Aquaman Annual #2
Title: Aquaman Legends of the Dead Earth
Cover Title: -none-
Cover Date: 1996
Theme: Legends of the Dead Earth
Writer: Peter David
Pencils: Ed Hannigan
Inks: Steve Mitchell
Colors: Gene D'Angelo
Lettering: Kevin Cunningham
Asst. Editor: Eddie Berganza
Editor: Kevin Dooley
Cover Price: $2.95
Two storytellers meet in the middle of a long treacherous bridge. The way is too narrow to pass, and the way back long. Rather than fight or give way, they decide to have a storytelling contest to see who must retrace his steps.
The first storyteller tells of his favorite hero, a good king who lived in the city of Atlantis in the middle of a desert and doled out water. One day, this king, Aquaman, decides to travel to other cities and find out what people think of him. He leaves his advisor Ajay in charge. At the city of New Phoenix he meets a whore who claims that she is better than the king. She thinks he wants people to beg for water, and gets his jollies from that. He gives her some water and leaves. In a tavern he tries to toast the king, and is called mad and attacked. The people there hate the king because they think he thinks he is superior. They quickly learn, though, that this guy is the king. He goes back, only stopping when a child offers kindness, and when he holds court again, he allows New Phoenix more water, despite what they said to and about him.
The second storyteller laughs at the story, claiming it is tripe. And then he tells of the historical Aquaman:
Aquaman was a marauder who lived in the floating city of Poseidonis, claiming 3/4 of the Earth, all the water, to be his domain. He and his son, Koryak, would not let any vessel to pass across the sea, whether on the sea or in air, without paying a tribute to him. The heroes of the land decide to take him out, but fail. Ocean Master and Black Manta say they can take him out, but they want untold wealth and immortality. The heroes agree. Ocean Master and Black Manta attack, but Aquaman won't fight back because he is sworn to protect all sea life, and they ride a giant Manta Ray. They circle the city, broadcasting that Aquaman is afraid to fight them, until Koryak can't stand it and attacks them. He kills Manta. The Manta Ray, without its master, goes mad and kills Koryak. Then Ocean Master and Aquaman battle, and the city is destroyed.
The first storyteller doesn't like the second's story, and claims to be descended from Aquaman, his family's greatest hero. The second claims to be descended from Aquaman, his family's greatest villain. The two battle... like brothers.
The art in this book is passable, but not terribly impressive.
Good King Aquaman's sword is Garth, and has powers of heat and cold. He is guided on his journey at night by the constellation Dolphin. Ajay, his advisor, is rumored to be his son, though nearly the same age as him.
The Marauder Aquaman had been told by Blue Dolphin, a clairvoyant, that battling his brother would cause the destruction of his city. So he is afraid to face Ocean Master, his brother.
Although they win, niether Ocean Master or Black Manta are around to collect their reward.
The first storyteller has a charm that looks like Aquaman's hook. The second has a charm that has a hook shape cut out of it.
The implications of this story are interesting. Peter David is setting up a complex Aquaman, one who could be either hero or villain, depending on your point of view. After all, if you were living in Japan when Aquaman attacked with Poseidonis, I'm sure you didn't think of Aquaman as a hero. By the same token, if you are one of the many people he's saved, he certainly is a hero to you. It all depends on how history looks back at you.
Ok, for an Elseworlds. Except for the thoughts on what PAD is setting up, not really good for much else.