Review: Aquaman Vol. 2: Amnesty hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Aquaman Vol. 2: Amnesty is a lot more set-up than superhero action, but if this is an indication of what Kelly Sue DeConnick's Aquaman run will truly be like, I'm all for it. Last time around featured an amnesic Arthur Curry among some esoteric water gods — a blank slate story that didn't feel much related to Aquaman necessarily. This second volume, however, is thoroughly set in the mythos Arthur has occupied since the New 52 and into Rebirth, and DeConnick excels in simply putting the characters in rooms and letting them talk to one another. There's a heavy dose of court politics here, plus a sprinkling of sea-supernatural and even a couple of supervillains. But again, the core seems to be the characters — many of them familiar — and that's far, far better than the book starting over from scratch.

[Review contains spoilers]

In terms of "talkiness," Amnesty's structure is interesting — two issues telling Arthur's origin and recent history in flashback, an issue that largely consists of Arthur chatting with Wonder Woman and a history of his home of Amnesty Bay, an issue of Arthur and new Aqualad Jackson Hyde hanging out, and then finally a closing battle with a sea monster. Essentially, it seems DeConnick is using the "six issues to a trade" (five, here) format as it was perhaps best intended — not feeling the need to slot in an action sequence every issue, but rather just letting the story build naturally to its conclusion. Further, eschewing something like Arthur and Jackson fighting and then teaming up in their first meeting (rather, Arthur takes Jackson to go help a couple displaced gods move) allows us to build up some affection for Jackson as a person before the action comes.

DeConnick's own paradigm for Aquaman isn't entirely clear, I'd mention. Apparently the formerly amnesic "Andy," now restored to Arthur, is more a denizen of the whole ocean now than just Atlantis, and acquainted with the water gods of a couple of different cultures, but he's not particularly different in terms of powers or motivations, so much as we've seen. Those water gods are still around, mostly in the form of alter kockers (like Aquaman's own personal Guardians of the Universe), though largely indistinguishable from one another in terms of personality; they're not so much supporting cast individually as they are as a group. That said, there is some very basic joy in seeing the newly movie-tattooed Aquaman palling around with a bunch of wily elderly, as if Jason Momoa headed a movie with the cast of Cocoon, and that in and of itself justifies the water gods' presence.

Among revelations in Amnesty — and here, perhaps, is where DeConnick is beginning to build atop the mythos set before her — is that Arthur's childhood home of Amnesty Bay gets its name from the neighboring island of Amnesty, and that Amnesty itself contains a lighthouse, much like the lighthouse that Arthur lives in. That perhaps stretches believability mildly — here's this island right next door that's been there all along but no one mentioned it — but the concepts that DeConnick offers are cool, the legend of a disgraced sea captain turned author who lived in the lighthouse, whose ghost stories might yet contain a bit of truth. The author Tristram Maurer's ominous return from the dead at the end of Amnesty is a great cliffhanger. Black Manta is around, so we know we're going to get into more traditional superheroics soon, but in the meantime Aquaman dealing with sea ghosts is the kind of tonally appropriate storyline I don't think we've seen here much before (not at least in the last few years), and that's a good thing indeed.

Another revelation is that Aquaman's fiancee Mera is pregnant. Obviously this holds much connotation within the Aquaman mythos — the question is not so much as to whether Mera will give birth but, with Manta around, what happens afterward. We also learn that apparently there was a gap between the end of Justice League/Aquaman: Drowned Earth and DeConnick's Aquaman Vol. 1: Unspoken Water, that Arthur did not just seemingly die at the end of Drowned Earth and then wash up on the shores of limbo in Unspoken, but rather that he was around for a while after, recuperating and spending time with Mera — and that Mera killed him in a fit of rage after Arthur's uncertain response to her pregnancy.

I had already found it problematic that Mera's small role in Unspoken revolved around whether she would marry someone else (cheat on Arthur, though she believed him dead) or remain faithful. Now we find the situation a bit more complicated, but worse — now DeConnick casts Mera as the irrational woman who can't control her emotions and hurts people (the irrational pregnant woman, no less), which is a troublesome trope. It is funny when DeConnick has Wonder Woman deride Arthur for his behavior ("She told you she was pregnant and your response was, 'Excuse me, I need to leave now?' I might've killed you, too"), but in all, surprisingly, I haven't found Mera faring so well in DeConnick's story.

But that's largely balanced by DeConnick's great use of a variety of figures from the Dan Abnett and Geoff Johns run, including Officer Erika Watson and her fiance Dwayne, Tula, and Aqualad Jackson Hyde. As such, again, even as Unspoken Water felt like starting over, Amnesty feels like picking up where this book left off — and as much as I liked Abnett's Aquaman, that's great. Jackson's presence is a long time coming on this book, something that started just before the New 52 and then got derailed, and DeConnick's banter between the two is also funny — better so far than the often angsty relationship between Flash Barry Allen and his newest Kid Flash.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Aquaman Vol. 2: Amnesty

Again, I really wasn't sure where Kelly Sue DeConnick was headed with all of this after her first volume, but Aquaman Vol. 2: Amnesty feels like all we might hope for from a writer starting their run almost fifty issues into a title — acknowledgments of what came before and new, relevant storylines on the horizon. The next Aquaman volume isn't out until the summer, and all of the sudden that seems a long time to wait.

[Includes original and variant covers (is there anyone better than Josh Middleton?), sketchbook by Viktor Bogdanovic]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Aquaman Vol. 2: Amnesty
Author Rating
4.25 (scale of 1 to 5)


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