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Arthur Curry is dead. At least that’s what he wants us to think in the opening pages of Aquaman #25. A new power hungry and paranoid king, Corum Rath, reigns in Atlantis as a result. Now living as an itinerant worker in the Ninth Tride (AKA, Atlantean ghetto), Aquaman helps the oppressed in secret.
I’ve never read very many Aquaman stories. In fact, this might be the first solo adventure I’ve ever picked up, prior experience all being tied to the Justice League. However, with this new story arc the sometimes maligned hero gets his due. The exciting narrative explores what happens to Aquaman when dethroned, and how he can fight against that adversity to protect Atlantis and the surface.
Dan Abnett continues his run writing this series and Stjepan Sejic covers all art duties, with stunning success. I always enjoy Abnett’s writing, and with such a talented artist on board this series has great potential. Let’s explore the briny depths of Aquaman’s new vigilante narrative and the awesome art that propels it.
Aquaman changes looks a lot, if you have even a passing familiarity with the character. In the 90’s we got morose pirate Aquaman, complete with beard and harpoon-hand. With the New 52 reboot the clean shaven orange and green outfit returned. Now, as DC’s Rebirth event enters its second year Arthur sports the classic outfit but with long hair and a beard – almost reminds you of some sort of upcoming onscreen portrayal, doesn’t it?
But that’s hardly a complaint. Sejic is a fantastic artist, and each page contains massive amounts of detail in the characters, as well as their surroundings. Atlantis takes on a very real, almost tangible quality as we explore its throne rooms and seedy underbelly. The opening page in particular gives a beautiful establishing image of the entire city. The emphasis on its technological advancement in addition to the magical elements – signified by the mystical “crown of thorns” shield that keeps anyone from going in or out – are well balanced.
Colors are also used well, which is impressive in a book that takes place entirely underwater. There’s just enough inking and shading going on that we feel the murk of being submerged. Yet, the orange of Aquaman’s shirt and the glow of magical artifacts still pop to give the book a dynamic feel.
I hope that Sejic can stay on this series for a while, as even when we’re bogged down in exposition the visceral art carries the story with beauty and action.
I first read the work of Dan Abnett during his now legendary reboot of Guardians of the Galaxy. In that run, he and writing partner Andy Lanning take a handful of B to C list Marvel characters and turn them into the premier cosmic team of the imprint. With that in mind, I almost wonder if Abnett feels he’s got a knack for reinventing characters once thought of as a joke. If a talking racoon can be cool, so can a hero who talks to fish.
And he’s intensely cool. In the first bit of action, Aquaman narrates that an old friend defends his city with fear and shock. To do the same, he clobbers three goons attacking a kid for protection money (evidently Atlantis also has organized crime) using a shoal of fish to attack and hide. When we get a full depiction of Aquaman in action later on, he focuses on protecting people from Rath’s oppressive patrols, ever the hero. Yet a degree of reluctance is still present, which Abnett portrays well in Arthur’s interactions with those he protects.
In between all that action, there’s some fairly rote plot developing in the throne room. King Rath, like other power hungry rulers above and below the sea, wants to consolidate his power with magical artifacts and keep Atlantis sealed off from the outside world. Most of this comes off as straight exposition, but will likely come to a head as the story unfolds. A ruthless king being distrustful of the surface seems like a challenge Aquaman has to face every couple years, but with his allies scattered, he has his work cut out for him.
With a dynamic creative team like this, I’m sure Aquaman’s adventures will continue to impress. Swim by Downtown Comics today for this, and future issues to find out!