether Mera or the Ocean Master, and it’s not like he was switched out with Hawkman and became Lord of the Clouds or some B.S. like that.

The biggest difference here is an obvious one. A new costume. An ugly, new, used very briefly costume. One that makes him look like a figure skater or something. Are there sequins on it? If not, why not?

Not a fan.

That’s not to say that the series is bad. Actually it’s pretty good. Writer Neal Pozner and artists Craig Hamilton and Steve Montano craft a story that richly re-orders and expands DC’s undersea regions. New realms are added to the map, magic and sacred objects are incorporated, quests are begun for stolen seals, and for a brief moment you actually start to think that Aquaman’s environs might be an interesting place to visit — and revisit. The art is quality, and the script does its damnedest. There’s an extended sequence in the final issue where Aquaman looks back on his history and seems to come to peace with his place in the universe, with several splash-pages giving us a timeline of his life, and it’s perhaps one of the best bits of Aquaman storytelling that I’ve ever read. (A low bar, granted…) Some of the dialogue in the series is a bit glib, but that’s a minor complaint. The thing reads well.

But there’s that costume.

The storyline reason for the fresh duds is that the varying shades of blue will provide better cover for Aquaman as sneaks around the ocean depths. Camouflage. Of course, by the end of the first issue Aquaman — in true Aquaman fashion — is captured, so we’re not exactly dealing with an Elfin Cloak of Invisibility here. So really THERE’S NO POINT TO IT WHATSOEVER, other than to make Aquaman more modern and, heaven help us, hip.

(Shakes head.)

The main impetus for the story’s action is our hero’s long-standing sibling rivalry with his nutcase brother, Ocean Master. He attacks Aquaman’s surface home with a new panoply of powers, and has his usual “No, YOU’RE the booger!” set-to with his bro:

I prefer Thor and Loki’s family squabbles, but that’s just me. And pretty much everyone else.

Again — back to the costume. Here’s Arthur getting the duds and getting nude. A little something for the ladies:

Yeah. I’m sure you’ll be able to handle anything that comes your way, Artie. No need for the JLA signal. YOUR COMPETENCE OVERWHELMS US.

I’ve made my feelings on the camouflage clear. Again, NOT A FAN. But I’m willing to concede that others might me more amenable to a change of sartorial pace for Aquaman, and I present you with this “The Pen is Mightier than the Swordfish” (…) letters column from the last issue to give some opposing viewpoints:

Aquaman sported the blue tights once more, in a one-off special in 1988, and then went back to the orange and green that we know and, well, not love — perhaps tolerate. Yeah, know and tolerate. At least, until the next time he was scheduled for a futile reinvention.

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