Continuing our look at Aquaman’s membership in the Justice League of America in order to document how he contributed (or didn’t) to the cases the JLA took in its early years. Is his perceived ineptness actually just perception? Or is it fact?
First though, a couple of notes. One is on how I’m grading Aquaman’s performance. Last week I assigned him some subjective terms like “Okay” and “Poor.” Since then I've decided that I want a system that will allow me to more easily average the individual grades and rate his overall performance. That's why I’ve switched to a letter-grading system this week.
The other note is about my promise last week to include Green Arrow's introduction to the JLA (from issue #4) in this week's post. This is why I'm not supposed to make promises on the blog. I'll cover that issue next week. Promise.
Justice League of America #1: “World of No Return”
The Case: A very convoluted opening boils down to this: Despero exiles the Justice League to other worlds so that they can’t stop him from maintaining his hold on the planet Kalanor.
Aquaman, Attack!: Aquaman and Batman are working together to round up some smugglers when they get the call to come to JLA headquarters. It’s just one panel, but at least he’s punching out a guy in it.
Fortunately for him, Despero exiles him and Green Lantern to a water planet called Thanakon. Too bad Despero’s set up a giant magnifying glass that’s focusing the sun’s energies and boiling off the water. The glass is yellow too (naturally) so that Green Lantern can’t affect it. And there’s a yellow radiation belt surrounding the atmosphere, so they can’t escape either.
Aquaman is somehow able to tell the temperature of the water, but it isn’t revealed if that’s some kind of innate power or if he’s got a thermometer in his costume. It would be cool if that was just something he could do.
Other than that though, he pretty much just gives up and acknowledges that Despero’s fixed them good. Green Lantern, on the other hand, figures out a way to use Aquaman’s powers to save the day. He has Aquaman command a bunch of alien octopi to gather, then uses his ring to transport them up to the glass. Then Aquaman has the creatures cover the yellow glass in ink, turning it black and allowing Green Lantern to sink it in the ocean. It’s a nice team effort, but it’s too bad that Aquaman’s just following Green Lantern’s orders the whole time.
Some grateful, sentient aliens lend the heroes a vehicle that – powered by the ring – can get them through the radiation belt. They return to Earth just in time for Despero to be defeated by… Snapper Carr.
Aquaman’s Participation Grade: C
Justice League of America #2: “Secret of the Sinister Sorcerers”
The Case: A group of evil sorcerers in Magic-Land casts a spell that switches their world for our science-based one. Since they’ve studied the technology of our world, they’re now the only people in their dimension who can exploit the new, scientific reality. Meanwhile, the Justice League, frustrated that technology no longer works, summon Merlin from Magic-Land to help them defeat the sorcerers and switch the worlds back.
Aquaman, Attack!: Aquaman teams with Batman and Superman to defeat Simon Magus, one of the sorcerers. Since Aquaman usually slacks off when he’s teamed with Martian Manhunter or Green Lantern, you’d think he’d really be worthless on a mission with DC’s two heaviest hitters. What actually happens though is that the trio splits up, each to look for Magus in a different spot. Aquaman of course takes to the seas.
Magus is able to escape from his fights with Superman and Batman, but they wear him down enough that by the time he meets Aquaman, Magus has got to win or be captured. Aquaman is able to usurp control over Magus’ sea creatures and command them to lead him to Magus. When Magus captures Aquaman in a net, Aquaman is still able to capture Magus by having Magus’ fish hold the exhausted sorcerer underwater until he can’t breathe anymore. As Superman and Batman are standing on the beach, still trying to figure out what to do, Aquaman emerges from the surf with his captive. Way to go, Aquaman!
There’s no big, final battle at the end of this one. Once all the wizards are rounded up, Merlin switches the worlds back.
Aquaman’s Participation Grade: A
Justice League of America #3: “Slave Ship of Space”
The Case: An outer-space warlord named Kanjar Ro freezes everyone on Earth except for the Justice League. His plan: to hold Earth captive unless the JLA helps him overthrow three rival warlords. The only way to release Earth is for the three rivals to say Kanjar Ro’s name in unison.
Aquaman, Attack!: Aquaman and Wonder Woman are assigned the job of taking out Hyathis, a “flower-woman” with the ability to control plants. They’re dropped on her planet and Aquaman of course searches the oceans. Wonder Woman MacGyver’s together a glider that lets her hunt from the sky.
Aquaman finds the queen first and they have a brief battle in which Aquaman-controlled sea creatures fight Hyathis-controlled sea plants. Hyathis wins by having one of her giant plants lift Aquaman above the ocean surface where the sea creatures presumably can’t reach him. And if he’s there for longer than an hour, of course, he’ll die.
He tries to use a swordfish to attack the plant, but the plant’s too quick and is able to dodge out of the way. Wonder Woman, who’s also been captured by the plant, is strong enough to break free though while the swordfish distracts it. She uses her lasso to capture Hyathis.
Before she was captured by the plant, Wonder Woman had been able to record Hyathis’ saying Kanjar Ro’s name. The other JLA members had been just as foresightful and made their own recordings so they’re able to free the Earth and capture Kanjar Ro in spite of his intent to double-cross them.
Aquaman’s Participation Grade: B