In Review: Aquaman #1

Great story and characters paired with spectacular artwork.

The covers: The Regular cover is by Brad WalkerAndrew Hennessey, and Gabe Eltaeb and it’s movie quality with all the details it contains. In the center is a bust of Aquaman, holding his trident. Black Manta and Ocean Master are behind Arthur, while below him Mera, Garth, and two Atlanteans swim away from Atlantis. This is poster, print, and tee shirt worthy. The Variant cover is equally beautiful. This is a close up of Aquaman underwater with several different forms of sea life swimming about him. Excellent composition; cool to see how the fish and and an octopus partially cover him. The coloring is outstanding, with the lighting effects on him and the tentacles wonderful. Joshua Middleton did a superior job on this. Overall grades: Both A+

The story: The first part of The Drowning, “The End of Fear,” by Dan Abnett begins quietly with dawn at Amnesty Bay, Massachusetts. Mera finds Arthur looking at the dawn from their land dwelling, a lighthouse. He’s feeling anxious about the opening of Spindrift Station, the Atlantean dry land embassy, and the activities of the Drift, an Atlantean group of terrorists who intercepted a Chinese sub looking for Atlantis (see Aquaman: Rebirth #1). Mera tells him how proud she is that he’s bringing the land and sea together, reconciling his two halves. They go inside to change, unaware that Black Manta has watched the entire exchange from a distance. The story then moves to Spindrift, where Lieutenant Joanna Stubbs of the Royal Navy arrives to take up her post as British liaison. She walks in with Ray Delane, a reporter for The Daily Planet, who’s hoping to get some face time with Aquaman or his “girlfriend, you know, the redhead mermaid…” Stubbs is greeted by Sark, who seems to take a liking to officer, and then Aquaman and Mera arrive to welcome everyone to the facility. Naturally, things go horribly wrong. There’s a terrific surprise on Page 13, which leads into the action which is nonstop beginning on 14. Stubbs does something to distinguish herself from all the other humans, while Aquaman and Black Manta battle, and what a fight it is! This story sets the stage for the title character’s new direction and contains some outstanding fighting. The final line of the issue is stellar. Overall grade: A+

The art: The art team on this book is amazing: Brad Walker provides pencils and Andrew Hennessey the inks. In the first panel the reader can see that this is going to be an exquisitely illustrated book. The image is of the tide racing up onto the beach. Water has always seemed to be one of the more difficult elements to have in comic books because it’s often not done well. Not in this book: the detail in this panel is wonderful. The second panel establishes that the beach contains the lighthouse that Arthur and Mera live in and it’s absolutely idyllic. The bottom panel shows the characters and they, too, look terrific. The wistful look in the hero’s face in the final panel of Page 2 perfectly suits his dialogue, and the concern on his and her faces in the first pair of panels on 3 is perfection. Spindrift Station resembles a combination of human and organic construction, instantly creating wonder and unease. Sark’s looks upon Joanna show that he’s smitten with the lieutenant. The arrival of Aquaman and Mera before the delegation on Page 8 is a full paged splash and it’s a jaw dropping reveal, that matches Stubbs’s reaction/tease on the previous page. The action on 13 is shocking and it’s the perfect precursor for the full paged splash on the following page showing the entrance of Black Manta. Mera’s abilities are spectacular on 15, and the look of intensity on her face awesome. The three page battle between Aquaman and Manta is incredible, with, again, the artists’ ability in rendering water completely selling the conflict. I love these artists. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Not being familiar with the title character’s adventures outside of Justice League, I was expecting a lot of blues. After all, this book is about the hero from the water, right? Gabe Eltaeb has blues in this book, but so much more. The second panel on the opening page is a beautiful location shot due in no small part to the colors, with the lovely green hills and the gorgeous pink sky. When the characters appear they’re given bright clothes for their clothing to catch the reader’s eyes, but they do not damper the stellar background colors. The use of pale green on the third page is an excellent way to show an artificial color in this lovely environment. The deep ocean blues I was expecting appear with Spindrift Station, but they’re not one single, blanket color; like the ocean itself, there are many different shades to this element. By the way, take a look at the slick coloring at the bottom of Page 4, alerting the reader to the fact that he or she is looking through a windshield. When Black Manta arrives the blues really come into play and they are startling in electric blues that make their threat huge. Eltaeb continues to show he’s a heavy hitter in his field. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Pat Brosseau is responsible for the scene settings, dialogue, signage, a squeak of a word, story title, book’s credits, sounds, yells, and the tease for next issue. The scene settings font is spectacular; it creates an immediate sense of grandeur. The single word uttered in the final panel on the fourth page is heard perfectly by the reader because it’s so small and distant from the borders of the balloon that contains it. The sounds on this book are great, especially the FTOOOMs and FTOOFF. Overall grade: A+

The final line: I haven’t followed an Aquaman comic since the 1986 limited series that had the radical costume redo. This book has definitely inspired me to follow this series. Great story and characters paired with spectacular artwork. Overall grade: A+

To find out more about this book and others that feature Aquaman go to http://www.dccomics.com/

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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