If you didn’t get enough fishman butt in ‘The Shape of Water,’ have I got a book for you!
So it’s been six issues and I think it’s now time to finally admit that I don’t now and probably will not grow to like Michael Cray, the spinoff series of my beloved The Wild Storm. The concept of a superpowered assassin taking out dark version of some of DC’s A-listers seemed novel at first, but with our hero’s latest battle with the series’ deformed and deranged version of Arthur Curry, the Aqua Man, I’ve officially lost interest. This is, without question, the worst rendition of Aquaman I’ve seen. Yes, including Jason Mamoa. Yes, including that stupid magical water hand period. Yes, including the failed CW pilot. The look is bad, the concept is bad and the execution feels like a first draft that someone should have binned in favor of a more thought out take on the character. Unfortunately, that could also serve as a fairly honest assessment of this series as a whole, as Michael Cray feels like a big waste of potential.
As we begin the issue, Michael — who, judging by his outfit, knows that when that hotline bling it only means one thing — pulling his man Leon out of the fire and launching a direct assault on the seaside mansion of Arthur Curry, a super geneticist turned stupid-looking spiny fishman that likes to turn people (and sharks) inside. There’s not really much to the fight once Cray is attacked by an octopus that is somehow strong enough to break through a wall, grab the 200ish lb Cray, and dive through another wall with our man in tow. He uses his unexplained melting power to get himself free, skewers the star of creature from the bland lagoon with his own trident, and then has an emotional one-on-one with the voice inside his head that may or may not be a sentient alien tumor that grants him the aforementioned disintegration power. We also get little vignettes to set up his next target, the evil version of John Constantine that looks to pretty much just be a British Victor Zsasz.
It’s a quick read, and I think that’s the problem here. While I think the narrative is currently leaving a lot to be desired, there’s little denying that Bryan Hill is the draw in this book. As such, it’s a shame having an issue that relies so heavily on the rough, amateurish artwork of N. Steven Harris.
I don’t like being so down on an artist, especially because I can tell his aesthetic is wholly intentional. Still, whether or not you enjoy his homage to the stylings of artists like Peter Chung, it’s really hard to defend a book with these face and body models. Everything from eye position and mouth to head shape is all over the place, with a character’s face changing shape from panel to panel. There are scenes where Cray’s hands go all the way past his knees, a panel where dude fires a shotgun with the stock pressed next his face (to say nothing of his Liefeldian hand positioning), and the amazing disappearing pants of the Aquaman.
This is all without touching on how bad the sense of motion and physics in this issue are. I already mentioned that he holds his shotgun in a way that would’ve cost him his nose, but the really stupid shit all revolves around Cray’s fight with friggin Abe Sapien up there. First up is the sequence where Mike, having lit the Curry manner on fire, parks himself in a barcalounger and lets Aquamonster punch enough holes in the floor to pull him down a level. Like he seriously carves a whole circle around the chair while Mike just sits there watching this shit happen. Look, I don’t know how strong Curry is here, but however you slice it, this stupid ass sequence sees Cray just sitting down and watching Fish Mooney over here slowly punch a full fucking ring around him. When he lands, Curry grabs Cray by the head (palming his dome like a basketball) and (evidently) flicks his wrist so hard that he sends him flying through a wall. Like…what? In what way do the physics of this sequence make any sense? Arguably his body positioning as he flies through the air could come from a push rather than a toss, but then why is Curry’s sleeve flailing like he moved in an arcing motion? Why is Cray higher in the air than where the push would have come from? Why is it so hard to script an action sequence that respects physics?
I hate that I hate this book. The Wild Storm is my favorite series running at the moment, and yet its sister series is just an indefensible mess. Hill shows flashes of potential from time to time, and I think there was promise in the character the series was handed at the onset, but the bad art and lazy scripting has left this series feeling like a shitty monster of the week CW series. This is a skipper.