artist: Paul Pelletier
"Throne of Atlantis," the Aquaman/Justice League crossover, continues. If you have no idea what this event is about, it's very much about Aquaman and the Atlantis saga as interpreted by Geoff Johns (who writes both books). Basically, Aquaman since joining the League has basically relinquished all responsibility over the legendary undersea kingdom, which has been almost easy because he's very much a man of two worlds, feeling out of place in both, a native Atlantean with a background in humanity. His brother, known as Ocean Master, surfaces in "Throne of Atlantis," wondering what Aquaman has been up to, especially after an incident where humanity seems to have attacked the kingdom.
This issue doesn't do anything to particularly advance the story so much as maintain momentum between the two books. The interesting development, anyway, doesn't even involve Aquaman, at least as far as I'm concerned. Aquaman #15 is a story about Batman.
Now, Geoff has written most of DC's icons in one form or another, spending a significant amount of time with Superman in Action Comics, and of course Green Lantern and The Flash, among others. Last year he delivered Batman: Earth One, and it was essentially his first significant Batman story. He'd written the Dark Knight before, but always in an ensemble. Sort of like how he's been using Justice League as a second Wonder Woman series, this issue of Aquaman seems like another Batman tryout for Geoff.
There's Commissioner Gordon, Harvey Bullock, and Aquaman spending most of his time interacting with Batman himself. Fans got their first taste of what Geoff would do with Batman during Infinite Crisis, when he famously quipped to Superman, "The last time you inspired anyone was when you were dead." It's a version of Batman that fans don't often get to see, especially the more popular and ubiquitous he's become. We're used to seeing the personal side of Batman, but not so much the impersonal one. The Bruce Timm animated Batman had a strong sense of detachment, and the shocking insights of Frank Miller's All Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder were a sign that fans perhaps didn't know the character as well as they thought they did, and yet it can still be surprising to think of Batman as anything but the legend he's generally accepted to be.
And yet to Gotham, and to everyone who knows him, even in the League, Batman will be exactly that, a legend. He's not really a man. In the first issue of Justice League Geoff had Batman interacting with Green Lantern, who has a hard time accepting the fact that Batman is just a man. It's a nuance some fans can somehow refuse to accept, even the ones who scoff at versions of his considerable prowess that have him finding a way to defeat any given opponent. He just naturally seems larger than life. Yet most writers have a hard time figuring out how exactly to present that.
Geoff's solution is to have Batman keep most of his thoughts to himself, making observations rather than conversation, utterances instead of exchanges. When he speaks with Aquaman, it's from Batman's confidence that he becomes more than just a man. Batman: Earth One is all about the lack of confidence, not just a man figuring things out like Miller's Year One, but someone who's so inexperienced and unsure of himself that he botches a simple building leap. It's a Batman who would be familiar to Christopher Nolan, although Christian Bale always possessed an underlying ego, a chip on his shoulder. When he failed, he was rattled.
One imagines that Geoff would have Batman hide his pain rather than expose it even to Alfred (although maybe I'd have to reread Earth One just to confirm that). In Aquaman, he's the first ally Aquaman targets when it becomes clear that the conflict between Atlantis and humanity won't end easily.
Okay, so I just spent a lot of time talking about Batman in an Aquaman comic. Now I'll talk about Paul Pelletier.
I've been a fan of Pelletier for years. In recent years he's been known as a Marvel guy, but in the 1990s he was a DC guy, and I knew him best in the pages of the hugely underrated Superboy and the Ravers. Now, like Stuart Immonen, Pelletier has been altered his style since I last regularly experienced him, yet I'm more familiar with Pelletier exhibiting this trait than Immonen. The Pelletier of Ravers is different from the Pelletier of The Outsiders. One of the things that will never change is his faces, especially around the eyes.
I'm glad he's still around, glad he's grown in prominence, glad to have him aboard Aquaman. Just another thing to love about this book.