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‘Aquaman Justice League Drowned Earth #1’ (review)

Written by Scott Snyder
Illustrated by Francis Manapul, Howard Porter
Published by DC Comics

“You understand what you’re saying, my love…”

“I do Mera. I’m saying that the only way to save the world… is for Atlantis to die!”

The final issue of DC’s Drowned Earth November crossover event drops this week, and it’s a whopper of a tale told by Scott Snyder and Francis Manapul, with Howard Porter, Scott Godlewski and HiFi taking on extra watches to get this baby into port on time.

With the earth covered in alien waters, Black Manta controlling all the world’s transmogrophied population and its superheroes with Aquaman’s aqua-telepathic powers, Poseiden dead, the Graveyard of the Gods destroyed, and a giant alien Death Kraken thirsting to kill all life on the planet like some great chtonic Old God, it’s do or die time. And there’s only a small rag-tag crew of Justice Leaguers to set things right.

Yo-ho and avast, ye mighty mortals! This be a fight for the ages, arrh.

Of course, you can bet our team pulls together to win the day. It’s what they do. But does Scott Snyder take every opportunity he can to make that win a convoluted, jammed packed, by the skin of their teeth, more-than-a-little improbable action-fest, with as many near misses, plot twists, changes of heart, and interlocking moving pieces, as there are fish in the sea to get there?

Yeah, well, yes. In a word, yes.

It’s the only criticism I have about Snyder really. I mean look, action-packed and big ideas are good. These are comics. But he has such wonderful, big, crazy ideas, that getting them all to work out exactly the way he has in mind, can get a little complicated to pull off. When he does that well, it’s exhilarating. When he doesn’t, his storytelling can feel a bit rushed and crowded, and he ends up sacrificing the natural beats of the story for the sake of doing, like, everything he can. The Drowned Earth saga is nothing if not grand myth-making, but it’s been a complicated tale to tell, and the finale is a little bit of both.

There’s no question it’s ambitious, no question it’s epic, and there’s no questions it’s all part of the greater unfolding Master Plan, mwa-ha-ha. But man, sometimes you gotta take a smaller bite. Either that or give yourselves more time. This final book could easily have been two books, and it’s not too hard an argument to make that maybe it should have been.

With that all said… I’m really not sure Snyder and crew particularly care at this point. And honestly, I can’t really say that I blame them. I mean, whoo-hooo what a gas. If it were me, I’d be having fun too.

The best way to approach this book, is to imagine it being played out on the big-screen, like one of Jerry Bruckheimer’s Pirates of the Caribbean extravaganzas. With superheroes. And spaceships. Do that, and the twists and turns and over-the-top crazy should all pull together for you in the way they all probably have in mind.

In that regard, having Howard Porter step on deck with his bold, muscular style is very helpful (if a slightly jarring shift in tone) and Manapul’s art, as always, is simply beautiful. Though in the future guys, maybe, when Snyder goes big like this, it might serve well to pull the camera back and give us a few wider scale shots of all the epic, just sayin’. I mean, I do realize there’s a lot going on…

But hey, between Swashbuckler Superman, Fishman-Flash, Diana’s new alien parrot-familiar who may or may not be the reincarnation of an ancient Amazonian hero, (and with, by the way, an appearance by Arion himself, finally, along with the suggestion of a certain other league of heroes hailing from an earlier era of earth’s fabled DC-history), a juiced up and slightly crazed Black Manta looking positively demonic by the end, and of course Mera and Arthur being, well, fabulous, there is, after all a lot to love here.

This whole saga really is a vehicle for Aquaman to step fully into his role as a truly noble champion of Earth and all that is best in us, as an avatar of goodness, grace, and Life itself. I applaud that effort, it is well-placed, and I think, well-conceived. It’s just a little frustrating that by the end of things in this final issue, there is less time available for the emotional moments and transitions needed to really make the whole point of it land, and ring deep and true when it does.

But the point is a good one. This arc has been one of my favorite so far, and the end result of this fantastic epic adventure saga is the set-up for a whole grand new chapter of wondrous exploration for our legendary aquatic super-friend, one that he absolutely deserves. Even though in the chapters of his own book over the months ahead, it may take a little while yet to find his way back to them entirely…

As for Earth and the Justice League, well, everything goes back to normal – no more submerged cities, no more fish-people – except now our side has lost the Totality (oops), and Lex Luthor claims he has now unlocked four of the mysterious new dark forces of the Universe he needs to fulfill his plan.

What are those four? Well, we have the Still Force to match Flash’s Speed Force, the Invisible Spectrum to match Green Lantern’s emerald willpower, the Tear of Extinction, the dark twin to Aquaman’s water-born power of Life, and… well, something else.

What that something else is, is not yet precisely clear. Seems pretty evident though that it has something to do with Cheetah and Lex destroying the Graveyard of the Gods.

Which come to think of it… brrr. What kind of world are we living in now, when even gods can truly die?

Maybe we’ll find out next issue… Hm. Brrr..

Next Issue: The other side of faith.


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