Peter David is a big name in comic books, especially with regards to certain characters; Hulk and X-Factor over at Marvel Comics, and most notably Aquaman and Supergirl for DC Comics. Internet fandom seems to nearly all side on giving Peter David’s run high praise, but to be honest, this is a character and run that does not particularly grab my attention. Aquaman is a very niche character that does not always do well sustaining a strong title for the long haul (despite repeated attempts), and if it was not for finding a used copy, I may have otherwise skipped over this entirely in my current spree of acquisitions.
This first book, which collects the four part Aquaman: Time & Tide miniseries and the first nine issues of the fifth volume is… a difficult read, on many levels. For one, despite the relative short gap between the miniseries and the new volume, the tones in these two different projects are nearly night and day. Aquaman: Time & Tide, while an adept attempt at wiping the origin slate a bit and tidying up some dangling threads, is actually cringeworthy in many ways some twenty five years on. The fifth volume does not kick off particularly well, either. There are some questionable appearances by other DC characters (Lobo in the fourth issue) and then some really questionable appearances (Superboy in the third issue) that demonstrate David’s desire to root his Aquaman narrative into the main DC Universe, having been at the peripheral the last several years prior. This is seemingly impeded by the guest star choices, and it is uncertain if bigger, more obvious characters were either off-limits, or of little interest to David.
On the flip side, the opening arc does give us that infamous moment where Arthur’s hand was eaten off by piranhas (hey, he is one of the very few Golden or Silver Age DC character who did not get killed off in the 90s… that in itself is something worth celebrating), and a much edgier hero as a result. One wants to also say darker, however the lighter moments in this title do not paint such a picture. And that is the dichotomy that Peter David does manage quite well; sometimes Arthur Curry is Aquaman, a hero at the time eyed suspiciously by the surface world, or as King of Atlantis, but never really himself, in many ways. These stories depicting this gruff, almost pirate-like persona at least tries to take the character into new directions, and this is in fact one of Peter Davis greatest additions to the character’s mythos.
In many ways, this book could be compared to that of a first season of nearly any television show. The basic premise is there; you just need the time to set characters and plots out, and you hope it is enough to keep going. Visually, this collection showcases the work of Martin Egeland, Jim Calafiore and others, each with their own distinctive flair for the character, while keeping him instantly recognizable. Essential comic book reading? No. Essential Aquaman reading? One still has to acknowledge what Peter David brought to the character overall, and say yes.
Collects: Aquaman Time & Tide 1-4 & Aquaman (Vol. 5) 0-8