BHOC : ADVENTURE COMICS #450

Now, I know that I picked up this issue of ADVENTURE COMICS because of the appearance of the Flash’s foe the Weather Wizard. Which is perhaps the only time in history that sentiment has ever been uttered. I was familiar with Aquaman, of course, from other comics I had read and from the SUPER-FRIENDS and 1966 cartoon series. But he never much appealed to me as a solo star, and while I had never studiously avoided his adventures, I never pursued them either. I was agnostic about Aquaman.

The one thing Aquaman undeniably had going for him at this stage was the excellent, crisp artwork of Jim Aparo. Aparo was a mainstay on BRAVE AND THE BOLD, a comic that I bought only when there were no other good options available to me, as I found its stories to be strange and oddly-constructed, not to my taste. But Aparo’s work was always appealing–I know that he got me to flip through some issues of PHANTOM STRANGE an almost-super hero comic (hey, he joined the Justice League of America!) despite my disinterest in supernatural shenanigans.He did some terrific work on Aquaman, an association that I was unaware extended back to the late 1960s. AQUAMAN had been one of Aparo’s first assignments when emigrating to DC from Charlton.

The issue opens by piggy-backing on the then-recent fascination with the Bermuda Triangle. Here, a plan mysteriously vanishes within that area while carrying an experimental vibrational device designed to regulate heartbeats. The authorities contact Aquaman to search for the missing plane and to recover the device. Entering the area, Aquaman and Mera come across a huge air pocket in the middle of the expanse, created by the Flash’s nemesis the Weather Wizard. He intends to use the device as a weapon against the Scarlet Speedster.

The Weather Wizard has no gripe with Aquaman, and asks him to move along, but the Sea King refuses. And so, the pair battles it out, with Aquaman’s finny friends providing him cover against the Wizard’s meteorological assaults. Finally, though, the Wizard clobbers both Aquaman and Mera and takes his leave. Meanwhile, in Atlantis, a subplot begins with Aqualad and Tula that I honestly couldn’t have cared any less about, something concerning them being believed to be changelings due to their purple eyes. Whatever.

Coming to, Aquaman swiftly catches up with the Weather Wizard as he prepares to depart for Central City, and they begin round two. It’s a very pretty action sequence as Aparo draws it, for all that it mostly amounts to the Weather Wizard throwing things at Aquaman and him dodging them. As the Weather Wizard ramps up his attack to lightning, a stray bolt fuses the sand of the ground into a crude mirror, giving Aquaman an idea of a plan.

You guessed it, Aquaman uses this makeshift mirror to deflect one of the other bolts of lightning away from himself and into the Weather Wizard, shocking him but good. He’s down, and the story ends pretty much there, abruptly. Oh, there’s a few panels more of Aqualad’s strange purple-eye quest in which he decides to team up with the guy who was just accusing him of being a dangerous outsider. But whatever.

This issue also included a full page ad for the debut of Black Lightning, which intrigued me. I wouldn’t get to read an issue of the book until its fourth issue, though–as with many new title launches, the first issues never reached my local 7-11 (though I did later find the first two with their covers stripped in packs of similar affidavit returns being sold through a chain drugstore. Either way, Black Lightning was a new hero and he looked cool and interesting to me–I wanted to know more.

The back-up story, drawn beautifully in a modern style by Mike Nasser, starred J’onn J’onzz, the Manhunter from Mars. It was the latest in a short-running serial featuring J’onn, and was more appealing to me than the Aquaman lead. The spine of the saga is that a martian friend of J’onn’s had ben killed, and his last word was Sol, the name of our sun. This leads J’onn to believe that an Earthman was responsible for the assassination, likely one of his JLA friends (as only they know of the whereabouts of Mars II) and so he goes renegade and flies back to Earth to hunt down the killer.

The deserting J’onn is pursued to Earth by N’or Cott, charged with arresting him or executing him, a task he attempts to carry out in the skies above Metropolis, thus attracting the attention of Supergirl. There’s a very quick version of the standard fight-then-team-up convention–this story is only 6 pages long, after all–and N’or Cott is driven off. The issue ends with J’onn swearing to scour the Earth for the killer of his old friend. Like the Marshall Rogers stories that had been showing up in the back of DETECTIVE COMICS, this series by Nasser felt far more contemporary in its approach to the artwork than much of the rest of teh DC super hero line. It was attractive stuff, for all that it still evidenced anatomical weaknesses from time to time.

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