Aqua Lung! er, Leung!


OK, so that joke’s out of the way, right? Right.

Turtle vs. kid vs. eels. Who ya got?Aqua Leung is the first in a planned series of graphic novels by Mark Andrew Smith and Paul Maybury. Yes, it has a pretty horrible name. Luckily, the name is the worst thing about it.

(But honestly, the boy is born underwater and his mom names him Aqua. That is simply ridiculous. I look forward to naming my next child “Earth” or “Oxygen” or “Atmosphere.”)

The story focuses on Aqua/Adam Leung, a young boy who was sent by his Atlantean parents to live on land because it was too dangerous for him to remain with his soon-to-be-deposed/murdered royal family. Take one part Superman (being sent away from home before something bad happens), add one part Batman (parents killed (2 sets of them!) = motivation), mix in some Hercules (Aqua must complete a series of tasks/labors to reclaim his throne), add a dash of Lord of the Rings (two huge armies fighting it out, the action only stopping to focus on a few important characters), a pinch of The Empire Strikes Back (Aqua enters a cave to confront himself), and top it off with a whole lotta Aquaman (natch) and you’ve got yourself a book.

If this doesn’t sound all that original, there’s probably a reason for that. While I’m sure Smith is the first person to throw all those tropes into one blender and hit frappe, the fact remains that there aren’t a lot of new ideas here.

It doesn’t help that the characters are pretty standard fantasy types and not particularly interesting on top of that. I didn’t really like Aqua very much; partly because he seems like a brat and partly because we don’t spend enough time getting to know him before he’s thrust back into the underseas action. The only time I cared about a character was when Smith spends a little bit of time giving us some insight into his life only to kill him later on *cough* Joss Whedon move *cough*.

Artist Paul Maybury’s work is a cross between Michael Avon Oeming and Bryan Lee O’Malley, but only if those two dudes got together and actually had a child. What would the result of such love that dare not speak its name look like? Probably an artist who channels both of them but still hasn’t quite mastered sequential art. There are moments where I did a double take because the work on the page was so pretty, but there were too many times where the action simply wasn’t clear. All I really ask for from an artist is easy to follow storytelling, and Maybury isn’t always up to that task.

Too often panels were muddied with scribbles that were meant to convey detail but only served up confusion. Important moments were frequently left to the reader to figure out for themselves, so I was forced to read dialogue and caption boxes over and over as I squinted at the pages. There’s real promise here, and I say so because I compared Maybury to two artists I like, but unless the art becomes a lot clearer the second time around I most likely won’t be back for volume 3.

So I guess my final thoughts on this book could be summed up thusly: Ehh….it’s on the disappointing side of OK. So much so that I’m not sure I’ll pick up volume 2.

While I can’t be sure that this book will succeed, I hope it does. If only to validate my feelings that graphic novels aren’t killing comics.


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