Book Review: "Aquaman: The Search for Mera"
Mera, the queen of Atlantis, mysteriously disappears, and Aquaman begins searching high and low to find her. In addition, Atlantis is in the grip of a new enemy named Narkran, a duplicitous politician with plans to rule the underwater kingdom with an iron fist. And finally, as if that isn’t bad enough, Black Manta shows up to take advantage of Aquaman’s desperate situation.
Fifty years ago, writer Steve Skeates and artist Jim Aparo began their acclaimed tenure on Aquaman with this epic nine-issue tale of Mera’s disappearance and Aquaman’s frantic quest to get her back. Collected now in a new Deluxe Edition, Aquaman: The Search for Mera Deluxe Edition includes Aquaman #40-48. -Cover blurb
With DC’s Aquaman film finally being released, the company has wisely released some collections containing the character’s various comic book exploits. Anyone who’s followed Aquaman through the years knows he may have been a B-list character, but he was the King of the Seven Seas as well as the B-listers. Aquaman dates back to comic book’s Golden Age and although he’s been the butt of many pop culture jokes, he’s been in print a surprising number of years, either in his own book, feature titles like More Fun Comics, Adventure Comics, or team-up books such as The Justice League of America. Aquaman enjoyed a lengthy run during the 1960’s in his own title, a book which was typical for the Silver Age—stories aimed at children, but accessible for adults. However, as Marvel Comics began cutting into DC Comics’ profits, the sometimes childish stories of the Silver Age gave way to more sophisticated stories. One such storyline is “The Search for Mera,” a nine-part storyline that featured the King of Atlantis well, searching for his missing wife Mera. After Mera is kidnapped by persons unknown, Aquaman searches for his missing wife, traveling throughout the oceans as well as the surface world. With his sidekick Aqualad injured early on in the quest, it’s up to the sea king to find his wife. However, during his search, the man he appoints as interim ruler seizes control of Atlantis, implementing an authoritarian regime. Will Aquaman be forced to choose between finding his wife or saving his people? It’s a dilemma that adds to the story.
Writer Steve Skeates scribess an epic story, something unusual for DC Comics at the time which tended to focus on one or two-part stories. Skeates knows that Aquaman is best when he’s in his underwater element, fighting with the help of his aquatic allies. In some ways, Aquaman is a pulp hero akin to John Carter or Tarzan, battling strange civilizations and senses-shattering monsters. Those are the stories that work well, not stories where Aquaman is forced to find a water supply to stay alive (Sadly, Aquaman was saddled with the weakness that he needed access to water every hour or he would die, a weakness which undoubtedly contributed to his reputation as a joke character). Skeates also incorporates some topical settings as Atlantis’ youth struggle to overthrow the despotic government, some seeking peaceful means while others feeling violence is the only option. Skeates is particularly proud of his work on Aquaman, commenting in an interview, “There are, of course, more than a few issues of Aquaman that I’m definitely proud of! In point of fact, I do believe I comported myself quite well while writing that series!” (Davis).
"The Search for Mera" storyline deals with the ever-relevant question of fighting an unjust regime (Note: This is from a scan from the comic book and not the deluxe edition book).
Jim Aparo’s art is another important part of what makes this book stand out. Aparo, best known for his work on various Batman titles during the 1970’s and 1980’s, did some great work besides Batman (“Jim Aparo”). One such title is Aquaman where he does a fantastic job depicting the beauty of the ocean as well as its scarier aspects. Aparo’s work on Batman is often praised (and rightfully so) for his incredible ability to capture the urban jungle of Gotham City. However, here, he proves to be equally versatile showing underwater settings ranging from ancient cities to unknown realms far below the ocean.
Will Aquaman be able to save his missing wife?
Aquaman: The Search for Mera is arguably the best snapshot you’re going to get of Aquaman’s adventures during the Silver Age. The story is intriguing and the art is captivating. While comic book companies don’t always do a good job reprinting stories from the newsprint era well, these reprints look like the original comics, but on slightly better paper stock. There’s no loss of color or image quality, a problem fans encounter sometimes when buying trade paperbacks. While there are arguably better Aquaman stories from the Modern Age, this is a fun Silver Age story that shows you the character at his best at this moment in his evolution.
Davis, Mark F. “INTERVIEW: STEVE SKEATES.” Comic Book Interviews. https://comicbookinterviews.weebly.com/ interview-steve-skeates.html. Accessed 18 Dec. 2018.
Wikipedia contributors. "Jim Aparo." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 16 Dec. 2018. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Aparo. Accessed 18 Dec. 2018.