Alliances form and tensions rise in a beautiful fantasy landscape.
Alliances form as Mera launches her attack on Atlantis in Aquaman #26. Is it good?
Plot-wise, this feels like a transitional issue. There aren’t a lot of major “wow!” moments, but each scene still contributes to the larger narrative. Small plot points from last issue are receiving more attention, and each character included feels like they have something vital to add to the series’ tapestry. Watching former enemies do each other favors out of their shared hatred for Rath helps legitimize his status as a villain to be taken seriously.
With that said, the most interesting supporting characters here are Dolphin and the rest of Atlantis’ “undesirables.” I’m hoping they’ll continue to factor fairly significantly into the plot, rather than fade away as Orin begins to receive more page-time. Orin’s lack of major focus is notable and, while I hope the details of his mysterious reappearance will be addressed soon, I don’t want to lose too much time with the supporting cast as a trade-off. Mera is the focus of most of the issue’s more badass moments, although I hope to see her get more focus soon as well. Overall, writer Dan Abnett does a solid job here building momentum for the rest of the arc.
Artistically, Stjepan Sejic continues to do a good job. There’s a nice variety to the page compositions, and the way he renders water (and characters’ physical interactions with it) is just beautiful. This is an issue that takes place entirely underwater, so attention to detail in that respect is vitally important. Characters actually move as if they’re swimming, not as if they’re just moving on dry-land with the backgrounds painted blue behind them. The fine details in Sejic’s renderings of the background scenery are also strong. Atlantis is a mystical, high-fantasy kingdom with a long history, and Sejic’s architectural line-work strongly evokes that mood.
On the down side, I don’t feel particularly invested in any of the villains in this issue. Rath, though sold solidly as a force to be reckoned with, could still use more unique characterization to make him stand out from other evil ruler archetype villains. We don’t get a lot of development regarding Kadaver either, but I love how he’s presented visually. His costume design is nice, and Sejic’s depictions of his powers are full of energy. The bright neon aesthetic used in the coloring is a nice, unexpected choice for a character whose powers could easily have just been rendered as generic “dark” magic.
Overall, this is a solid issue. Abnett juggles a large cast of characters well, and Sejic delivers visually pleasing work that sells Atlantis as a beautiful fantasy landscape. As with the last issue, there are panels where the line-work is distractingly inconsistent in its level of detail, but the weaker images are never actually bad. Aquaman #26 is a strong second chapter for the current arc, and one that inspires faith in the creative team’s ability to live up to their story’s full potential.