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Aquaman Just Got His Own Bruce Banner - and a Kaiju Hulk

WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Aquaman #53, from Kelly Sue DeConnick, Robson Rocha, Eduardo Pansica, Daniel Henriques, Julio Ferreira, Sunny Gho and Clayton Cowles, on sale now.

Kelly Sue DeConnick's Aquaman run has been placing Arthur Curry in an emotional swell the likes of which he's never experienced before. Not only has he been officially cast out of Atlantis, he has no way of being near the feisty Queen Mera and their unborn baby, leaving him struggling to cope in Amnesty Bay. Recently, Aqualad/Jackson Hyde came calling, ready to become his apprentice and bring some order to Aquaman's life, but new tragedies have crept up that keep throwing the Justice Leaguer off balance.

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The latest upset comes in the form of Tristram J. Maurer, the famed horror writer who's a legend on the island. He's returned after hundreds of years missing, but that isn't the biggest shock of the story so far. Because as Arthur learns more, he discovers Tristram isn't just some writer or seaman from the 1700s, he's actually an aquatic version of Bruce Banner, except his Hulk is a devastating Kaiju.

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Issue #53 sees Arthur and Tristram getting to know each other better. The writer admits fate drew him to the bay and reveals when he was a kid he saw invisible monsters, sea creatures who'd bond with him as he lived there in squalor. As he grew into a sailor, things got rough on the seas one day and he was blamed for a shipwreck that killed many people. This led to the penance of building the lighthouse at Amnesty Bay, and after that, Tristram became a social pariah, a blight on the land and seas, according to his people.

He disappeared with his "beasties," and folks thought he eventually died due to alcoholism. He admits drink was the only way to keep his rage bottled up inside and the monsters at bay, no pun intended, but he doesn't divulge why exactly he left or where he went to. All we know is he returned in the last issue as the giant Kaiju that attacked the island, killing poor innocent Ralph in the process. This is why Arthur is wary of Tristram whens he admits the truth, confessing he can't control the beasts inside. Tristram tries to explain that the beasts don't go after innocent victims, dividing the council on his presence there. Some want vigilante justice, some want it by the book, while others want him dead. Arthur, though, knows they have to toe the line, because they won't like Tristram when he's angry, and they can't let the man think they're cold-blooded murderers.

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It's a tense situation, and they're all walking on eggshells because not even Arthur, the sea goddess Caille and Aqualad could stop the behemoth when it rampaged last, despite maxing out their powers. At this point, no one trusts Tristram, and he doesn't trust them either, as he knows he's been summoned there to stop a great evil from coming. To him, the inhabitants are pests and all that matters is the mission. This back and forth reminds us of whenever the Avengers discuss trusting the Hulk. In several movies, cartoons and comics, they know he's a ticking a time bomb -- a weapon of mass destruction -- and, right now, Aquaman fears Tristram is an instrument of death: One they can't tick off and one he hopes is an ally.

Still, it's hard for the former king to forgive Tristram, as he doesn't know if the "beasties" will turn on them anytime soon. It remains to be seen why Tristram was imbued with these abilities as a kid and who chose him, but what's clear is his target. It's revealed in the finale to be Mecha Manta, a giant robot with the A.I. of Black Manta's dad, that attacks Amnesty. The robot has come for Aquaman and, with Mera's legion tracking the villain there too and Tristram ready to unleash chaos, all-out war is taking place at the bay, and it doesn't look like it'll be the same ever again.

Aquaman #54 goes on sale Nov. 20.

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