Aquaman takes a trip through his memories as the Atlanteans arrest him and take him to die on Traitor Reef. Aquaman, however, doesn't intend to die on a dry reef now any more than he did as a baby. He frees himself with difficulty, but is immediately attacked by the watching Atlantean soldiers. He gets away, but only onto dry land. He tries to slip into a hidden cove, but the Atlanteans have somehow turned all the sea life against him, and he is forced to retreat.
Bleeding heavily from the attacks, dehydrated from the time on the reef, he heads inland and sees an ancient forest. Once in the forest, he sees a lake, but the water is too far away. He thinks of using his harpoon to drag himself to the water, but the electronics have been destroyed by the Atlanteans. He uses the last of his strength to throw the useless harpoon into the lake.
Aquaman has fallen on the edge of a mystic lake, and the inhabitants of the lake, six maidens, drag him into the water after he throws his harpoon "to" them. The lady of the lake, a mystic being, takes Aquaman from the maidens and promises to restore his hand.
The JLA, in the meantime, is searching for Aquaman. The Martian Manhunter finds him on a very dry bluff off the coast of Western Ireland. After Aquaman describes the forest to him, J'onn indicates that there is no forest, and that Aquaman had to have dreamed it. But Aquaman produces his new hand... made of some sort of mystical water.
The Cover: To be honest, I prefer the Previews cover to this version. I guess I just like the image of Aquaman bursting from the sea over the "stare at the water hand" concept.
As for the story... where to start?
Ok, let's start with the three page dream sequence that opens the book. Lots of images here, two of them strike me as wrong. First nitpick: Arthur Curry, the lighthouse keeper, had a beard (as shown in Legend of Aquaman). The bottom right panel of the first page looks odd because of that. Second nitpick: Kako was an eskimo who followed the traditional ways. She would never have worn a shirt like shown on the second page panel in Aquaman's presence. There wasn't any time in their relationship for that anyway (as seen in Time and Tide #3). Someone should have given the artist and editor copies of Time and Tide and Legend of Aquaman for reference. Luckily, those are fairly minor nits that only an Aquaman fan like myself would pick up on.
Otherwise, the sequence is ok. Aquaman is no stranger to vision quests, and while every image doesn't make perfect sense, the guy just spent 15 years in the past as a water wraith. Things aren't going to make perfect sense for him for some time.
Moving on, you all remember Rodunn, right? Head of security for Atlantis, acted as Aquaman's bodyguard during Jurgens' run. He was a character that Dan Jurgens created and introduced. He's got the same role in the new Atlantis, and his job in this book is to put Aquaman to death. What is unclear from the artwork is whether or not it is Rodunn himself who tells Aquaman that the modern Atlanteans learned sorcery from Gamemnae in the past. From a quick comparison between panels, I'd say that it isn't. But that begs the question, if that isn't Rodunn, who is it? NOTE: An e-mail to Rick Veitch determined that, yes, the speaking character is Rodunn all the way through, so boom goes that mystery.
Aquaman's injuries are worth a note. Before attaching him to the reef, the Atlanteans drag him around the water and use shocks to confuse him. When Aquaman escapes from the reef, the soldiers fire "high caliber coral sharp enough to penetrate even my skin." Seems that Veitch understands that a guy who lives underwater has strong skin. When he tries to slip into the hidden cove, crabs attack him. As he's already wounded from the coral, the pinchers probably don't feel too good. In any case, the reason he is dying so quickly isn't his outdated one-hour limit, it's from loss of blood along with everything else. As he himself points out, just attached to the reef, it'll take him several hours to die.
We don't learn until later in the book that the Atlantean "Traitor Reef" is off the coast of Western Ireland. However, put that little piece of info in with the book young Aquaman was reading with Curry in his dream and the mysterious lake and you've got yourself a tie-in to a legend.
And then, Aquaman throws his "sword" into the lake, of course.
A word about the harpoon. Aquaman originally put it on his arm to remind himself of the limitations he had placed upon himself over the years, and as a reminder of all he had lost. As long as the harpoon remained on his hand, Aquaman was, in effect, punishing himself for his actions. By throwing it into the lake, Aquaman is throwing away what is left of his past. He's going to die anyway, he might as well die free of that last reminder of failure.
Getting to the lake itself, it's definitely not on any map. The lady of the lake calls it the "waters of truth", and suggests that there is something missing in Arthur's heart. She removes her garter from her leg and uses it to fashion a wristband for him, one that will "restore" his hand. Those are bits I definitely don't recall as being in the King Arthur legend, but I haven't read much of the legend beyond what everyone seems to hear as a child. Anyone feel the need to enlighten me? Is there a parallel there I'm missing?
And also, when J'onn spots Aquaman's harpoon, it is stuck in a stone. Fitting.
Ok, now for the question time:
Very much a set-up issue, which might not have been the best start. On the other hand, it's coming off of a long Aquaman story in JLA, so things needed to be set-up. I hope people will be interested enough to pick up the second issue, because I see lots of promise in this new direction.
The Previews Cover: OH WOW! When I first went hunting for Alex Maleev art, I just wasn't sure what to expect when he tackled Aquaman as a subject. I was thinking that we'd probably get a moody piece, heavy and dark. I wasn't expecting this. The image of the chained Aquaman, wrapped by a tentacle, breaking free from the depths... it's perfect! Add in the fantastic coloring, and we've got a real winner here.
To add to the fun, of course, is the fact that this was Aquaman's first solo appearance on the cover of Previews Magazine. This piece headlined the Oct/Dec Previews front cover (Robotech is on the back) and also the art for the first page of the Direct Currents (DC solicitations) section of Previews. DC is definitely promoting this book. Let's just hope it works.
Here's the preview from my site, put up on September 16th, 2002 (with the original promo art as first seen at comicon.com):
Writer: Rick Veitch
Pencils: Yvel Guichet
Inks: Mark Propst
Cover: Alex Maleev
Cover Date: February 2003
32 pages, $2.50
Release Date: 11 December 2002
Hated. Exiled. Left to die. Aquaman is going back to his roots, but not willingly. Where will Aquaman go if the oceans and all life within them reject him?
Aquaman got a Previews feature article in the DC section of the October/December 2002 Previews:
Banished from Atlantis! Branded a traitor! Every denizen of the deep programmed to deliver him a death sentence…
It’s Aquaman as you’ve never seen him before!
The King of the Seven Seas makes his long-anticipated return to monthly comics with AQUAMAN — a new ongoing series that combines the talents of acclaimed storyteller Rick Veitch (GREYSHIRT: INDIGO SUNSET, Brat Pack), hot young penciller Yvel Guichet (JLA, BATMAN: HARLEY QUINN), inker Mark Propst, and stunning cover artist Alex Maleev (Daredevil, BATMAN: NO MAN’S LAND), to deliver an exciting new era in the life of the underwater crusader.
The aftermath of the epic JLA storyline “The Obsidian Age” has left Aquaman hated by his former subjects and exiled from the life-giving ocean he once called home. The king they called Orin is judged guilty of high treason for crimes committed during “The Obsidian Age.” His sentence: death. Left to perish on an exposed reef, Aquaman discovers — to his horror — that all the creatures of the sea are instructed to attack him without mercy, and that he must now turn to other bodies of water for sanctuary. In a mysterious freshwater lake he finds refuge and much more, as he is granted amazing new powers and a brand-new mission in life! The oceans may be off-limits, but the Lady of the Lake has presented him with his true destiny.
AQUAMAN presents a refreshing new take on this classic, fan-favorite character — delivering amazing new adventures that readers never expected to see, and surprises as only Veitch can provide!
This project is supported with a full-color poster, house and trade ads, and a minisite at www.dccomics.com.
AQUAMAN is an ongoing series edited by Dan Raspler. The 32-page issue #1 arrives in comic-book stores December 11 with a cover price of $2.50 U.S.
From DC Comics:
Four upcoming DC Universe projects will be featured in advance preview pages in select DCU titles as part of a special advertising insert in November.
These projects - AQUAMAN, GOTHAM CENTRAL, SUPERMAN: METROPOLIS, and H-E-R-O - are already generating buzz among fans who are sure to greet these preview pages with enthusiasm. Each preview will include a cover and five story pages in full color on glossy paper and will be featured for one week during November. These eight-pages inserts will be bound into the center of all participating books.
"It's a cost-effective tool to promote four new titles with the kind of innovative advertising that continues to keep the cost of our books as low as possible," says Bob Wayne, DC's Vice President - Sales & Marketing. "I applaud our ad sales department for instigating this tool and the DC editorial group for its efforts to make it happen."
"Retailers are advised to take this promotion into consideration when they place their orders for each of these four titles," adds Wayne. "Once readers sample them, they're sure to want to pick up the debut issues."
The preview pages for AQUAMAN #1 (a December in store book by Rick Veitch, Yvel Guichet and Mark Propst) are scheduled for inserts in the following books scheduled to be in stores on November 6: