After Tonight, I Just Can’t Be Alone

While I consistently read the new stuff that comes out when it comes out (with occasional delays for other plans in that Wednesday/Thursday time-frame), I’m pretty haphazard in my reading of the enormous set of back issues I’ve picked up in the last few months. I set out plans for the beginning of the week (visible here) and…sort of stuck to them.

I got another Moon Knight under my belt–Moench and Sienkiewicz, but before Sienkiewicz abandoned his Neal Adams style, and almost polished off Scarlet Spider (still that Minimum Carnage issue, but it fetches a pretty penny, which, owning and reading the rest of that story tells me isn’t worth a pretty penny). I backed off on End of Days simply because I’m not sure if I can get away with it with my severely choked Daredevil reading. JL(I/A/E) was also stalled, after discovering the existence of the Justice League Quarterly that the Giffen/DeMatteis (with shifting co-writing and backups) team was actually involved in. Curses. Spectacular ended up waiting mostly as a result of some unexpected arrivals on Wednesday.

What I did read was The Atlantis Chronicles and Time and Tide, as well as the less-planned first four issues of Green Arrow and the beginnings of the reprinted Miracleman series (the aforementioned unexpected arrivals).

The Atlantis Chronicles

The Atlantis Chronicles (pictured in either meta or narrative sense to the left!) are Peter David’s renderings of the histories of (D.C.’s) Atlantis as recovered by “Professor R.K. Simpson”. It was a 7-issue miniseries published in 1990, a fair number of years before PAD got his hands on an ongoing Aquaman series (apparently as a direct result of the events of this miniseries, in fact).

Each issue (well, almost) is narrated by a different chronicler from Atlantis’s history, first by Albart, under the rule of Orin and when Atlantis was still a surface kingdom, then by Albart’s nephew Britton (after Atlantis sank), Britton’s sister Illya, Illya’s son Regin, and, much later, the less-clearly-descended Atlanna–eventual mother to Aquaman.

While the series serves to set up various elements of Aquaman’s own power, history, reputation, and character via the characterization of ancestors, reason for Atlantean aquatic nature, origin of oceanic telepathy, and so on, David doesn’t make the mistake of grounding the series too emphatically in the future (well, our “present”) and leaving everyone as nothing but foreshadowing for what we “really” want. Orin, Narmea, Shalako, Dardanus, Kordax, Haumond, Kraken, Fiona, Trevis, Bazil, Cora, and, indeed, the chroniclers themselves, are all portrayed as whole characters. The nature of historical writing–especially, my Classically-oriented father would probably agree, the kind being imitated here–is embraced fully, biases intact, such as Albart’s disdain for Orin (and love of Shalako), or Illya’s youthful interest in more the personal than the political.

Atlantis’s history becomes rich and clear, filled with the holes you’d expect from historical documents–Simpson explains in faux articles that many volumes have not been found–but still leading toward the future without aiming itself for it. There are no twists or turns that function as intentional violations of expectation, without leaving itself mired in predictability. Albart’s bias could (it did for me) leave you rather enamoured of Orin to spite him, especially as his writings contrast so much with the character, and thus bias you against his object of worship, Shalako. But neither character, in the “subtext” of “actual” events comes out as clean or darkened as either Chroniclers or spiteful contrarian views of the same would lead you to believe.

Dardanus does not and cannot come out as anything other than a truly vile, self-absorbed pile of shit, but there’s not much to be done there–his actions speak of an self-serving sense of justice and injustice, and a remorseless understanding of his own crimes.

Esteban Maroto brings the best kind of pencils and inks for the job, with interesting and recognizable character designs for characters we’ve not really seen before in many or most cases (or, if you’re me, all cases). There’s drama and detail and grace in all the right places, and the feeling of the creakiness of ancient stories–the differing focus on representation of ancient art, if you will–without losing the comic book pacing and movement that we’ve added to earlier types of sequential art. Eric Kachelhofer enhances this feeling with his colours, which are nice and bright and clear, with just the right kind of dull to keep them from distracting or overtaking, and even further enhancing the art’s role in the story’s nature as “historical chronicles”.

Sadly, this story has not ever been collected, but it was at least released digitally via (at least) Comixology. This is a perfect example of why I don’t just go out and buy trades (though there are plenty more in my longboxes, of course).

Aquaman: Time and Tide

Though delayed by a few years (replaced in the interim by a 13-issue attempt at an ongoing by Shaun McLaughlin from 91-93), Time and Tide is effectively Peter David’s direct sequel to The Atlantis Chronicles, or at least a direct continuation. Arthur Curry–Aquaman–is given the Chronicles and decides to continue them himself, relaying his own life and origin to establish it firmly in the post-Crisis continuity, as well as explaining the prophesied elements of his life that Atlan told Atlanna of when Arthur was conceived.

In a fashion befitting the somewhat more diary-like nature of Arthur’s approach to the Chronicles, it’s a bit episodic in nature. Arthur relates the first interactions with humans who think of him as “hero”, which includes a kindly Barry Allen attempting to introduce him gently to the surface world, with somewhat King Kong-like results, his rescue and adoption by the dolphin Porm, and one of his more positive interactions with humans in remote North America, and finally an exploration of Ocean Master and his history with Arthur.

More building blocks for an ongoing (which would follow much more quickly than this did The Atlantis Chronicles) than a fully independent story, Peter does good work with this four issue miniseries (often considered a bit of a “Year One”), but is hampered slightly by the peculiar pencils of Kirk Jarvinen, who often does good, clear work, but sometimes dips far, far too deeply into “Disney Eye Syndrome”, which looks exceptionally weird in the context of both these stories–and his own other renderings. Consdering the alternate is often the kind of eyes seen above (squint-lines), it’s not encouraging, and can get really distracting. Still, the stories work quite well, and allow Peter to exhibit more of his wit (I’m more in love with the Trickster gag than I should admit).

While I have The Longbow Hunters and the first four issues under my belt, I’m going to hold off on discussing Green Arrow further for the moment, as well as Moore’s Miracleman, which I will likely “catch up” when the next reprinted issue arrives.

This title: “Please, Head North”. I try to avoid repeating artists, just for variety’s sake, but Transit’s been on quite a bit for me lately, so here they are again. This track appears three time in their discography: in one version on their split with Man Overboard, again on their second full-length, Keep This to Yourself, and finally in an acoustic form on their first “alternate stuff” (mostly acoustic renderings of existing songs) collection, Something Left Behind.


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