“Aquaman” wraps up “The Trench” this month, and if there’s one thing that Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis can do well here, it’s make the ocean a dark and creepy place. With Aquaman himself (obviously) tied so closely to that setting, this is a good thing.
Up until this point, we’ve seen the invading creatures on the surface world, attacking humans and being the proverbial fish-out-of-water. Down in the trench in their own element, though, they’re somehow even nastier than before. Reis draws swarms of the creatures, them coming across as a school of the beings and that much more daunting. The darkness mixed with the blue glow gives it an otherworldly feel, and for the first time in a while it makes you feel like everyone is out of their depth (no pun intended).
Even as Johns wraps up “The Trench” we have a lot of set-up for future stories. The hints on the fate of Atlantis are hard to ignore, and while we get just enough information on how the creatures at the bottom of the trench are surviving, we don’t get the full story yet. In many ways, “The Trench” feels like part one of a much larger story; it’s a technique that Johns used on “Green Lantern” (with Reis as artist there, too) to great effect.
Johns also continues redefining Aquaman as a badass, and so far that’s working, too. Aquaman fans will no doubt like the new-found respect for the character that the supporting cast is giving him, but it’s worth mentioning that it’s respect that is earned in these issues, not just handed out. Johns is making him an effective hero on both land and sea. While it’s fair to say that he was in the past as well, Johns is upping Aquaman’s overall stature within the DC Universe to where it should have been all along.
The one complaint that I do have about “The Trench” is that when it does come to a conclusion, it does so at such a rapid speed that it feels like we’re missing out. I’m a big fan of stories not being stretched out beyond a needed length, but “Aquaman” actually feels like it could have used a fifth issue for “The Trench” and still satisfied readers. A lot will depend on what happens in 2012 for “Aquaman,” because with pieces of this story tied into future arcs, we’ll need to wait and see how well it all comes together down the line.
Overall, though, the re-launch of “Aquaman” feels like a resounding success. The comic is fun, it’s creepy, and Aquaman himself isn’t the sad sack that so many writers have seemed determined to portray him as over the past few years. So far, so good.