Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Dan Abnett
Artist(s): Scott Eaton, Wayne Faucher
Colourist: Gabe Eltaeb
Release Date: 6th July 2016
In my review of Aquaman #1 I mentioned that, while it had potential, Black Manta’s latest crusade to wreak bloody vengeance on Arthur Curry for killing his father felt more than a little… samey. Where other Rebirth titles had used the rebranding to re-write their own history and adjust their direction in broad strokes, Aquaman felt, in the main, like more of the same. Not necessarily a bad thing, I should point out, given the impressive run Dan Abnett was putting together in the New 52, but I couldn’t help but feel like an opportunity had been missed to do something big.
As it turns out, I may have been a little premature. While this issue doesn’t necessarily reinvent the wheel, Abnett throws in an impressive wrinkle to the conflict that wipes the slate clean – to an extent, anyway – and paves the way for some intriguing political machinations in the weeks and months to come.
Essentially, this entire issue is made of a massive fight sequence between Aquaman and Black Manta, filled with expository dialogue as the pair trade blows. Scott Eaton and Wayne Faucher provide the artwork, with fluid combat exchanges and bold, larger than life versions of Arthur and Manta. It also looks slightly less ‘cartoony’ in places than the previous issue, which may be in part due to a slightly more restrained and less gaudy palette from colourist Gabe Eltaeb. There are some great visual moments throughout the issue, and the way Arthur deals with the harpoon in his shoulder is nothing short of Grade-A, Rambo-level badassery.
The resolution to the skirmish is powerful, cerebral and – most importantly – logical, with more than a hint of Batman and Joker to their relationship, with their rivalry hard-coded into each other’s psyche almost to the point of co-dependency. The final panel offers up some interesting questions about the story to come, but I think it’s nice in a way that Abnett has opted to draw a line under the played-out Black Manta dynamic so early on, as it offers an interesting change of pace and an opportunity for some genuinely different storylines as the series progresses.
Overall then, while it still feels more like a continuation than a quote-unquote “Rebirth”, I actually rather enjoyed Abnett’s run on the New 52 Aquaman, and that enjoyment has most certainly translated to this new series. Abnett’s Arthur Curry has a strong, confident voice, and if you’ve always viewed Aquaman as something of a “lesser” superhero (damn you, Robot Chicken!) then this series is all but guaranteed to change your mind. Definitely one of the highlights of DC’s Rebirth so far, and a series with a huge amount of potential as it moves forwards.
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