09th Sep2021

‘Aquaman 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular #1’ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Various | Art by Various | Published by DC Comics

You know the score by now with these 100 page anniversary specials. They are a celebration of some of the most iconic characters DC has on their roster, with a nice blend of multiple covers by great artists, around a dozen stories by different writers and artists and some bonus pin-ups. Pricey, but usually worth the money. Aquaman is certainly worthy of celebration, reaching 80 years in print is no mean feat after all, though he’s not always been such a celebrated character. Often the focus of ridicule in fact, despite being one of the longest serving members of the Justice League. I always liked the classic Aquaman personally, not so much the post-Peter David version, hook for hand and all. To each their own though. Which is lucky, as you can choose from the following 11 stories and eras. Let’s take a look.

Leading us off is Jeff Parker and Doc Shaner with ‘Foxtail’, a nice little story focusing on Arthur’s connection to sea creatures and his constant fight to stop mankind destroying their habitat. Nice enough. The second story focuses on Jackson Hyde, both the second Aqualad and son of Black Manta. In ‘Fathers Day’, Geoff Johns and Paul Pelletier look at his relationship with his father, who he secretly meets once a year. It’s a complicated meeting, one in which both ignore the fact the other is on the other side of the fence from themselves, and they try and focus on personal lives. Try. It ends the way it ends every year, with a fight. A symbolic fight, as Black Manta is never really there. He always sends a robot. Absent father in all regards it seems. Typical Geoff Johns, able to inject personality and interest into characters in a handful of pages. Enjoyed this one.

Next up, ‘Lady in the Lake’ by Michael Moreci and Pop Mhan, the Aqualad theme continues, but this time with the first Aqualad, Garth. Him and Arthur get tangled up with a sorceress, Moreci playing on with the King Arthur riff with a magic sword. It feels a little rushed, with only a few pages to play with, but nice enough. Story four I like straight away as Aquaman is wearing his legendary blue wave suit. ‘Multitudes’ by Stephanie Phillips and Hendry Prasetya sees Aquaman struggle with identity. King, JLA team leader, father, husband, brother. I like this story even more as the Atlantean wizard Arion guest stars, a favourite of mine. Two Kings of Atlantis, side by side. Cool. It’s a nice, affectionate take on Arthur Curry. Loved this one.

Next up is an affectionate look at early 70’s era Aquaman, with the Aqua family of Aquaman, Mera, and Aqualad in all their classic costume glory. ‘It’s A Family Affair’ sees Shawn Aldridge have far too much fun writing, and Tom Derenick delivering some gorgeous visuals. Aquaman’s training of a young Aqualad is interrupted by the reappearance of Aquabeast. Aquabeast is a weird Mera-obsessive who tried to become Aquaman, but became a more savage, stronger version. He’s played for comedy relief here, and it all works nicely. Fun stuff. ‘The Rhine Maidens’ is a complete change of pace, with dreamlike art from Trung Le Nguyen and a fairytale style script from Marguerite Bennett. Bit too offbeat for my taste, but as variety is the point of these collections it deserves a place in here.

‘Between Two Shores’ is more to my taste, with Cavan Scott and Scott Eaton showcasing long hair/ long beard King Arthur and Mera dealing with attacks on Atlantis. Family versus duty is the theme. Conventional stuff, but written and drawn nicely. ‘What Remains of a Storm’, by Dan Watters and Miguel Mendonca, is first and foremost a visual feast for the eyes. The art is gorgeous. The story’s not bad either, looking at the sibling rivalry and love/hate between Arthur and Ocean Master, told from both their points of view. Both brothers and forces of nature. Lovely stuff. ‘Rebellion’ follows by two of my favourite creators, Dan Jurgens and Steve Epting. This looks at King Arthur the statesman, how politics and your safety as monarch can be just as important as superheroics. Solid writing and art.

‘Red Sea’ by Chuck Brown and Valentine de Landro gives Black Manta the spotlight. It’s a nice enough few pages, but essentially just an intro for Black Manta’s solo book coming soon. Looks promising though. We end with ‘Foreshadow’, by Brandon Thomas and Diego Olortegui, which focuses on family, a recurring theme with the Aquabooks. Aquaman, Aqualad, Mer, and baby are all enjoying a nice break on a deserted beach, until Scavenger and his sea pirates turn up. Never a serious threat of course, but a plot device to emphasize the family dynamics. It’s ok, though the art was a little cartoony for me. I also can see how they are positioning Jackson to become the new Aquaman, which is not something I am particularly interested in. As I said earlier, to each their own.

As always, a nicely designed and delivered book. The pin ups and alternate covers were superb. The stories, as you would expect, were a mixed bag, with about half being top quality. I did think overall though Arthur Curry got less love than previous 80 page special characters did. The best stories for me were the ones that focused on his earlier days, and perhaps the collection didn’t look at legacy quite enough. Overall, though, a solid book with some nice stuff from great creators.

**** 4/5

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