Some years ago, the prospect of Aquaman and Mera having a baby was something of a sore subject between the power couple...
Before they can come to any sort of an agreement on the subject, though (or even an awkward compromise), they're summoned away for superhero duty, because the terrifying TRENCH is attacking an off-shore oil rig!
But there's more to this situation than meets the eye, as the oil rig is hiding secrets of its own...
Fill-in issues get a bad rap. Back in the day (and occasionally still today), editors would stockpile “inventory issues” in the event that a comic’s regular creative team couldn’t make a deadline, and voila, the editor had a filler issue so the book could still ship on time. This practice is less common today, as the Big 2 tend to be less beholden to regular shipping schedules than they were in yesteryear. This tendency has had the benefit of a creative team’s story going uninterrupted, but with the unintended consequence of the fill-in issue falling by the wayside as a common practice.
This month’s issue of Aquaman, though, deftly avoids the typical pitfalls of a usual fill-in issue and manages to expand on some of the themes and subtext of regular creative team Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist Robson Rocha’s run. Fans are treated to a glimpse of the rift early on in Aquaman and Mera’s relationship regarding having children; the crux of their argument is that their lives are too dangerous to bring a child into. Mera is dead-set against it, Arthur is more open-minded. All of this gives context to their present situation, where Mera is pregnant (and due at any time) and their relationship is strained but their recent reunion gives hope that all will be well.
From a timing standpoint, having the Trench attack when it does couldn’t come at a worse moment. That plot in and of itself is nothing to write home about. Even with the wrinkle that the oil rig was actually a front for some sort of scientific experiment involving the kidnap of the child Trench queen, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. But it does exactly what it is intended to: provide a metaphor for Arthur and Mera’s argument while creating a tense situation for them to have something to fight their way out of throughout the issue. And in doing so, give readers a link back to the current storyarc, disproving the common assumption that fill-in issues are wastes of space. Writer Kyle Higgins has a keen ear for Arthur and Mera and clearly has an ear for their relationship dynamic. He also provides some great moments of levity when the Justice League interacts with the Amnesty Bay townsfolk, including a hilarious moment involving Batman and a possibly-exploding pie. Aaron Lopresti does a fine job in the art department; his style has a clean, unfussy look to it that is reminiscent of fill-in issue champ M.D. Bright. Together, they produce an issue that, while not essential, definitely helps flesh out the ongoing story presented by the book’s creative team.
Aquaman #56 defies the odds and proves that a fill-in issue can be not only fun but also expand upon the regular creative team's ongoing story and themes. While not a must-read, it definitely isn't an issue you'll want to skip just because it's a fill-in, either.
Aquaman #56: Baby Blues
Writing - 7/107/10
Storyline - 6.5/106.5/10
Art - 7/107/10
Color - 7/107/10
Cover Art - 7/107/10
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