By Dan Abnett, Scot Eaton, Oscar Jimenez, Mark Morales, Gabe Eltaeb, Pat Brosseau
Arthur Curry’s debut in Rebirth is filled with aquatic terrorism, giant prehistoric fish and a dinner date with his girlfriend.
Once again, Arthur’s Atlantian subjects are planning an attack on the surface world and he must step in to protect both.
For as big as the word “Rebirth” is on the cover, this is more of a conventional Aquaman issue which is both good and bad. Aquaman as a character has often been neglected by DC in its continuity shuffling and lacking creative talent at times. He’s a character whose almost as strong as Superman, as royal and conflicted as Wonder Woman and had a tragic beginning like Batman, but somehow he’s never given the chance to shine like any of them. In trying to revitalize the character, or instead keep him a float, familiar points are used in his stories. Hitting them shows a willingness to embrace Aquaman’s history, but also makes the character feel stagnant at times. However, there is an art to doing the basics well which is what Abnett does with the script.
Although Arthur must prevent a war between the Sea and the Surface, he’s given a chance to show his strength and the demands his title as king takes on him and his girlfriend Mera. Abnett wisely acknowledges the character’s joke status as a meta joke itself, while also giving Atlantis an embassy on dry land. While the former will probably never stop being necessary, the latter is a smart addition to the plot and Arthur’s continuous goal of uniting his two worlds in peace. Capped off with a touching dinner between Arthur and Mera that feels as genuine as any of DC’s more prominent relationships and a menacing tease of Black Manta, this issue feels stable and also makes the reader beg for more. For an Aquaman comic, that’s quite an achievement.
The art is split between two pencilers and inkers, and is predictably split between lush and detailed and jarringly flat. Jimenez’s pencils resemble more of the Ivan Reis style that brought Aquaman into mainstream awareness at the onset of the New 52, while Eaton’s pencils look more like Aquaman in the 90s. One or the other would be fine, but both side by side is very noticeable and give the issue a rushed feeling. The fact that this happens during action scenes or Splash Pages only highlight this. DC doubling down on talent for a book has occurred on other Rebirth titles, but there’s something to be said for consistency that comes from a single artist on one book. Both Jimenez and Eaton make Arthur look heroic and strong, kingly even, but there’s a difference in body proportion and scale that makes the reader question which aesthetic is better fitting for Aquaman. Not unlike a Flash that is lithe like a runner, or bulgy like a weight lifter, would someone who swims thousands of miles be that ripped?
Abnett turns in a decent script with some fun moments like the dinner scene but also Aquaman fighting Plesiosaurs while ongoing narration points out the other disasters that are underway. It shows the potential for other Aquaman stories where he doesn’t just fight sea monsters, but also has personal time when he doesn’t have a natural disaster to stop. It shows a ember of the DC heroes of old, when helping people was as important as catching the villain from some bizarre plot. It’s not the most exciting debut, but one that shows Aquaman is in capable hands and given time could be true to the word Rebirth.