By Dustin Cabeal
For some reason, I randomly opened this comic and was surprised by the artwork. It was enough to make me read the issue, even if I really disliked one of the character designs. Aquaman is just one of those characters that have been screwed up too many times and every attempt to fix him always includes the shit that broke him in the first place. The New 52 was a perfect spot to change all that, but instead, it was used to address the comic readers conception of the character rather than figuring out how to make underwater worlds appealing in the modern era.
Listen, underwater just isn’t as attractive to people anymore. I remember as a kid submarines and a looking at the Titanic which drones were an exciting conversation. We have space now, fucking aliens and intergalactic battles. Simply put, the ocean, no matter how large it is, just isn’t as interesting anymore. That doesn’t mean it can’t be interesting, but going back to my previous point that every opportunity seems to be squandered. Also, if you’re interested Comics to the Maxx (one of our podcasts) has a great Aquaman idea.
There are some glimmers of hope in this issue. I have no idea what chunk of the story I’m coming in on, but Arthur is “dead” to the world, and this “new” Aquaman has taken the mantle. He goes by a different name and is referred to as “The Aquaman.” The throne has been taken over by a dude wielding old magic, and he’s looking to eliminate the people that have mutated in the water. There are two different powers at play trying to guide Aquaman, and uneasy alliances are being made.
Frankly put, Dan Abnett has slowly fixed the fuck out of Aquaman. Abnett understands once of the core things about Aquaman world; it’s all about royalty and politics. There have been a few others that have attempted the same. The Kurt Busiek run had some similar themes, but then eventually got lost in crossovers and the constant question of “is that Aquaman?” got old after a while.
Here’s the thing, you can’t just have a king. That’s boring. That’s Namor, and no one gives a fuck. With royalty, it’s about what’s hidden from the public eye that’s interesting. A dude wielding old magic that was seal has put a crown of thorns around the city. A little bit of Jesus, a lot a bit of magic. Then there’s a secret network of another religion working to govern society, and you seamlessly have drama from all sides. Now, hopefully, Abnett has been watching a lot of The Crown and knows that you can’t just air this all out and burn storylines. It doesn’t seem like that’s his goal, but it’s Aquaman… shit tends to go down this way. The political aspect is tied in with the royalty but extends further as there is a race element to the story as well. The human looking ocean people and the “sea-affected” people or whatever they're called. This is where characters like King Shark come into play, which was the only character design I didn’t like. I also didn’t like how everyone seemed to know about Batman underwater… like, really? Why? Whatever, he’s a heavy metal criminal right now.
The art is freaking gorgeous. Everything is photorealistic, and it sells the world. Frankly, this book looks better than Batman and Superman and that’s what you need. If people are going to tune into Aquaman, if you’re going to win people over to this book, you need stunning art. Granted, the level of detail here all but assures that there will be multiple artists on the series, but if each is as detailed or able to give a unified look, then it’ll bring people in. I believe that because it worked for me. I haven’t read this series since issue six. The coloring is also gorgeous, it looks like its underwater, but without it being painful to look at. There’s a sense of the world, a look to it, but everyone isn’t smiling and swimming around erratically. Hell, people were full clothing instead of being in thongs and mid-drifts.
It’s likely that I’ll be back for more Aquaman. I don’t know if I’ll always review it, but this issue warranted a review. Without even knowing the landscape of the story arc, I was able to jump into it and thoroughly enjoy it. There’s some dialogue that was meh, and some of the action is stiff, but damn, this was a good read and beautiful to look at. As strange as it is to say, give Aquaman a shot. Put the movie version and the all the other nonsense out of your head first and just enjoy it for what the political sea-opera that it is.