Review – Aquamen #1 “Has the feel of a geopolitical thriller”

In the opening pages of Aquamen #1 (on sale February 22 from DC), artist Sami Basri introduces the reader to a titan of a sea monster. It is four-eyed, lousy with teeth, and large enough to wrap itself around NYC’s UN Headquarters several times over.

Aquamen #1 credits

Written by Chuck Brown and Brandon Thomas
Art by Sami Basri
Colors by Adriana Lucas
Lettering by Andworld Design
Published by DC
On sale February 22
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

And yet, somehow, it is not the largest threat in this book.

Aquamen #1

Aquamen #1 cover (Image credit: DC)

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The opening issue of the new Aquamen series sees Arthur Curry and Jackson Hyde teaming up against an Atlantean threat the likes of which the world has never seen, mostly because, well, the weapon is on dry land. All across the globe, Atlantean sleeper agents posing as land-dwelling humans are being activated by some unknown force. Chanting in an ancient Atlantean language, the agents begin committing random acts of brutal violence, in some cases against their own loved ones. No one knows why it’s happening, but Arthur and Jackson are willing to do anything to stop it… even if it means teaming up with Black Manta himself.

Aquamen #1 has the feel of a geopolitical thriller, and a huge reason for that is the art by Sami Basri. From the kaiju-sized monster in the intro to the back-to-back splash pages that open the book, Basri gives us the sense that this is a story massive in its scale. His depictions of the Manhattan skyline and chaos at the UN tell us from beat one that we are in for a global event. 

But for all the widespread ripples this new Atlantean threat will have, Basri also creates a deeply personal story for Arthur and Jackson. In one memorable scene, Basri forgoes the cityscapes for a scene set in the middle of the ocean. With little background to distract us, we focus on the fear and regret he paints so effortlessly on the faces of our heroes. As fans of Aquaman: The Becoming know, Jackson Hyde’s journey to becoming Aquaman has been a difficult one, and Basri does a great job depicting the stress-beyond-years on the younger Aquaman. 

Aquamen #1

Aquamen #1 variant cover (Image credit: DC)

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Speaking of The Becoming, its writer Brandon Thomas is helming this new series, along with Black Manta scribe Chuck Brown. This is quite the pairing: these two have been behind the most exciting Aquafam books in a very long time. Thomas and Brown have constructed a gloriously messy trio in the two Aquamen and Black Manta, mixing up the roles of father/son and hero/nemesis in a concoction that’s sure to explode. Even past the genuinely engaging mystery that drives the story’s plot, fans will want to stay for this tricky relationship at its heart.

Tying the story together are Adriano Lucas on colors and Andworld Design on letters. Lucas does a great job coloring the broad daylight in which the Atlantean plot is happening. Then, when Arthur gets hints from his old nemesis Ocean Master about the origins of the sleeper’s strange language, Lucas turns the tone of the page down, cloaking the scene in shadows. And while we’re talking about language, the Andworld Design team’s lettering finds an interesting way to present a language translated to English for the reader. It’s fun but, as with all their work on this book, completely natural, not distracting from the art of the page for even a moment.

Aquamen #1

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The only thing that makes this reviewer slightly nervous about Aquamen #1 is its familiarity. No matter how interesting their attack is, this is an Atlantean plot to get revenge on the surface, after all, and we’ve been there before. However, storytellers Blake and Thomas also seem aware of this fact. During a confrontation with Ocean Master toward the middle of the book, Arthur accuses his half-brother of attempting the same violence against the surface world and promising that he’ll stop him, as he has before.

“Maybe it’s not up to you,” says Orm, “Perhaps what happens next is bigger – older – than the both of us.”

After finishing the ominous first issue of this dynamic series, you’ll have reason to believe him.

Need more underwater thrills? We’ve got you covered with the ten best Aquaman stories of all time.

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