This is another book that was bought for my brother Ken rather than me–though, looking at it, while I wasn’t a huge Aquaman fan I might have been enticed into this one by the double-whammy combo of Batman and Kobra. This feels more like an issue of BRAVE AND THE BOLD, though, with Batman, a few guest-stars and artist Jim Aparo–and BnB still read oddly to me. I feel pretty certain that this book was purchased while on a visit to my grandparents’ home in Valley Stream.
On the inside, though, the artwork is delivered by the late Don Newton, a fan artist made good who passed away entirely too young. He was quite an influence for a particular stripe of artist who would follow–Bryan Hitch speaks about his work often and fondly. But because of the brevity of his overall career, he’s become largely forgotten. I was fond of Newton’s work, although it often depended on who had inked him. Like Gene Colan, Newton used a lot of spotted blacks and subtle gradations in his work that not every inker was able to successfully translate into hard blacks and whites.
The issue opens with Aquaman and Batman beneath the waves, already on the losing end of a battle with the forces of Kobra. Kobra had been the star of his own short-lived series, the creation of Jack Kirby and Steve Sherman who was retooled almost completely on the fly. Kirby’s concept was a modern take on the Corsican Brothers—Kobra and his good guy sibling were linked; what one felt, the other would experience as well. But after the troubled series ended, there were follow-up stories that pitted Kobra against Batman–and in that conflict, the brother was killed off, thus removing a unique element of Kobra’s make-up. Still, he was a noteworthy villain in an era without all that many noteworthy new DC villains.
Batman and Aquaman are able to overcome their foes, of course, and we learn in flashback that Aquaman had a run-in with Kobra in the previous issue and called in the Justice League–although only Batman and Green Lantern were available. Kobra intends to use his invisible Ark ship headquarters to drop poison onto the nations of the world, holding them to ransom. While Batman and Aquaman infiltrate Kobra’s stronghold in Portugal, Green Lantern heads into space to stop the Ark.
But while things seem to go smoothly for the three heroes at first, Kobra is more formidable than they’d anticipated. He’s able to sheathe his Ark in a yellow force-field that prevents Green Lantern from incapacitating it, and he returns in time to take on Batman in hand-to-hand combat. Kobra is as skilled a combatant as the Masked Manhunter and this is a grudge match for the death of Kobra’s brother Jason Burr–so Aquaman stands and observes–which is a weird thing for the headlining star of a comic book to do, but there it is. So far, you could have taken Aquaman out of this story and it wouldn’t have made a lick of difference.
Kobra, as if noticing Aquaman’s inactivity, activates another weapon: an underwater launcher which fires off poisonous pods that will detonate when they reach a certain altitude. Green Lantern moves in to dispatch the pods, but for no Earthly reason, there are too many for him to be able to handle with the most powerful and versatile weapon in the universe. So Aquaman dives into the water far below–and Batman follows him. Because, really, are you going to trust Aquaman with a crisis this large, even if it is his comic book?
Batman and Aquaman are able to disarm the underwater launcher, but not before Kobra can retreat to his Ark ship along with his diplomat hostages. With Green lantern occupied and Batman land-bound, Aquaman goes after him alone. It’s the Sea-King’s good fortune that one of the diplomats manages to free himself and hurls a wrench into a control panel, causing the Ark to lose altitude and crash into the water. This guy is already more effective than the title character. But here comes Aquaman for a final knock-down, drag-out fight with Kobra, who welcomes his challenge.
It’s a solid battle, but Aquaman is forced to leave Kobra in the grip of an octopus while he diverts to rescue the diplomats who are still drowning within the sinking Ark. Kobra, of course, gets away from teh octopus in like two seconds, but at least all of the civilians are saved. And everybody is happy, right? Wrong? Batman is pissed that Kobra got away and he gets in Aquaman’s face about it big time. Like you’ve never had a villain elude you, Caped Crusader! Aquaman doesn’t give him the time of day, though, he just turns and dives below the waves. And that’s the end of this adventure. I expect the next Justice League meeting is going to be a bit awkward, though.