The Legend of Aquaman
Title: The Legend of Aquaman
Cover Date: 1989
Plot and Layouts: Keith Giffen
Script: Robert Loren Fleming
Pencils: Curt Swan
Inks: Eric Shanower
Colors: Tom McCraw
Lettering: Agustyn Mas
Editor: Mark Waid
Cover: Curt Swan and Eric Shanower
Cover Price: $2.00
The baby that survived being exposed on Mercy Reef could only recall a vague image of his mother's face. Even more amazing than his survival in the air was his continued survival under the water. As a young man, the child met a lighthouse keeper who became his friend and companion, teaching him language and human nature. As a man, the child returned one day from a daily swim to find his adopted father gone (presumably dead), and left to wander the oceans again. The only thing that the keeper had left to give the boy was a name, his name. Arthur Curry.
Young Arthur explored the land and sea, and finally found Atlantis. He was captured by the current oppressive rulers and imprisoned. During the course of his imprisonment, he met Vulko, a scientist and political prisoner, and saw a woman he believed was his mother. When the woman died, nothing held him in the city any longer, and he escaped.
He eventually became a crime fighter, joined the Justice League, was called a hero. He needed to return to Atlantis, for it was the only place still closed to him.
He goes back expecting a fight, but the gates are wide open, and the place that was once his prison is a museum. He learns of the famous revolt, led by his former teacher, Vulko. He finds out that the woman he believes is his mother was the Queen, and that he is King of Atlantis by right.
The king comes to talk with him as the word of Arthur's parentage spreads, and offers him the throne. Arthur refuses, and only a lot of pressure from both Vulko and the king, and more information about why he was abandoned, help to sway him. He learns that his mother did not know he was abandoned on Mercy Reef, she thought he was a crib death.
Arthur eventually accepts his heritage, and the throne that comes with it. And the rest of the story, we know: Arthur taking Garth under his wing, Arthur meeting, and marrying, Mera. Vulko practically ruling the kingdom while Arthur continues in the Justice League, and with his life. And finally, Arthur and Mera having a son...
...And the brutal tragedy of losing him.
Peter David wrote The Atlantis Chronicles shortly after this book came out, and was careful to not directly contradict anything in this book during his retooling of Aquaman's history. The only weak point is the fact that Aquaman recognizes his mother in Legend, but in Chronicles he was abandoned before his mother even saw his face. This could be partially explained by his telepathy, so I won't quibble.
Vulko becomes Arthur's undersea teacher, teaching him the language and culture of Atlantis. The lighthouse keeper, Arthur Curry, is his surface world teacher.
The changes from Aquaman's previous origin include the renaming of the lighthouse keeper to Arthur Curry from Tom Curry, and the changed parentage of Aquaman (from being the son of the lighthouse keeper and a Poseidonian to being the son of the Queen of Poseidonis and a mystery father).
This issue also gives the origin of the orange Aquaman uniform.
The art in this issue is excellent. I am particularly fond of the cover.
The art makes this book. The story is weak in places, and even embarrassing at points. But the art really makes up for it.