Review: Green Arrow/Aquaman: Deep Target trade paperback (DC Comics)


I appreciate the creative thinking that went into Aquaman/Green Arrow: Deep Target as a project — these two heroes, neither particularly similar to the other (beside a penchant for facial hair), neither even sharing a cinematic universe, but having debuted in the same comic some 80 years ago, getting their first miniseries together.

The sensible nonsense of it all is wonderful, and writer Brandon Thomas keeps that spirit throughout the book, which sees Green Arrow and Aquaman dealing with time travel, secret moon bases, and rampaging dinosaurs. It is as zany as you might want a comic to be. Which is why it’s so unfortunate that despite the great layers of sci-fi complication that Thomas piles on here, he forgets the most important element — celebrating Aquaman and Green Arrow.

I have enjoyed two other recent Aqua-related projects by Thomas, his Future State: Aquaman story and his Aquaman: The Becoming, and his penchant for deft narrative swerves is on display here. But it should perhaps tell you everything you need to know to say that for a book promoting 80 years of Aquaman and Green Arrow, Mera is never mentioned here, nor Black Canary, nor Speedy nor Aqualad (any of them), nor Topo and Xeen Arrow, nor a harpoon hand, nor nearly any iconic attribute of these two heroes that you might think of.

Instead, Thomas hangs the emotional heft of Deep Target largely just on one attribute of Aquaman (to the point of really ignoring Green Arrow), and it’s an attribute that — by the most prominent Aquaman continuities of the day — isn’t even true! This is markedly disturbing (and would be even more so if Thomas were continuing as an Aqua-scribe past the Aquamen miniseries), that not only did the prospective ongoing Aquaman writer not do the requisite research to know Aquaman’s general status quo, but neither too did any of the book’s editors catch the error in the planning stages.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

It would be easy to fault Aquaman/Green Arrow: Deep Target for not really being an Aquaman or Green Arrow-type story, what with the time travel and the moon and all. But had Thomas taken a JLA/Avengers approach, letting artist Ronan Cliquet draw the various eras and supporting casts of the title heroes (as the variant covers, unfortunately, erroneously suggest), something still might have been made of all this. Instead, it is Green Arrow and Aquaman, and it is a rollicking story in a good way, but it’s much less than what it could have been.

[Review contains spoilers]

Arthur Curry becomes Green Arrow here and Oliver Queen becomes Aquaman. I guess — to go there — to bring in Mera and Black Canary is to invite the problem of presenting two men who’ve switched bodies alongside the other man’s romantic partner — but surely there are non-prurient ways Thomas could write around this.

Instead, Dinah and Mera are completely out of the picture, and so goes really the only thing Oliver and Arthur have in common. Different power sets, different origins — they are not even, depending your continuity, each orphans like Superman and Batman. Perhaps the most salient similarity between these two particular heroes is their consistent status as part of the DCU’s biggest power couples (all four even having served in the Justice League), and Thomas never goes anywhere near it1 — nor that they’ve mentored sidekicks, nor that nowadays both of them are fathers, even.

A lot of what drives the action instead, astoundingly, is that Aquaman mourns the death of his mother — that his Atlantean “super powers” are the heritage of his mother, and without his powers (trapped, as he is, in Oliver Queen’s body), he’s lost the last vestige he had of his mother. Who is dead. We know so, because the final scene of this book shows Arthur and Oliver standing over Atlanna’s tomb.

Except … she’s not dead. She’s not dead because Atlanna was shown not to be dead in Jeff Parker’s New 52 Aquaman Vol. 6: Maelstrom, and nothing since has contradicted that (Aquaman’s continuity, more than most, seemed to hold firm from the New 52 to Rebirth to now, at least in part because of that very connection to Mera and the Jason Momoa movie). And we might even grant an exception for movie continuity were Atlanna dead there, but indeed the Aquaman movie takes its cues from Maelstrom in terms of Atlanna being alive. So, in neither of the two most salient places Thomas could have taken from is there any basis for this being a convincing motivation for Aquaman.2

This core messiness makes the book’s other messiness seem more egregious. Take the fourth chapter, “Tabula Rasa,” in which the heroes find themselves on the moon. Thomas seems to have a good rhythm — Arthur, sans powers, freaking out, while Oliver, with Aquaman’s powers, protects him; but a few pages later, Thomas seems to have forgotten what he’s set up, with Oliver now the one panicking and Arthur calming him.

A couple pages later, in one panel, Arthur and Oliver are together, talking about the moon base’s armory, and then in the very next panel, Oliver has disappeared, Arthur is in the armory, and somehow they’ve established radio communication. Some pages after that, the word balloons have an error, making it seem like both are on comms when Arthur is in the present scene; a couple pages after that, when Arthur and Oliver crash land in the “Atlantic Ocean … 40 miles east of Amnesty Bay” (so not out in the wilds by any means), a giant octopus tries to kill them for … no reason given. The final chapter suffers from an excess of place-setting narration (“The moon,” “Later,” “Soon,” and “The moon” again in rapid succession).

It’s all unfortunate because, again, this is a time travel story with plenty fun, crazy-weird elements — the characters are stuck in a loop in which they’ve done some of this before, their initial enemy becomes their ally through the vagaries of alternate timelines, and so on. And Thomas is a creative writer who regularly makes good use of narrative tricks — his Future State and Becoming stories both had scenes given new meaning by later reveals of what came before. We see that in Deep Target too — a heist sequence with the action overlaid on the planning, a couple scenes shown in parallel from each hero’s perspective, and so on.



After the very good Aquaman: The Becoming, I was excited for Brandon Thomas' Aquamen. After Aquaman/Green Arrow: Deep Target, my expectations are more tempered. This book feels like a big miss for a writer meant to be writing Aquaman; hopefully it proves to be the exception in Thomas' Aquaman work and not the rule.

[Includes original and variant covers, character designs, cover sketches]

  1. And we even know, given Aquaman: The Becoming, that Thomas writes a great Mera.  ↩

  2. If we really want to read into it, it does appear that Aquaman ends up in his orange shirt–green pants costume late in the story, suggesting this story maybe takes place right before Parker‘s Maelstrom. But this Arthur has long hair and a beard, which that Arthur did not; also, the Arthur–as–Oliver in this story has the Jason Momoa tattoos sported by the Kelly Sue DeConnick Aquaman, well past Maelstrom, such that for the majority of this book we have no reason to think Arthur isn’t verily the 2020s Aquaman. Whether this falls down in the research or the details, it still falls down.  ↩

Comments ( 2 )

  1. Curious about the description of your ratings for i've only seen 2-4s. Is 2 your lowest while 4 your highest?

    1. I appreciate how observant you are! Y'know, last year I felt my ratings were too high, so this year I tried to keep about 2.5 as the starting point and go from there. Ended up that a lot of books got 2.25 or 2.5, without a lot of variance. It's something I'm still working on, trying to find a rating system that will accurately match how I felt about a book.


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