AQUAMAN is another comic where I jumped in cold at a later issue, so I can’t comment on the whole series yet, but judging on the merits of this month’s entry alone: Holy Crap.
Just two pages in and we’re already looking at a horrible sea monster who’s looking to hunt Aquaman down and do him in. By page three we’re in a gruesome monster movie about a freaky Lovecraft beast that can liquefy and swallow people whole with the mouths on his hands. This scene is more direct than you expect from a superhero comic. It feels more like a scene from a splatterpunk paperback horror novel.
Then we cut away to undersea battles between various Atlantean factions, and there’s giant crabs knocking people out and that’s pretty cool, and then Mera of Xebel is gonna feed the badguy to Topo, the big fat creature they like to feed badguys to. It takes days for this guy to digest a badguy, and Mera suggests that he “Discover the mysteries of his many stomachs…”
Then Aquaman is getting beat up by a giant squid and jellyfish and a whale because the sea monster from the first couple scenes is commanding them instead, and then there’s a cliffhanger implying that Aquaman and the seamonster are gonna duke it out next month.
This issue of the comic is pretty much all action, so it’s hard to fairly judge the storytelling and the writing at this point, but on the merits of the ideas on display here, the visuals and the real sense of raw horror achieved in the monster attack scene and the sequence where the sea creatures aren’t responding to Aquaman’s commands, this is a darn good comic book.
All of this monster action is powered by excellently paced writing by Parker, and some strong artwork by Paul Pelletier, Sean Parsons, Rick Magyar and Rain Beredo. I don’t always mention colorists in my reviews, but Dezi Sienty’s work really stands out here. The title page splash of the seamonster is really well illustrated with bulging neck muscles and dark blues glistening in lab fluids. The fire reflecting off of the creature’s skin in the following pages is a gorgeous touch, and the look of water splashing around all over the place is very well done.
While I do tend to prefer the four-color style imagery of classic comics, you had about two shades of blue to pick from in classic undersea comics. Here I’m looking at about a hundred variations on the color that create a symphony of water tones over the course of the issue.
The visual designs of the monsters really stand out for me. The Black Lagoon-inspired sea creature that hounds Aquaman in particular is just gruesome and frightening to look at with his half dozen extra mouths and toothed tentacles.
Aquaman has always been one of those peripheral characters for me. I don’t dislike him, but he’s always been considerably lower on the must-read list than Swamp Thing and Batman. If every issue is this fun, though, then I’m going to need to rethink my comic reading priorities.
Strong art and good ideas make for a compelling monster movie of a comic book. The sea monster’s design is stunning, and his mode of attack is effectively gruesome to the point where you actually feel bad for all the no-name soldiers and scientists he devours.
Gorgeous colors and visual designs help to carry the all-action issue, and good dialogue helps to hold the whole thing together.
Switching between multiple story arcs at breakneck pace, this is kind of a rough entry point. I suspect that once I catch up, I’ll still feel as if there’s a little too much going on. Everything that’s there in this issue is executed very well, but it still feels a little crowded.
Overly busy narratives that may spend months wrapping up minor loose ends go with the territory when you’re reading superhero comics, I know, but the jam-packed nature of the comic means that it doesn’t get much time to build up any dread or suspense, which is pretty vital to a great monster story.
So many shades of blue! AQUAMAN stands strong for atmosphere, visuals and pacing, even if the crowded nature of multiple story arcs going on at a time costs this issue some opportunities for suspense and character development, but to be fair, I’m going to need to catch up on the series before setting that in stone.