Family, Secrets, And Darkness: Reviewing ‘Aquamen’ #2
by Scott Redmond
‘Aquamen’ is not only building an intriguing mystery surrounding its title characters but it’s also giving the Aqua-family the big Bat-family-like shared world experience that they richly deserve. A colorfully energetic book that puts a heavy emphasis on character relationships and depth, is just what we like to see from this sort of title.
Whether talking about the surface world or the world under the seas, one thing seems to remain a constant: dealing with family can be a bit of a trip.
After kicking off with a bang and showcasing pieces of the puzzle, Chuck Brown and Brandon Thomas begin to peel back the curtain even more with Aquamen’s second issue while also giving us a big feast of Aqua-family interaction and character development. Truthfully, seeing Garth and Tula there with Mera and Jackson and bringing Doctor Shin back in alongside all the juicy Jackson/Black Manta/Arthur stuff is just fantastic. One of the greatest things that has come out of Infinite Frontier as an era, besides these amazing creative teams and the amazing books they are putting out for the lines, is how many relationships and characters have been restored and brought back to the forefront.
All that legacy and family and depth that was part of the DC Universe of the late ’80s through to the day that New 52 erased it all is now back and is being embraced and celebrated as it should be.
A ton more questions than answers are thrown around here about just what is going on, and it works to build the tension and allow for those great character moments. Even though Jackson and Arthur are the Aquamen in question (with Black Manta counting there too), others are able to legitimately make solid points about both men’s activities and recent mental states. If one read the Aquaman: The Becoming and Black Manta mini-series that preceded this they would have even more depth, but Thomas and Brown make it so that this story stands firmly and is easily understood even if those haven’t been read. They are just an added boost if one did take the time to check them out, and if you haven’t those are fantastic reds that should be picked up as soon as possible.
Despite all the intrigue and family squabbling, Sam Basri, Vincente Cifuentes, and Adriano Lucas present such an energetic, bold, bright but still shadowed, colorful world. Basri’s character work is so good as the facial expressions and body language are so fully clear and the couple of fight scenes, we get are smooth and dynamic. Cifuentes’ addition here brings a different sort of depth and weight from the first issue.
Paneling is something I hardly even noticed in the past but since taking on reviewing I’ve come to notice and appreciate it far more as it can bring so much to a page. Basri mixes it up very well as we get a page where there are a number of mostly regular-sized panels with one inset over others that helps the flow of a more dialogue/plot exposition sort of page flow followed by silent pages with lots of black space and alternating panels focused on Arthur/Black Manta full of danger and mistrust.
As noted, Lucas hits the notes of bright and colorful but dark and moody perfectly. Atlantis and the underworld realm have been brought to life gorgeously in books for a long time, but there is a special energy that they seem to have now. This is a shiny and smooth world that has a lot of darkness, a lot of ancient buried darkness, that brings depth and weight to everything.
Oh, and the last page, the way that they took something so horrific and a moment where Jackson is seemingly crossing a line and make it so bright that darkness and shadows have retreated so that the only remaining darkness from Jackson was an inspired choice.
There are a number of really great letterers just knocking it out of the park lately, and the folks at Andworld Design are on that list for certain. There is a reason that they are doing more and more books, from the way they realistically display dialogue while allowing character personality to shine through to the big bold colorful personality-filled SFX they dot through the pages. Big SFX that are dominant in a scene, making their presence known at the moment are my favorite types these days.
Aquamen #2 is now available in print and digitally from DC Comics.