"I'm not the real Aquaman. Not even close. The real one gave up his life for me, and it's my job now to make that right."
From Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis No. 27.
Thus ends Tad Williams' run on Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis, and today I applaud his work.
He was given a Sisyphean task of making Aquaman work without Aquaman. A less conscientious writer would have swung off completely on his own tangent (like Busiek did), or ignored any inconveniences of the previous runs.
But Wiliams didn't; he embraced them and used them for his plot. He solved the mystery of Sub Diego, using both traditional Aquaman villains and a Very Special Guest Villain (and he did that while not only dodging the curve ball thrown by 52, the raising of Sub Diego, but using it to his advantage). He explained where AJ came from and what happened to the real Aquaman (something his predecessor couldn't be bothered to do in a timely fashion). He even worked in bizarre elements like Veitch's Lady of the Lake, Windward Home, and King Shark.
He introduced new elements and characters to the Aquamythos, such as Topo, the Clownfish, the Hatch system, and the villains of the Deep Church. He reintroduced Mera, Tempest, Black Manta, the Human Flying Fish, Koryak, Aquagirl, and Cal Durham, making them all part of a much larger story.
You might not adore every single thing he did, but you can't deny his herculean accomplishment in tying it all together! Under Williams' direction, the sea seemed both larger than ever before and more intimately connected, an enormous stage set for decades worth of stories.
And did it move! Aquaman went, overnight, from being one of DC's slowest stories, to one of its best bangs for the buck. There was more going on in one page of Williams' Aquaman than in an entire issue of of Veitch's or Busiek's. I usually had to rest after reading it (in a good way).
Impressively, Williams didn't give in to dissing either Old or New Aquaman. On the one hand, he made it quite clear: this guy ain't Aquaman. On the other hand, Williams also made him more impressive than ever.
By letting go of pushing AJ as a replacement for Arthur, he allowed us to see that, quite on his own, AJ was not too shabby. Busiek's Sword of Atlantis splashed about in search of himself; Williams' AJ saved the world. When the real Aquaman returns (something Williams clearly wanted to do, but was blocked from by DC), his new writer would be wise to take a similar approach!
At the end, he made his point: this guy wasn't Aquaman. But he was going to man up and try to bring him back, and just maybe deserve his legacy in the process of trying. Before Williams started, all I wanted was for the real Aquaman to come back and AJ to go away. Now I want the real Aquaman to come and AJ to stay as his Junior Counterpart (because, face it, "Tempest" doesn't cut it).
Thank you, Tad Williams.