And the Tuna man continues to shine.
In the jungles of Brazil, a woman dressed up in a veil is running for her life; her pursuer eventually catches up and a fight begins. Before finishing her off, he swears that like him, Arthur aka Aquaman will lose everything meaningful to him. -summary
There are plenty of people I know of that refuse to give this New 52 Aquaman run a chance. In a way I really can't blame them because it's not like the sea king has plenty of great stories in his history. It's a shame in a way, because they're missing what could arguably be in the top 3 best books DC had to offer at this point. Aquaman Volume Two: The Others, written by Geoff Johns continues to move in the right direction; it's actually a lot better than the previous volume Aquaman: The Trench and that is saying something. This TPB collects Aquaman issues 7-13.
There are no punches pulled here as the story begins at full throttle. It's quickly revealed that Aquaman's worst enemy Black Manta was in pursuit of the woman named Kahina the Seer. He takes her out off panel, but he describes her grisly fate. Black Manta in past continuity was no joke, however he is clearly more blood thirsty here and it helps a great deal that he has a believable motive. The plot picks up from here with Manta searching for some type of Atlantean relics, plus he's heavily hoping to run into Aquaman.
Geoff Johns is on point here and I can almost completely forgive that weak Justice League debut. He completely roped me in to this story on my original run through, and even after this re-read I still couldn't put it down. The pacing is amazing here, and not even do the flash backs feel out of place. I think this has more to do with the suspense behind Aquaman and Manta's feud which never loses focus. Their origins touches on what gets the beef frying, in addition to this you also learn that Aquaman was the leader of another group before joining the Justice League called the Others. I was thisclose to just brushing them off as minor plot devices, but they have their own interesting charm to them.
While Aquaman and his little crew are fine and all; it's Black Manta whom clearly steals the show. He's just bad ass here; fearsome and almost completely merciless. He goes after single members of the Others playing for keeps, and he locks into vicious battle with his arch-nemesis. The action is simply something to behold, you can feel the hate between them. Surprisingly, Johns writes their grudge a bit too well. Long before the end of the story, it's firmly established that these two are locked into a blood feud that can only end with someone's death, and this actually works into two moments that hurts the story a little. Like for example, Manta wants to take everything from Aquaman but he chooses to let his wife Mera live. If he wanted to really hurt the guy, that would have been a great place to start. I also feel that the ending could have been better. After so much build up I don't think it followed up well on the hype. It was too ordinary and I would have felt better with something to look forward to.
Now as much as I enjoyed this saga, and later on Throne of Atlantis which is in the third TPB. This is kind of where I understand the non Aquaman fans. That small fan base of the character will be quick to tell you Black Manta is their favorite villain for him. I agree here also, because along with Ocean Master he really doesn't have anyone else, and the lack of a strong rogue's gallery has always been a problem with him. I'm kind of worried that after this strong beginning, Aquaman is going to fall right back to where he was with the average comic fan. I mean he can only fight against Black Manta and Ocean Master but so much. Oh well, time will tell.
Now on to the element that works into making this book so great, and that's the artwork. Ivan Reis and Rod Reis are on fire with the illustrations and colors. I mean this book looks magnificent. There is never a dull moment with these backgrounds; the tropical rainforest is gorgeous and the entire book could have ran smoothly in that environment alone. Fortunately it doesn't though, as the reader will be treated to highly detailed splash pages of raging ocean tides, incredible scenery of ancient statues, and even the crumbling of landscape and shattering of ground is about as amazing to look at as the Russian snow caps.
The character designs are awesome, Black Manta has never looked this terrifying with that black jump suit and almost alien like power-helmet, that he uses to let loose those damaging looking energy attacks. It seems as if he can injure Superman here. The action panels constantly deliver; there is quite a bit of fisticuffs here that never really ceases to be cool. From snapped limbs to slit throats, the excitement just doesn't seem to lose any punch. If you fell in love with Jim Lee's flashy artwork for Justice League: Origins, Greg Capullo's mesmerizing and atmospheric visuals in Batman: Court of Owls, or Ardian Syaf 's vivid backgrounds in Batgirl: Darkest Reflection, then there's no reason not to fall for this book.
Aquaman: The Others does have that one flaw in its narrative, but everything else is so good that it really doesn't bother me that much. The book is also newbie friendly and you do not need to read the Trench before coming in. This book stands well on its own; I do still recommend the Trench though because it is a really good book. For me, this is among the best TPB's of 2013 and every comic fan, whether you collect DC or not should give it a shot. The tuna-man is actually enjoying a great run.
Pros: Stunning artwork, cool characters and great villain
Cons: Story elements could have been better thought out