Sunday, January 3, 2010

Aquaman #50

Aquaman #50 (On Sale: January 3, 1970) has a cover by Nick Cardy.

This issue begins with our cover-story, "Can This Be Death?," (its second chapter has the Harlan Ellison-inspired title of "City on the Edge of Nowhere") by Steve Skeates and Jim Aparo. Aquaman awakens in a strange realm of storage floating geometric pink and purple objects and remembers back to how he came to this unusual place.

Returning to Atlantis from Alaska, Aquaman and Aqualad see Mera outside of the Atlantis dome talking to Ocean Master. Aquaman confronts Ocean Master who says that his mind is now clear and he remembers that he and Aquaman are brothers and that he is there to warn him about something. Just then a strange craft arrives and two aliens emerge and shoot Aquaman with some sort of ray gun, causing Aquaman to black out. When he awakens it is to the madness surrounding him.

Aquaman realizes that he can swim through the strange atmosphere and does so only to come upon a bizarre giant creature with one eye. The creature attacks Aquaman who is forced to retreat from it when the creature is shot with an arrow, delivered by a beautiful woman holding a strange-looking gun. Aquaman tries to communicate with her telepathically to shoot the creature in the eye to no avail, so he takes the arrow-gun away from her and scores a bullseye, or creatures-eye with his shot. The woman abruptly pushes Aquaman away from the creature as it explodes. Now he knows why she avoided the eye!

Aquaman picks up a hint of garbled telepathic communication and follows it. In a neat visual twist from Aparo, the communication takes the form of a large distorted word: GIORDANO.
He follows the communication trail and is in turn followed by the woman, to a city full of people. Once again he attempts telepathic communication with negative results. Continuing to follow the hints, Aquaman is led to a guarded building. Here there are more hints of communication and Aquaman is swimming in a sea of DC staff: ORLANDO, HEATH, PIKE, WRIGHTSON, TOTH, etc.

The guard shoots at Aquaman with a gun that emits green bubbles, which latch on to him sapping his strength. With the last of his energy Aquaman knocks out the guard and swims inside the building, where the guard does not give chase. Inside he finds people sitting around and communicating telepathically. The woman comes up behind him and explains that she too can now communicate with him now that they are in the "sacred place." Apparently the religion of these people only allow communication in there churches or sanctuaries.

Aquaman asks the woman what planet they are on and in what galaxy they are in, but the concepts are unknown to her. She knows only the city and the wilderness beyond. Aquaman realizes that he must be in another plane of existence and asks the woman if there is someone he can talk to. She says only Brother Warnn, but that no one dares talk to him. A voice asks Aquaman what he wants and when he turns around he is confronted by Brother Warnn. Obviously continued, and not just in the next issue, but in the next story, sort of. Reprinted in Adventure Comics #502.

The back-up is Deadman in "Deadman Rides Again" written and drawn by Neal Adams. In Nanda Parbat, Deadman has a meeting with Rama Kushna where Rama says that he will keep his "deal" with Deadman to allow him to attempt to balance the good against the evil of the world. To that end Rama sends Deadman out on a mission to discover the danger in a small deep-sea craft. Chasing down the craft, being driven by Ocean Master, Deadman watches as he places a small glowing device on the ocean floor. Staying with Ocean Master Deadman watches as he rendezvous with an alien space craft. There he learns that Ocean Master has made a deal with the aliens to plant their device for them in return for them killing Aquaman.

As Ocean Master leaves, Deadman attempts to take over his body only to find a portion of his mind blocked off. Needing full control of Ocean Master, Deadman breaks through the barrier, but finding himself weakened, leaves Ocean Master's body to "catch my breath." As he does so, Ocean Master regains control of his body and feels long forgotten memories flooding his mind and realizes that Aquaman is his brother and that he has sent aliens to kill him. He heads off to warn Aquaman leaving Deadman free to find out what the aliens are up to with the strange device.

The aliens converse telepathically and Deadman listens in as they discuss how the device, and others like it, will lower the mental capacity of humans by 25%. Deadman finds that he can take over the bodies of an alien just as easily as a human, but he walks through a restricted area and the other alien takes off as if he knows what is going on. When Deadman goes after his body the first alien says that he has "been under the control of a non-entity" as if Deadman-types are a known issue with them. Unable to control both aliens at the same time they make there way to a hatch where the let loose a "Sddrie," a small cat/rat-like creature with large ears and huge glowing eyes. As the creature looks at Deadman he feels himself slipping into another dimension.

This story, reprinted in Deadman Collection HC, sure had me hooked.

Edited by Dick Giordano.

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