Review: Aquaman #1

Who'd have thought the best thing I'd read so far in the Rebirth titles would be 'Aquaman'? A couple of weeks in, DC's latest reboot/relaunch/rebranding initiative has been party to more duds than sparkling successes, feeling more like the company testing shallow waters and breifly getting a nice boost from a new set on No. 1's than anything reinvigorated with daring or creativity. While I can't say 'Aquaman' is anything new under the sun, out of the titles I've read so far it is the best looking and strongest written title DC has to offer. At a point of strained tensions between the aquatic kingdom of Atlantis and the surface world, Arthur Curry puts a plan into action to bridge the gap between the two, building a new embassy and kickstarting diplomatic and cultural initiatives to promote unity and understanding. Of course, lurking in the shadows, one of Aquaman's fiercest enemies plots to not only upend his plans but singlehandedly devastate the king's sanity.

Aquaman #1Dan Abnett gets right to the thick of things, wasting little time getting the fires raging in Aquaman's life. The storytelling is efficient, if a little clumsy with expositional monologuing, but it keeps the eye moving from page to page at a nice clip. It will be interesting to see where the book goes from here as things are escalated quickly enough that it's actually a bit of a challenge to guess what happens next. Either there are some masterful strokes of storytelling waiting or the load was blown too quick and we're in for a slog. Either way, this issue opens things up strongly enough to earn a look at that second issue.

The real highlight is the art, lines courtesy of Brad Walker and Andrew Hennessey, with colors by Gabe Eltaeb. The lines are strong, finely detailed with excellent use of space and theatrical animation. The Marvel camp has pushed for a range of styles on their books, hiring interesting innovative artists that would have been considered not mainstream enough for major superhero titles before. While resulting in some talented folks getting a serious career bump, it has been a long time since I've seen a new superhero comic book drawn in a more traditionally superhero style that caught my eye, with a lot of titles mimicking styles but rarely having anything boldly its own. This comic looks like a superhero comic. It doesn't mimic cinematic framing or strive to be either photorealistic or artistic abstraction, the perfect middle ground for a book like this. Eltaeb's colors imbue this poppy linework with the vibrant light it needs, saturated and bright but without showy details to lean attention from the linework, deceptively simple. This team put together a great looking book and commendations to them for giving it such a go.

It's a big opener, but it does leave me wondering how strong the follow-up can really be. Potentially intriguing or worrying, this opening act at the very least gives us a strong starting point for a new Aquaman story, if not a guarantee of a starting point for a whole new era for Aquaman himself. As Dustin Cabeal on the Comic Bastards podcast noted, Abnett promises a lot with big talk from Black Manta and failure to follow through on at least some of it could leave bitter disappointment with readers giving a hardly A-team hero another shot at their pocketbook. I'll reserve judgement till the book's next move is revealed and take this issue for what it is, a solid-looking read that delivers more than I imagined Aquaman would.

[su_box title="Score: 3/5" style="glass" box_color="#8955ab" radius="6"]

Aquaman #1
Writer: Dan Abnett
Artist: Brad Walker
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99
Release date: 6/22/16
Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital