Aquaman #0 (2012) Review, an Origin Story

(This review may contain spoilers for the story content.)

Introduction: Over this weekend, the film’s opening weekend, DC’s Aquaman, starring Jason Momoa, has achieved a domestic gross of about $67.4 million. The film has had solid, although not necessarily stellar, reviews, and plenty of people are continuing to buy tickets to see this superhero story in theaters. To tie the movie into the mainstream comics source material, Aquaman (2018) the movie largely borrows from the Aquaman (2011) comic series that was written by Geoff Johns. Johns started his Aquaman run at the onset of “The New 52,” a hard-reboot of the DC Universe resulting from the Flashpoint event that ran that year. In many regards, Johns reinvented the character, and his work on the comic title is generally revered as one of the greatest Aquaman comic runs thus far.

As such, I figured reviewing Aquaman Vol 7 #0, published by DC Comics in 2012. At the time, every ongoing DC title produced a #0 issue, which detailed origins and further background information on the character(s) that starred in the respective titles. Because the 2011 reboot created a new mainstream universe (referred to as Prime Earth, whereas the universe before the reboot is referred to as New Earth), many writers took the opportunity to establish and create new elements to various characters’ origins and backstories. In Aquaman #0, Geoff Johns offers some previously unexplored details of Prime Earth Aquaman’s past. Besides Johns as writer, other members of the creative team for the book included Ivan Reis and Joe Prado as co-pencilers and co-inkers, as well as Rod Reis on colors and Nick J. Napolitano on letters.

Plot Summary: Set years before the then-present, a young adult Arthur Curry (before he ever went by Aquaman) is sitting at his father Tom Curry‘s hospital bed after the latter was attacked by the villainous Black Manta. On his deathbed, Tom requests that Arthur find Atlantis and his mother and tell her that Tom still loved her and never stopped waiting for her return. After Thomas passed away, Arthur was hounded by reporters who had heard rumors of his Atlantean affiliation. An emotional Arthur storms from his home and leaps into the sea, where he comes across a hungry shark that he telepathically makes leave. Arthur rescues a ship from colliding with a rocky shore, and its owners thank him by guiding him to a man named Vulko, who also originates from Atlantis and was the royal advisor for years before fleeing for his safety. Vulko explains elements of Arthur’s origins to him, as well as the origins of his half-brother Orm, better known as the villain Ocean Master. Vulko, telling Arthur that he is the rightful King of Atlantis, leads Arthur to Atlantis, the sight of which makes Arthur feel at home.

Screen Shot 2018-12-23 at 3.12.33 PM
Arthur sits at his father’s bedside and listens to Tom’s last words

Plot Analysis: Johns’ revised origin borrows from elements of Aquaman’s past publication history but modifies them to better fit modern origin-story conventions. In New Earth continuity, the main universe from 1986-2011, Arthur’s father was the Atlantean wizard Atlan, who has been alive for generations. For the Prime Earth (PE) Aqua-origin, Arthur’s father is Tom Curry, making Aquaman half-human/half-Atlantean instead of full-Atlantean. Tom Curry being Arthur’s biological father was also Aquaman’s Earth-One (pre-New Earth) origin, so Johns brought that element of his origin back into current continuity. In New Earth, Tom Curry was simply Arthur’s adoptive father. As for Atlan, while he was Arthur’s NE father, he is simply Arthur’s ancestor in PE history, as well as Atlantis’ first king. Both current and previous continuities, though, have Atlanna, prior Queen of Atlantis, as Arthur’s mother.

In addition to establishing PE Aquaman’s origins, Johns also uses the issue to set up partial origins for Black Manta and Ocean Master—or, at least, he provides plot points that affect the relationships Aquaman has with the two villains. For Black Manta, the issue explains that he is responsible for Arthur’s father Tom’s death, which helps establish the feud between the two (which is elaborated on elsewhere in Johns’ run on the title). In the previous continuity, Aquaman and Black Manta were mortal enemies because the latter killed Arthur, Jr., otherwise known as Aquababy, the first son of Arthur and Mera. To replace Aquababy, Johns offers up Tom Curry as a martyr to explain the feud between these characters.

Meanwhile, Johns makes it so that PE Ocean Master was born and raised as Atlantean royalty, whereas NE Ocean Master did not learn of his partial Atlantean heritage until much later in his history. Furthermore, in New Earth, Ocean Master’s parents were an unnamed Inupiat woman and Atlan, making Orm and Arthur paternal half-brothers. In Prime Earth, though, Orm and Arthur are both the sons of Atlanna, making them maternal half-brothers instead. By doing this, Johns gives Orm a legitimate connection to the throne, which he did not have in previous continuity. This connection heightens Ocean Master’s goal to rule Atlantis, which is a plot point in Johns’ Aquaman run.

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Vulko kneels to Arthur, the rightful monarch

Characterization: The majority of the Aquaman #0 focuses on Arthur. Arthur is shown to take his father’s death fairly hard. Without a mother in his life, Arthur formed a close relationship with his single father. Once Tom died, the issue shows Arthur being misty-eyed as he mourned. Beyond this element of his mental character, Arthur showcases some of what he was physically capable of at an early age when he telepathically commands a frenzied shark into swimming away and when he uses his superhuman strength to save the ship. Meanwhile, Johns writes Vulko to be just as loyal to the Atlantean throne as he had always been in prior Aquaman history. When he first meets Arthur, Vulko immediately humbles himself and kneels in front of the rightful undersea monarch, and Johns’ script highlights Vulko’s respect for Arthur from the onset.

Art: While the interior of the book did not completely suit my taste as a comic consumer in terms of style (some scenes, particularly the underwater ones, were darker than I prefer), I can respect the amount effort that was obviously placed into each panel. Reis and Prado incorporated a sea of detail into their work, and I am especially impressed with how they handled backgrounds within the issue. I must admit, though, that I found the cover to be absolutely stunning. The colors on Aquaman’s uniform are vibrant, and the contrast with the lighter grey background enhanced the overall effect of the cover art.

Final Remarks: The purpose of this issue #0 is to provide background history for the current continuity’s version of Aquaman. So if any of you are seeking an action-adventure Aquaman comic by Geoff Johns, then other story arcs from the comic run may be better options for you. However, given the Johns’ intent for this issue, I would have to say he was wildly successful in establishing core aspects of PE Aquaman’s origin. Johns paid homages to prior Aquaman history while carving his own way into the Aqua-mythos. For anyone who is interested in learning more about the Aquaman origin that helped inspire the new film, Aquaman #0 may be for you. For those who are interested in possibly checking out more from Geoff Johns’ run on Aquaman, then picking up the first trade may be a good idea. Johns’ series is a good starting point for the character, so if you have been considering getting into Aquaman comics, that option may your entry point.

Closing: I know I have said a lot about this story, and I hope you have enjoyed what you have read. If you have any thoughts on the comic or on my review, feel free to comment below. Thank you for reading, and I hope you have an amazing day.

Embrace Nerdom,
-Nerdy N8

2 thoughts on “Aquaman #0 (2012) Review, an Origin Story

Add yours

  1. Great review, as always. But I must admit that this one is my favourite, given my love for the character.

    Geoff John’s run is awesome! I’m reading it again, while I wait to see the film next week. It was my first introduction to Aquaman and one of the first comics I’ve read from DC.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Issue ‘0’ in New-52 was one of the better uses of that idea (as opposed to Zero month in 1994’s Zero Hour or DC Universe #0 at the end of ‘Countdown’) to showcase origins in the newly created PE Multiverse. Whether Captain Atom or Captain Marvel. And Aquaman #0 sounds as good as the others I’ve read. Good idea to bring it up in a review.

    Ocean Master and Black Manta later get their own issues in ‘Forever Evil’ Aquaman 23.1 and 23.2. Only fair.

    The start of the New-52 was so much more organized than the haphazard transition from Earth-One to New Earth; though at the time, COIE was an amazing new thing that could hardly be faulted for any sloppy timelines – not that the ‘New’ Aquaman was late in New Earth. The Vol 2 limited series was published before the final COIE.

    But now? Everything is tight. Even Aquaman. But who knew Aquaman’s history was so complicated? And of course, that’s part of your explanation of why this issue is a must-read and I’ve got to agree.

    Liked by 1 person

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