Before I get into the review of Aquamen #1, I have to be upfront and tell you that Aquaman is my favorite superhero. Always has been and always will be. But because I am reviewing something, I have to try to put that aside to think critically about this debut issue of Aquamen. So I do not write this without much thought and processing of the text. Aquamen #1 could very well be the best #1 of Aquaman ever. It’s a fantastic place for new readers to jump in and old fans to smile at how far Aquaman has come.
Every piece of a typical Aquaman story is here. You have a fight with a giant sea monster while Ocean Master speaks pristinely about himself as he commits acts of war upon the surface world. You’ve got an action-packed scene with Black Manta, Aquaman’s oldest nemesis. But there is so much more going on here than what we are used to in Aquaman comics.
Chuck Brown and Brandon Thomas are coming hot off their respective Black Manta and Aquaman: The Becoming mini-series that both pushed the world of Aquaman forward. Aquaman: The Becoming focused on Jackson Hyde; who takes center stage in this issue as someone who isn’t handling things well and is lashing out. Aquaman, Arthur Curry, is well known for his temper, and despite no blood relation, we are seeing that in Jackson now as well. Both of these heroes are Aquaman and both are given absolute respect by every person working on this book. There are no cheap “talks to fish” jokes or anything of the sort because the writers are focused on these characters, who they are, and what they’re going through. After the character has had so much screen time and growth in Young Justice, it’s nice to see the comics give him the space he needs to grow. Jackson isn’t just a sidekick anymore, he’s approaching the same level as his mentor. Jackson isn’t the only one who has changed though, his father Black Manta has as well.
Chuck Brown’s Black Manta mini-series is the first time the character has truly been given the room to grow in his 55 years of existence. Brown brought much-needed depth to the character that has carried over into this series. No longer can we see Black Manta as a merciless killing machine as shown in this issue but as a man who is trying his best to become something different. Without straying too far into spoiler waters, not everyone sees that though, and this looks to be an interesting thread moving forward in Aquamen.
While the two mini-series are well worth your time, they are not needed to enjoy or read this issue. Perhaps once you read this, you’re going to want to know more and pick them up. But Aquamen #1 is the perfect place to start reading if you’ve ever had an interest in the characters or the world around them. It provides you with everything you need to know about these characters but also starts to introduce new elements that are setting up a whole new era of Atlantis.
Sam Basri on art and Adriano Lucas on colors are a match worthy of the trident. The large displays of action are bombastic and splashy which reminds me of just why I love superhero comics so much. Even at the smaller scale, there is a scene in a restaurant where Basri’s talent is put on full display in the animation of characters’ faces as they realize something is very wrong. The fluidity between the panels is magic and how Manta is drawn in the scene is a reminder that his level of style matches the level of badassery he is capable of. Without spoiling anything, there are some horror elements to this issue that the artistic team blows out of the water. One scene in particular with an eye has lived inside my mind rent-free for weeks.
As always, AndWorld Design brings their A-game to the field with sharp lettering. In particular, the sound effects lettering never feels out of place nor cheesy. With the range of motion and color in the art, the crashes and kabooms made me smile as I flipped through the book. There is some great lettering work on a mysterious language that shows up throughout the book that I hope we get to see more of with a possible lexicon in the future.
Trying to separate my love of Aquaman and my critical brain isn’t an easy task. Thomas and Brown bring so much nuisance, life, and fresh ideas to the table for everything in the Aquaworld that I can’t help but swoon over what’s to come. With the level of writing, art, and design work put on display in this book, I have to tell you that it’s well worth your time if you’ve never read an Aquaman comic or if you’ve read all of them. Aquamen #1 is what a number one issue should be.