‘Aquamen’ is not only a fantastic Aquaman family-centered series, but it is also probably one of the most fun and emotional and family-centric comics DC Comics has put out. A bright but dark and deep superhero story that revolves around family, is the best way to really begin to pass the baton to Jackson Hyde as the Aquaman of the present and future. Truly a beautiful and character-driven series that has done so much to expand this family of characters and their world.
For many years, the Bat-family and to an extent the Super-family have dominated attention at DC Comics and gotten most of the series and times together. Getting all that juicy drama and family relationship stuff, but the Aqua-Family is definitely giving them a run for their money in Aquamen.
After finishing off their respective Black Manta and Aquaman: The Becoming mini-series, writers Chuck Brown and Brandon Thomas teamed up just like the leads of those minis for this new Aquamen series. While there are things that carry over from those two mini-series (such as the state of Jackson Hyde’s mother, Jackson’s rise to being Aquaman, what Manta is up to, etc.), the series kicks off in a pretty new reader-friendly way. An old-school-type battle between the two Aquamen (Arthur and Jackson) and Ocean Master, and his enthralled sea serpent, get the ball rolling before easily slipping into explaining the deeper plot that brings both Aquaman together with Manta.
Throughout the whole series, Brown and Thomas juggle all the plot elements as well as make room for big character moments so easily. Rather than Arthur or Jackson or even Black Manta dominating all the space within the pages, there are plenty of moments and time for Tempest, Tula, Mera, and even baby Andy Curry. We even get a really great bit of time dedicated to filling us in on how the various enemies of the Aqua family pulled off their latest attack. The interplay between Tempest and Jackson, both having been partners to Arthur, is a realm I found especially of interest since the two haven’t shared a lot of time on the page with their back-and-forth statuses over the last decade or so with the reboots/relaunches/reshuffling.
Taking an old-school classic villain and giving them a new angle is nothing new in comics, but when it’s pulled off well it can be a game-changer. We see that here as one of Aquaman’s oldest enemies, the Scavenger makes a big return where it turns out he’s been greatly enhanced because of the Atlantean sleeper cell situation. All I knew before this was that he was a deep-sea diver pirate type, and here he was going toe to toe with Jackson without breaking a sweat.
Much of the artistic work of the series is handled by Sam Barsi, Vicente Cifuentes, and Adriano Lucas who present such an energetic, bold, shadowy, and colorful world. I love the way that Barsi uses panels, giving us lots of really close-up shots sometimes a whole page of just close-up right on the character(s) of the moment. Every area they visit from Atlantis to other underwater areas to the surface world is detailed, lush, and has its own appearance and feel as it should. Action is smooth and dynamic but there is a great weight to everything, and the emotional work is so perfect and makes sure that all the needed emotions are conveyed to the audience.
The inks as well as the colors bring weight and depth to everything, hitting the right notes to give us those darker tones where needed. Lucas nails that mix of superhero-like colors that are bright and bold but also make sure that they don’t pop so much that they overwhelm, toning them down mixed with shadows and darker tones. Atlantis and most of the underwater areas are gorgeous because they not only are so alien to what we know above land in appearance but there are great shades of pinks and blues and yellows and other colors that set them apart too.
Max Raynor dives aboard for two of the issues of the series, and much like the work of Barsi, Raynor’s got a lot of the same kinetic and overall energy that maintains that sense of depth and weight. Raynor also is really great at utilizing the white space between panels, using it to frame the panels while also showcasing great paneling sensibilities as some of them break barriers to slide over each other or a few where the action just completely breaks out of any sort of borders and takes up all the space it so desires. Near the end, there is a couple of pages of mostly silent pages where the panels are just done so beautifully that the emotion is radiating off them.
Stepping in for one of the issues color-wise is Hi-Fi Colors. Their colors are very bright and slick but maintain the darkness/shadows that bring a darker and moodier atmosphere alongside the heavily superhero-like vibes that are present. They are brighter and a bit splashier than the colors that Lucas brings to the other issues, but it’s not a bad thing at all. The particular issue in question is full of drama and a supervillain monologue scene which are all big bold things befitting splashier bold colors.
There are a great number of really innovative and creative letterers that are doing great things in comics these days, and the folks at Andworld Design are definitely high up on that list. Character tone, voice, and personality are perfectly clear in every single piece of dialogue and there are little things done that make it so the dialogue of some characters stands out from others easily. Not to leave out also the great use of a font that bursts right out of bubbles for heavier emotions or volumes, and the immersive SFX that takes up space in the world and cannot be missed as moments are happening.
It was sad to see this series come to an end after such a short run, but it did so much for the Aquaman-related characters and their world in that short time while just being a fantastic comic book with so much to say about the world and relationships.
Aquamen is now available in a collected trade from DC Comics.