If somebody says Aquaman, the first word that comes to your mind is probably not “Badass.” But with The Trench, Geoff Johns does something that writers over the years have been truly struggling to do: bring a genuine universal credibility to Aquaman. But I can tell you now, with a great story and incredible art, Johns succeeds in his quest.
The story sees a misunderstood Aquaman trying to live life in Amnesty Bay not only as Aquaman, but as Arthur Curry too. However it isn’t an easy task as he is victim to a barrage of insults and misunderstandings that slowly take their toll on him. But when hive mind-like creatures (think Creature from the Black Lagoon) emerge from the ocean trench and attack the citizens of the bay, Arthur has to put his feelings aside to try and save them.
The plot isn’t anything revolutionary, but it is brilliantly written. Johns gives Aquaman a fresh new attitude and personality that blows away any trepidation you might have had of his character. The reader feels a genuine connection to Aquaman especially because of the way people treat him. As I mentioned before, he is mocked and belittled by basically everyone and everybody has been through that at least once in their lives. Johns also reflects the ideas that people have of Aquaman in real life as seen early on when a blogger asks Aquaman how it feels to be nobody’s favourite hero. It’s these little quips that build a relatable hero.
But it isn’t just Aquaman that’s well written. All of the characters are equally engaging and the dialogue between them is natural and believable. There are no out-of-place or over-dramatic moments and the momentum of the entire book is very balanced and well spread. Once you pick this up, you’ll want to finish it and even give a second round.
Ivan Riess and the colourists do an insanely excellent job with the art. Riess’ work is very reminiscent of Jim Lee but with a very distinct flair. There are many wide shots that results in some lost detail, but everything else is, for a lack of better words, quite beautiful. The colours are vibrant and things like the translucent lights on the body of the Trench creatures to the reflection of light on Aquaman’s scale armour are rendered perfectly.
But the greatest drawback and only flaw of this great book is the last section. Since The Trench collects issues 1-6 of the relaunched series, the pages that you’ll find in issue 5 and 6 have little to add to the overall arc. They are in truth both stand-alone titles that should have been excluded from this volume and weigh it down. They are still of excellent quality in times of art and story, but they just feel out-of-place.
Overall, this is one of the best graphic novels you’ll find. The story is masterfully written and with art that will leave even the most anti-Aquaman people slack-jawed, Aquaman Vol. 1 – The Trench is one book that needs to be in your collection.