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Aquaman: Unspoken Water

After the Drowned Earth series, Aquaman’s fate is revealed in this new series by Kelly Sue DeConnick. This story begins with the amnesia trope as Arthur has washed up on a remote island, called Unspoken Water, and is saved by a beautiful young woman Caillie. He has no memory of his past and is hesitant of the water.  The few island inhabitants are a strange lot and later reveal that Caillie is the daughter of a sea witch that was banished long ago.

The story then moves into a complicated mythology-heavy narrative about revenge. The island inhabitants, not surprisingly, are not what they seem, nor is Caillie. When Caillie and Arthur try to find her mother Namma to end the curse on the island, they get more than they bargained for. Mera had an incredibly small role in this story, and although I assume Arthur has not been missing long, she is being encouraged to remarry as this story has The Odyssey overtones. Later she realizes he is alive, so hopefully, this remarriage nonsense will be put to rest. The end of this volume promises a future battle with Namma, and I would hope it also includes Arthur reclaiming his identity and reuniting with Mera later in this series.

The art was outstanding, with Robson Rocha and Daniel Henriques visualizing DeConnick’s tale in a beautiful way. The water scenes, with waves crashing, made you feel as though you really were surrounded by the ocean. The pages showcasing the ten Gods as they merged between their human form and their godly form included great detail and I spent some time looking up the Gods along with their cultural connections and history. The coloring was vivid and brought the creatures to life as they burst out of the panels.  The only minor issue I had was in Loc’s human portrayal, as it was an unnecessary caricature.

As I’ve been on an Aquaman and Mera kick lately, I was pleased to receive this advance copy of the graphic novel through NetGalley. It is always interesting to see different author’s and artist’s versions of a character, but of course, there are some adaptations that will be more favored. In my case, it was Geoff Johns’ The New 52 that I have liked best, as this story became quite muddled in the middle with the mythology angle. I might look into the aforementioned Drowned Earth series, because all the Aquaman and Mera books I have read have been stand-alone stories, and I want to see them involved in the Justice League as integral members of the team.

-Nancy

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Mera: Tidebreaker – Take²

This is the second time in recent memory I’ve accidentally read and reviewed a graphic novel that Nancy has read first… I must be slipping in my old age =P

Mera, princess of the underwater kingdom of Xebel, is exasperated at her kingdom’s continued deference to Atlantis. The Atlanteans want peace, but at the oppression of every other kingdom around them. Mera knows she can change that and defeat her enemies once she takes the throne. Only problem with that is, her father the king has promised Larken, Mera’s betrothed from the Kingdom of Trench, the throne if he can find and kill the Prince of Atlantis. The infuriated Mera decides to take matters into her own hands to claim her rightful throne. She makes her way to the surface to find the long-lost Prince of Atlantis and assassinate him. Arthur Curry turns out to be much different than she imagined, and slowly he becomes less of a target and more of an innocent… and perhaps something more than that. Can Mera fulfill her quest for vengeance and justice for her people, and claim the throne that is her birthright?

I skimmed this one after a while as the story bored me (plus there was an SVU marathon on, and I’d rather route all immediate brain bandwidth to that!). I’d put the reading level at upper middle-grade, and it definitely showed in the classic love-triangle (rectangle if we’re including Arthur’s girlfriend at the beginning of the story) romance trope. Mera herself flip-flopped from being ruthless to lovestruck (with both boys) so fast, I got whiplash. There were plot points that were confusing and not explained clearly. For example, why was Mera’s watch able to work out of the water? Wouldn’t it break if exposed to air for extended amounts of time, like our devices would if exposed to water? That is seriously bothering me and I need an answer X,D

The art was unique. It was rendered in shades of the same bottle glass greens and blues, with Mera’s red hair as the only other color. The characters were rendered expressively, with a style that reminded me a little of Burnside Batgirl, which is appropriate as that run was also aimed at teen and middle grade readers at the start.

Nancy and I seem to be in agreement on this one. For the target audience, this is a heartstring-pulling, feminist ode to your favorite aquatic princess. For everyone else, it’s a bit of a slog. Skip it yourself, but definitely pick it up for your library’s youth collection or the young comic-lover in your life.

– Kathleen

Paige, Danielle, and Stephen Byrne. Mera: Tidebreaker. 2019.

Mera: Tidebreaker

DC Ink is trying to capture the teen crowd by having established YA authors give some of their heroes new origin stories. In this outing, Danielle Paige reimages a teen-aged Mera meeting Arthur Curry for the first time. The timing is good, as the Jason Mamoa Aquaman movie is still fresh in people’s minds, plus I myself read two Aquaman graphic novels recently.

Mera is introduced as a rebel warrior princess of the underwater kingdom Xebel. Xebel is currently under the domain of the stronger Atlantis, and the inhabitants are chafing under their rule. Mera and a friend are caught defacing property, but a palace guard diverts attention from the Atlantanians so Mera can escape. The king later establishes that he wishes Mera to marry a prince in a neighboring kingdom, and later gives him a directive to find and kill Atlantian heir Arthur, as to establish Xebel dominance. Mera decides to do this herself and leaves to go on shore to find Arthur on her own. She quickly finds him, but things keep on happening to prevent her from carrying out her mission. Will she be able to kill Arthur when she has a chance, even after discovering he is kind and unaware of his heritage?

The art by Stephen Bryne establishes Mera as the center of attention by keeping the entire color palate in muted green and blue ocean colors, except for Mera’s distinctive red hair. Bryne creates an appealing underwater world with varied sea creatures but also renders realistic portrayals of people below the ocean and then later in Amnesty Bay. I appreciate that he did not draw Mera as a bombshell, instead he drew a lovely but not too developed teen-age girl. She even wore flats to a dance! But…why in the world was Arthur  given dark hair? In all DC comics he is a blonde, so I wondered if this is a nod to the Momoa version on screen? It truly felt wrong to me.

The story had some huge holes you could drive a truck through. Plus it had insta-love which is a plot device that I hate. However, I believe it will be liked by the audience it is shooting for- teens. It was a solid origin story for a brand new audience that won’t get hung up on it not matching past established canon. I was able to read this story before it was published as I received an online copy through NetGalley. However, they put an embargo on reviews until it’s publication date on April 2nd, making me think they were not confident that it would be reviewed well. Another blogger clued me in this is standard with DC online books, but still. Nonetheless, as a marker of how I feel a teen audience will like it, I already have placed an order for it for my work library for the YA collection.

-Nancy

Aquaman: The Trench & The Others

Geoff Johns take on Aquaman is an absolute winner! He crafts the often maligned superhero into a charismatic and appealing champion of the people, that, dare I say, is now my favorite DC hero!

Volume One: The Trench

Straight off, Johns takes Aquaman’s reputation by the horns and addresses how many people perceive him as a joke. Poor guy- he’s been mocked on SNL and his abilities to communicate with sea animals is ridiculed. Despite his rugged good looks, powerful physique and amazing powers, he is often looked down upon.

But as the story progresses we get to know Arthur the man, not just Aquaman the hero. We are introduced to Mera, a princess of Xebel (which is a breakaway nation from Atlantis), who has joined Arthur on land. I adored their relationship; it was balanced, loving and free of drama. I’m warning you DC, don’t ruin this relationship! The two of them fight some aquatic monsters that come out of a deep trench in the ocean and are terrorizing Amnesty Bay. Their decisions on how to deal with the monsters help with character development, and this first volume ably gives you enough flashbacks and insights to Arthur’s past for readers to understand who Aquaman is.

Volume Two: The Others

This second volume tries to give more of Arthur’s backstory, and we find out that before Mera met him, he was part of a motley group of second-tier heroes called The Others that discovered, and subsequently protected, Atlantean weapons. Black Manta, Arthur’s arch enemy, tracks down some of these members to steal these artifacts to use against Aquaman. We also get to know marine biologist Dr. Stephen Shin, who helped Arthur develop his powers as a child, but betrayed him and his father, hoping for recognition for his work.

This story was more convoluted, and I had to refer to the website Comic Vine to keep track of The Others and their powers. Plus, there was one member, Ya’Wara, a sexualized hottie who wore a string bikini in Siberia. Come on now. It made me yearn for Arthur to become involved in the Justice League and for him to become a member of that team.  Still loving on Mera and Arthur in this volume!

Now let’s talk about the art. It’s fantastic! Ivan Reis impressively draws Arthur and Mera. The seascapes are beautifully rendered and richly colored in. He includes many one or two page spreads and drew the ocean creatures with precision. While the story line redeemed the character of Aquaman, it was the drawings that upgraded the story as a whole and made me fall in love with Arthur and Mera.

Johns was the perfect author to develop Arthur’s story. Kathleen’s review of the movie Aquaman showed that Johns’ screen-writing contribution to the movie elevated it above many of DC’s preceding disappointing adaptations of the DCEU (except for Wonder Woman -that was beyond good!). Johns has a handle on the DC characters and has penned previous novels such as Green Lantern, The Flash: Rebirth, Batman: Earth One and Forever Evil (although in this event book, Johns did not include Aquaman!!!).

I like how DC is developing both versions of Aquaman in books and on screen parallel to one another. Although Aquaman is now often portrayed with a beard, illustrators aren’t trying to make him look like Jason Momoa. Fans are intelligent enough to accept this, and one version doesn’t have to subvert the other. And while I truly am a fan of Momoa, I’m glad the comics are keeping Arthur as the blonde version that has been around for decades. I hope between this new adaptation of Aquaman’s story, along with any stories found in the Justice League comics, he gets the recognition and respect he deserves.

-Nancy

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