Tony Bedard and Cliff Richards’ “Convergence: Aquaman” #1 brings back an old look for the Atlantean hero. Bedard and Richards’ Aquaman is the Peter David version, an Arthur/Orin who is married to Mera and has a harpoon as his left hand.
The title of the story, “Fish Bowl,” has a clever double meaning. Aquaman is the proverbial fish out of water and he’s found a bowl for himself in the city aquarium. The bowl is also an echo of the dome and a reflection of how Aquaman is observed from outside by Metropolis residents as well as Brainiac and Telos.
In the opening scene, Aquaman jumps into action yelling “bottom-feeder” at some nameless two-bit mugger, another example of Bedard’s aquatically appropriate word choice. The rest of the scene is less successful. Aquaman is mistaken for another superhero while rescuing some hapless civilians. This classic blow to the hero’s ego can still be done well, but it feels off here. The dark hints about “something wrong” with Aquaman work against the inherent humor of mistaken identity.
The writers for the “Convergence” event all face an unusually heavy exposition burden, what with having to explain these older characters and the necessity of rehashing the framework of the event. Bedard handles Aquaman’s introduction and a recap of his hand loss with a news report framing technique, followed by a shift into first-person textbox voiceovers and concluding with more news announcements. The exposition comes off as mechanical and too obvious with its information dumps, but Bedard efficiently doles out a soundbite version of what’s been going on under the Metropolis dome that gets it out of the way. Also, his two-pronged exposition approach allows the story to get two views on Aquaman, from outside and inside.
While I think it’s a smart idea on Bedard’s part to show some pathos in reaction to the mass negation of superpowers, Aquaman’s angst is full of cliches. His self-loathing shower scene feels like it’s straight out of a soap opera. Richards does a good job with facial expressions, especially in conveying Arthur/Orin’s aloof and regal demeanor and a sadness that suggests Byronic loneliness and tragedy. Rauch’s colors play up the moodiness. It’s a little over-the-top, but so was Peter David’s Aquaman, so perhaps it’s best to label the characterization as accurate.
Bedard and Richards manage to force some emotional dimension into an event comic, which is an accomplishment even if it’s overwrought. When Bedard has to get back to the “Convergence” framework, however, the results have less depth. Deathblow is a strange choice of opponent for Aquaman. The two have no history. Richards has slimmed down Deathblow’s huge 90s physique, which is a fine idea, except that the proportions are off and Deathblow’s head looks too small.
Deathblow is also given short shrift with characterization. I remember the character from his early Wildstorm days in his own title and also in the Team 7 miniseries. It’s true that, even at his most heroic, Michael Cray is a killer. However, the alarming mass murder that marks his entrance into the comic (notably without provocation or serious resistance by the aquarium employees) and his eagerness to defeat Aquaman instead of fighting the prison of the dome are both out of character. Deathblow is an antihero, not a villain. He’s killed a lot of innocent people during missions, but it’s always been the case that those deaths weigh on his conscience. The balance between his natural self-interest in survival and his regard for other lives is off in “Convergence: Aquaman” #1.
The way Bedard writes him, Deathblow is a sociopath. No reader is going to root for him against the “misunderstood” and tormented title character of Aquaman. It is highly unlikely that Deathblow is going to win this fight, so already there isn’t a real contest and, thus, there’s little suspense.
Bedard and Richards do succeed in giving Aquaman a stage of his own beyond “Convergence’s” battle to the death. Nevertheless, the “Convergence” framework is heavily limiting and contrived and they don’t overcome it. The story in “Convergence: Aquaman” #1 is struggling against the event limitations, and it shows.