My first venture into DC comics was through some of the classics: The Killing Joke, The Long Halloween, The Dark Knight Returns, and Knightfall. Sooner or later, I continued to pick up other Batman titles like Hush, Death in the Family, and Arkham Asylum. I picked up everything that was considered Batman essential stories and sat proud of my collection of DC titles. I continued to pick up a few DC imprints like Vertigo comics such as Fables and Y: The Last Man, further cementing my status as a DC fanboy.
What I hadn’t considered in the past was exploring other main DC titles. For a while I was perfectly content with my collection. Then I stumbled upon a fan webcomic created by Yale Stewart known as JL8. This web comic series, based on the Justice League as if they were eight year old children, really compelled me to explore some of the other DC characters. As a result I purchased The New 52 Justice League, happily reveling in the adult version of JL8. But as I read Justice League, I slowly became interested in the individual members of the Justice League. After some research, I’ve found that although Superman is one of the most popular superheroes in the DC universe, his beginning New 52 wasn’t as highly acclaimed as some of his co-League members. Two heroes that have gotten a lot of acclaim were Wonder Woman and surprisingly Aquaman. So I picked up whatever current volumes existed for these two super heroes. I quickly learned that DC isn’t only ‘just Batman’.
The volumes covered in this article include:
- Aquaman Vol. 1: The Trench, written by Geoff Johns & illustrated by Ivan Reiss
- Aquaman Vol. 2: The Others, written by Geoff Johns & illustrated by Ivan Reiss
- Wonder Woman Vol. 1: Blood, written by Brian Azzarello & illustrated by Cliff Chiang
Minimal Spoilers ahead
Aquaman as “No one’s favorite superhero”
As soon as Aquaman starts, it immediately debunks everything anyone has ever made fun of him for. No, Aquaman doesn’t just talk to fish. No Aquaman doesn’t not eat fish. No Aquaman is not powerless when he’s not in water. When a couple of crooks and journalists bring these matters up, it doesn’t take long for Aquaman to make them eat their words. He’s an intimidating figure, marked by his strength and calm demeanor. He could easily rip everything in front of him to shreds, instead he choses humility and walks away from trivial matters.
Aquaman and his lady friend Mera (aka not Aquawoman)
Out in the DC subreddit, many of the users have labeled Arthur and Mera as DCs favorite couple. And for good reasons. Mera’s grace is a good contrast to Aquaman’s brute strength. They’re both incredible warriors though, it’s pretty obvious as to why Aquaman is, but Mera’s ability to control water make her a formidable ally, aiding in the defense of the surface dwellers. When they’re not fighting monsters of the deep, Arthur and Mera make an absolutely adorable couple, who are clearly in love, willing to do anything for each other. Their interactions with the the surface dwellers [especially’s Mera’s grocery store incident] are hilariously well written.
The Defender of the Surface Dwellers
Contrary to popular belief, Aquaman’s duty is not just domain over the ocean. It’s when the terrors of the ocean mess with land areas are key moments for Aquaman to intervene. From the two volumes I’ve read, Aquaman hasn’t spent much time directly under water, often dealing with land invasions, deadly assassins, and Black Manta [his arch nemesis]. There’s a lot of depth of how Aquaman refuses to take the throne of Atlantis and how he would rather spend his life on the surface with Mera. When he gets roped into saving the day, he doesn’t hesitate to do what is necessary and burdening the consequences of his actions. It’s unfortunate that even after he saves the day, people still treat Aquaman without the respect he deserves.
Overall, my experience with Aquaman has been largely positive. In searching for the best DC comics to read, other mainstream heroes like Superman and Green Lantern weren’t up there at the top of the list. When choices like Wonder Woman and Batman were understandable, the praise gathered for Aquaman intrigued me and I haven’t regretted it since. Here’s to DC for sucessfully revamping one of their most made fun of characters into one of the most badass and likable characters.
Wonder Woman, Badass of Olympus
Although everyone knows who Wonder Woman is not many know her background story, unless they’re a die hard fan. Wonder Woman vol. 1: Blood allows anyone who didn’t keep up with DC’s previous Wonder Woman comics to catch up quickly on who Wonder Woman is and learn her backstory. That’s exactly where I was before reading Blood, not knowing anything about Wonder Woman except that she was pretty OP [overpowered] in the Justice League animated TV show. In her individual run, there’s a lot more to learn about her home at paradise island and her family and upbringing. Diana is a complex character, with more to her than the Justice League animated TV show and even the most recent Justice League War that portrayed her as a Thor-esque brute. Wonder Woman is written as a smart and caring person, one who is willing to defy the Gods (more on that later) in order to protect the helpless, no matter how insignificant. That being said, to be able to defy the Gods and live requires you to be a total badass, able to take on anything that gets thrown at you. And that’s exactly what Wonder Woman does.
Wonder Woman’s Storyline Isn’t Your Average Super Hero Plot
From Blood, I’ve come to understand that her storylines aren’t very similar to some of the other comic book volumes I’ve read. There isn’t a clear big bad that’s easily stoppable. Wonder Woman’s individual storyline centers deeply among Greek Mythology, utilizing popular Gods and Goddesses in that universe. Readers who have knowledge of Greek mythology will enjoy her story lines greatly (I know I did), reveling in small references and getting hairs raised at the back of your necks based on the portrayal of certain Gods (omg that Poseidon/Hades). Wonder Woman doesn’t necessarily beat the crap out of them, such as some other comic book volumes do with their clear cut villains and heroes, but she has to play them smartly, knowing how powerful they are. How she outplays exemplifies how resourceful Wonder Woman can be given any situation which is certainly a pleasurable surprise versus the usual “beating the snot out of the big bad and making sure they play nice next time” type of story.
The Gods are an Interesting and Surprisingly Deep Bunch
I was a pretty big Greek mythology buff back in my day. In elementary school, it was one of my favorite subjects and portrayals of the Gods were always fun when it came to popular culture whether it be the Disney movie Hercules or Troy or Percy Jackson. Blood takes the same approach with having fun on depicting the Greek gods. Hades is a child with a candle face, Ares is an old man who is present wherever war exists. Poseidon is a…I won’t spoil it, but the portrayals are fun for the reader, especially if you’re even somewhat of a Greek mythology buff. Azzarello writes the Gods in juicy Greek mythology fashion: drama around sex, power, and boredom. Jealousy and greed drive a lot of the God’s motives which makes excellent conflict when the unrelentingly altruistic Wonder Woman gets caught in between them all.
I Absolutely Adore Cliff Chiang’s Style
I’ve found Ivan Reiss’s work to be very similar to the legendary Jim Lee, which makes Aquaman an incredibly well drawn comic book. However, Cliff Chiang’s art style is distinctly different from the typical hyper realistic look of Justice League and Aquaman. It’s the same reason I love Greg Capullo’s work from the New 52 Batman run, it’s different, almost simpler yet very effective. I’m not entirely sure what some of the true artistic words to describe Chiang and Capullo’s style, but the inner art demon inside me can differentiate them enough to appreciate their distinct styles. As mentioned above, Chiang also gets to have more fun with the supernatural and thematic elements of the Greek Gods which makes for incredible introductions to legendary Gods.