This week…Aquaman’s Trump allegory takes an unexpected and hilarious turn; Batwoman faces off with her own PTSD as well as Professor Pyg and the Champions are recruiting.
The king, a well-intentioned and progressive leader who cares about his people, is de-throned by a populist movement, suspicious of him because his heritage is not their ideal. The new king is isolationist: his first act as King is to erect a wall to “keep out their enemies”. He is obsessed with the purity of genetics and wants to eliminate everyone who doesn’t conform to his notion of deserving. Oh and his reliance on magic is making him mentally unstable. A movement forms against him, made up of the few who remain loyal to the deposed king, but also those who are experiencing discrimination and violence under the new ruler. The deposed king supports the resistance, is willing to fight with them, but unwilling to be their figurehead and take back the crown. Then the movement finds their ideal candidate for the crown: an outsider, a woman.
This run of Aquaman has been a pretty obvious commentary on the current US Presidency. I know these things are planned way in advance and possibly it’s a coincidence how on-point it is, but I love it both as a great story for my favourite male superhero and as the allegory. Aquaman’s new sidekick, a girl called Dolphin, has bioluminescent powers – literally, she fights by shining a light on things. I mean, how perfect is that?
Allegory aside, this issue took a surprising turn as Aquaman and Mera reunite. Having used imperfect magic to break through the Crown of Thorns barrier around Atlantis, she has lost her ability to breathe underwater. Some magic is a temporary fix, but Mera needs to return to the surface to heal, or she will die. This finally gives Aquaman the impetus to take action directly against the king, but it also alienates his allies, who see him as acting for personal reasons now, not for the good of the people. But it’s the Widowhood – the strange, priestess-like elders – who drop the bombshell: while Arthur has accepted he may have to retake the throne, the Widowhood won’t support that. They want a leader who has proven herself the best qualified: they want Mera as queen in her own right, not as Arthur’s chosen.
What that means for him, for their relationship, whether Atlantis would even accept Mera…I guess we’ll find out.
Batwoman’s last arc did not appeal to me. It was too confused, too amorphus; fitting for her battle with Scarecrow’s fear toxin, but I just couldn’t get a handle on it. In this issue, apparently a one-shot, Kate returns to the yacht following her escape from the desert, to find Julia Pennyworth missing. There are signs that she put up a hell of a fight. Investigating, Kate has a single piece of evidence left behind by the abductor: an odd shard of something that turns out to be a particularly grisly type of porcelein, and records of Julia investigating some missing tourists.
Kate Kane may wear a bat costume, but she isn’t much of an investigator in her own right. Given how much she hates feeling helpless – and after her desert hallucinations her PTSD is still very much in the forefront here – you’d think she would learn some basic detective skills. Rather than emulate the world’s greatest detective, Batwoman elects to follow the breadcrumb trail Julia left her as far as Cairo, then she basically hangs out on the rooftops until she spots something suspicious. Luckily her something suspicious turns out to be one of Pyg’s “dolls” and that’s enough to lead her to her lair, where she does what she does best and kicks ass to save her friend.
Kate fails to apprehend Pyg, choosing instead to rescue his prisoners, including Julia. But knowing how many people Pyg tortured and killed before she got there will haunt her going forward. Kicking off a new arc, Kate has a new mission: to make peace with her past.
Champions #16: Champion for a Day (Part 1)
The Champions are still reeeling from the loss of Viv Vision: Viv isn’t dead, but she is now human, with no superpowers but a newly created synthezoid “sister” apparently replacing her at home. The Champions have to decide what they are going to do: keep her spot open, replace her, change in some other way?
While Vision fumbles mightily in his attempts to help his now-human daughter, the Champions talk it over. They quickly decide against inviting the new copy of Viv (they refer to her as Viv 2.0) to join. Spider-Man/Miles wants them to invite Moon Girl, but when they travel to her Earth to recruit her, the dinosaur sidekick really doesn’t get along with Nova. The second choice is Patriot and Falcon, who worked with them during the fight against Nazi!Captain!America. So they head for the US/Mexico border where the young superheroes are doing their thing.
But there they encounter Red Locust, the Mexican superhero who worked with Viv Vision during an earlier adventure. It seems an obvious fit. Meanwhile Hulk/Amadeus Cho has gone to recruit Riri Williams.
But by far the most interesting part of this issue is Viv’s journey. She has been turned human, which would be difficult enough, but to top it off, Vision immediately built a new copy of her. Now she’s struggling to figure out her place in the world and even in her own family. She used to be hooked in to all communications simultaneously; by comparison human ears are deaf. Her body could go from able to walk through walls to diamond-hard but her human body is solid and vulnerable. And she has been replaced. Vision doesn’t see it that way but he’s doing a poor job of communicating with Viv. Their struggles feel very realistic and emotional.