Mark Smith (co-creator of the Amazing Joy Buzzards, which was a really fun book) is coming out with a brand-new, all-color graphic novel next week from Image, called Aqua Leung. The artwork is being done by Paul Maybury. It is basically a riff on the idea of an Aquaman or a Namor, you know, an Atlantean baby raised as a human being brought back into the war of the seas. Trying out an indie graphic novel all in color is an extremely risky endeavor, and you have to give Smith a lot of credit for having the guts to go through with it. Ultimately, I think that the book is a good read, but it appears as though it was written with the intent of being a long form work, which I think was a significant detriment to the story at times.
When I say that the long form was detrimental, I will admit that I am construing Smith’s intent based solely on my reading of the comic, and I fully cop that I might be totally off-base here. Aqua Leung might have been intended to be a series at first, and then re-purposed as an original graphic novel, but it sure looks like it was written as a graphic novel. At times, the use of the long form is brilliant, like a scene where Aqua Leung is swallowed by a giant monster – with the amount of space available to them, Smith and Maybury use a goodly amount of pages just showing how big the monster’s jaw is. It is an awesome scene.
Later in the comic, there is a similar beautiful use of page space (that perhaps would have seemed out of place in a short form comic, where each individual page is that much more valuable) – check it out (Click on all images to enlarge):
Pretty darn cool, right?
However, writing for a long form often results in an attempt to, you know, FILL all those pages, and boy, does Aqua Leung feel like it has a lot of filler material. The whole framing sequence with the Millennium Tortoise was so booooooring. I was reading it, just thinking, “Okay, are we going to see the star of the book any time soon?” But once we actually get to Aqua Leung’s story, the book picks up tremendously.
Aqua is, as mentioned, is lost royalty of Atlantis, but first grows up in America, until his adoptive parents are murdered and he is caught up in the wars of Atlantis. Under the tutelage of Sonny, the fighting fish, Aqua defeats each of the various Atlantis rulers, and capturing their scepters of power, until Aqua is the king of all Atlantis (and, because he’s so powerful, basically the king of the world).
The story is filled with madcap action, and a lot of interesting visuals. Paul Maybury does a very nice job capturing all the energy Smith infuses into the script, and there are some crazy visuals in this book, but Maybury never misses a beat.
Here are a few sample pages from the story (from various points in the story)….
It’s an interesting story also because of how DARK the whole story is. As we open the story, we see that Aqua has become this despotic tyrant, and rules the world via the seas. So seeing him get to that point is interesting, because his early adventures are fairly light, but it slowly darkens and darkens, and this character that we’ve come to root for becomes someone perhaps we should not be rooting for, ya know? But that is for later volumes – we still definitely like Aqua Leung at the end of this volume.
I believe Smith has compared the story to Star Wars, and I think that’s a fine comparison, as it is a lot like Anakin becoming Darth Vador. I think a great way to look at it is also to think of a little kid wearing an oversized suit of armor – it’d look pretty silly, right? Well, what if that little kid then stabs you with a sword? That’s sorta like Aqua Leung is like – it is a kid who looks like everything is too big for him, but soon he will be, well, stabbing you with a sword. It’ll be interesting to see what Smith and Maybury have in store for future volumes.
By the by, a lot of the complaints I have about the “filler” materials is mostly at the beginning of the book, so it could also be a case of the creators getting more used to the format as they went along, as the book is stronger as it goes on.
All in all, I’d recommend you give this book a try. I think it was good enough to say…