Artist: Stjepan Šejić
Letterer: Steve Wands
Cover: Stjepan Šejić
Publisher: DC Comics
A review by Nico Sprezzatura.
It’s not a bad time to be Aquaman. After decades of being a punchline in popular culture, he’ll soon be starring in his first-ever Hollywood blockbuster (not counting that fictional one from Entourage) after a debut appearance in this year’s Justice League, and his current ongoing comic book is a core component of the DC Rebirth publishing slate. To celebrate a year of his Rebirth, Aquaman gets a soft-relaunch with a refreshed creative team and an updated status quo for the King of Atlantis, hoping to hook (an ocean pun!) new readers.
This week’s Aquaman #25 is one of five extra-sized anniversary issues commemorating a year of DC’s Rebirth initiative, offering a jumping-on point with the first installment of a new story arc, “Underworld.” Since I haven’t been reading any of the current Aquaman run up to this point, I thought I’d take the plunge (another ocean pun!) and pay the King of Atlantis a visit.
Or should I say, the former King of Atlantis. “Underworld” kicks off with an usurped Arthur Curry lurking on the outer edges of a kingdom he used to rule, looking for a way back into his rightful place on the throne, while his wife Mera senses that something is amiss regarding her absent husband.
As I mentioned earlier, I haven’t been keeping up with Aquaman’s Rebirth, so I’m actually pretty well-suited to reviewing this issue from an outsider’s perspective. With that said, would I recommend Aquaman #25 to others like myself? Well… I’m not sure, to be honest.
Let’s start with the good: incoming artist Stjepan Šejić’s illustrations are gorgeous. Like, capital-G, boldface Gorgeous – they’re part of the reason I had any interest in checking this issue out to begin with. Lush and painterly, there’s a real gracefulness to his scenes that especially benefit the more action-packed bits throughout. Most of the action here, after all, takes place underwater, so fluidity (yet another ocean pun!) of motion is to be expected.
There’s also the matter of his character designs being super attractive, all across the board. I know Šejić is responsible for the erotic webcomic Sunstone, and he successfully applies an air of sensuality to not just Aquaman himself, but also Mera, and even his villainous usurper as well. Šejić’s work here is a fairly good lesson in how to pump some sex appeal into a character without crossing over into exploitative sleaziness.
(His layout work here is also very nice, flowing elegantly from page to page with unique panel construction.)
Knowing he’s set to make his cinematic debut in Justice League (as played by Jason Momoa, who’s no slouch himself), I wonder how much input Šejić’s gotten from DC editorial to make his comic book counterpart match Momoa’s ruggedly swarthy looks; I’m guessing not much, but you can definitely see some of Momoa in Šejić’s Arthur.
Adding to the visual element is Steve Wands’s lettering, which conveys writer Dan Abnett’s wordy script clearly and in the optimal order it’s supposed to be read, while also lending some nice flourishes to location titles and special dialogue. His use of borderless speech bubbles also lend a sense of openness, which befits an undersea setting like this issue’s.
As for the trickier part, I found Abnett’s script to be a bit impenetrable. Because I’m dropping into his Aquaman run twenty-five issues into things, without having read any material that came before it, I wasn’t totally sure what was happening or who anybody that’s not Arthur or Mera was.
That’s not inherently a bad thing, and I don’t expected to have everything explained to me upfront, but I don’t know if Aquaman #25 is very new-reader friendly, which I feel was the point of oversizing this week’s handful of Rebirth anniversary issues. I may give the next issue a look off the strength of Šejić’s art, but that’s not for certain.
Check it out. With gorgeous art perhaps overshadowing its story, Aquaman #25 may not be the best jumping-on point for newcomers, but that’s for the reader to decide.