Writer: Ram V.
Artist: Christian Ward
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
Cover Artist: Christian Ward
Publisher: DC Comics
More DC Comics’ characters are starting to get the prestige Black Label treatment as the imprint expands further past Batman and Batman-adjacent characters. This expansion has in recent months involved some of my favorite (and some of the most idiosyncratic) DC Comics series, with highlights ranging from the ambitious and stunning Wonder Woman: Historia to the gritty and surprising Suicide Squad: Blaze to the wacky and unlikely and just about perfect Flash villain/Gorilla City heist story, Rogues. This week, Black Label has entered new waters (sorry, had to do it) with Aquaman Andromeda Book One from writer Ram V., artist Christian Ward, and letterer Aditya Bidikar.
And friends? This comic is excellent, just absolutely excellent. This is a deliberate and powerful book from a trio of rising star creators who all make each other even better. It’s career best artwork from Ward (which is saying a lot), working perfectly in tandem with V’s consistent ability to script stories that feel both personal and mythic, an ideal tone to strike for a character like Aquaman. The result is a comic that feels complex without sacrificing any accessibility, and one that gets my full and enthusiastic recommendation, even for readers who don’t necessarily like Aquaman. Simply put, this is just good comics.
The plot to Aquaman Andromeda is relatively simple. It’s mostly set at Point Nemo, the part of the Pacific Ocean furthest from any land. For its remoteness, Point Nemo is used by the world’s various space agencies as a spaceship graveyard, an area to land spacecraft when they return to the planet in order to minimize the risk of an accidental crash. Point Nemo is a real place where this actually happens, and it makes for an absolutely stellar setting for this story. The plot here involves (of course) the awakening of some sort of extraterrestrial threat buried among all these crashed spacecraft, extrapolating from there into a sort of submerged claustrophobic horror ordeal, one that involves the mostly helpless crew of an experimental submarine called the Andromeda, which is powered by a black hole because in case you have forgotten comics are awesome.
That last bit might be my favorite creative choice in this comic, and not just because it involves an experimental submarine powered by a black freaking hole. I like it because through one issue, Aquaman Andromeda has used Aquaman himself somewhat sparingly, opting to instead tell this story primarily through the eyes of a research scientist aboard the Andromeda. Grounding a superhero story with a relatable human protagonist feels like a common trick, yet I think it’s one that always seems to be easier said then done. This book, however, pulls it off flawlessly, giving our hero a clear set of goals, an interesting backstory that ties into the main action, and varied supporting characters with which to interact. There’s an effective contrast at play here, wherein the ocean is large and seemingly boundless, yet it’s also a prison for most of our cast, stuck as they are in the tight confines of a submarine. Add to that that their mission is largely off the books — meaning any potential rescuers are somewhat unable to help them — and you get a great and terrifying set of circumstances for our heroes.
As for Aquaman himself, he is of course in this comic, rushing into the area to address the extraterrestrial sea creature that has awakened, and his appearances are suitably impressive, conveying his power and giving our human protagonists hope. Even as Aquaman moves rapidly within it, in this book the ocean is played for its boundless fear rather than its majestic freedom, and that really works to this story’s advantage.
It all adds up to the best Aquaman comic I’ve read in many many years. Admittedly, I haven’t read too many Aquaman comics prior to the New 52. Still, this one really lives up to the Black Label’s imprint of telling more ambitious, prestige stories, and I absolutely loved it. Now, if only someone could do something bold and ambitious like this with Green Arrow…
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