Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Let's Talk About Frame (Aquaman #46, Cover Date December, 2006)


Main Heroes: Aquaman
Minor Heroes: Vulko, Mera

Main Villains: King Shark


While teaching young Arthur how to fight, King Shark tells "new Aquaman" the story of how he met "old Aquaman." Aquaman, Mera, and Vulko had made an unannounced visit as Reef's End, where they are astonished to learn that there has just been a murder -- the fourth of the week. The victim has had his head bitten off, but no one wants to talk about it. Meanwhile, upstairs, King Shark is carousing with a local prostitute. He is drunk and eventually captured. Aquaman is called back by Vulko, who identifies that the corpse has the mark of the Thorny Crown, the mark of a High Priest. Vulko attempts to glean some insights from Nenomi, the prostitute, but they are interrupted by King Shark, who threatens to bite off more heads.


The "Let Me Tell You a Story" frame is a good way to set a story in the present, while still primarily telling a story that happened in the past. With Frame, however, comes limitations. The story is being told by King Shark, not an omniscient narrator. As such, the story should be limited by what the Story Teller knows, and shouldn't keep as secret things things that the Story Teller does know.

In this case, we've got none of the above. In the first 8 pages of the flashback, King Shark is nowhere to be seen. There is a mysterious murder, and would make sense if Aquaman were telling the story. But, for King Shark, the facts are no mystery at all (since he is the murderer, and assumedly knows why he did it). The actual conversations discussing the mystery, however, he would have no way of knowing, as he was upstairs with Nenomi at the time.

After King Shark's conversation with Nenomi and subsequent fight with Aquaman (all of which is recalled with clear detal, despite his inebriation), there is five more pages with Aquman talking to Vulko, and then Vulko talking to Nenomi, before King Shark returns for his one-page cliff-hanger. Why, exactly, is King Shark telling this story?

Loren asks, "Am I the only person in the universe that still loves Aquaman?" No, you're not, but it doesn't help when the entire issue is a flashback of events that, for the most part, the story-teller would have no way of knowing.

Actually, while Busiek is doing fine (frame notwithstanding), I am looking very-much forward to Busiek's replacement, Tad Williams, who is currently writing my favorite series (which will end tomorrow with #6 of 6), The Next. The Next, however, is certainly a comic that I am the only person in the universe that still loves. Base on October's sales figures, sales for #4 slumped to 8,000, barely beating out re-prints of the last month's Justice League and a brand new Krypto the Super Dog.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL! I didn't even think about the fact that King Shark wouldn't have known about everything that happened within the first 8 pages of his flashback. Oh, Ragtime, you zinged me again. BUT, I'm glad that I'm not the only person in the universe who still loves Aquaman. And, if it makes you feel any better, you're not the only person in the universe who loves The Next and is looking forward to seeing what Tad Williams does with Aquaman.

2:07 AM  
Blogger Ragtime said...


Well, I guess I can now personally identify approaching 1% of The Next readers!

My feelings about Aquaman is that we're sort of at the end of a lame-duck administration. The new writer won't be bound to continue the old writer's stuff. It could end up being a dream sequence, or some sort of magical de-squidification procedure and viola!, Orin is back. That makes it harder to care and easier to nitpick.

6:28 AM  

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