Aquaman #27 sees Orin and Dolphin face off against Krush while Mera and the Widowhood formulate plans on how to defeat Corum Rath. Does this latest chapter in “Underworld” arc meet the high bar set by previous installments?
This issue gets off to a strong start with a scene in which Krush and Orin discuss Krush’s morality as well as the way Atlanteans oppress residents of the Ninth Triad. By turning attention to issues and populations that go underserved regardless of who rules Atlantis, writer Dan Abnett makes the fantasy setting feel more similar to the real world, and easier to become invested in. Krush raises questions of societal power and reaction, making him an intriguing antagonist for a politically powerful protagonist.
It is fortunate that Krush and Orin’s opening scene is strong, because without it the issue as a whole would lack most of its punch. The remainder of the plot is fairly bland, as various supporting characters formulate power plays without much sense of immediacy. It is nice to see Mera get treated as a major player, but her attempt to recruit Tempest to her cause isn’t very engaging. There are some nice lines regarding political strategy and being careful not to play into Rath’s hands, but neither character feels particularly fleshed out here. This is a problem with most if not all of the supporting cast; they feel like pawns who could easily be replaced by other characters without much effective difference being made to the way the story plays out. The issue’s dialogue often feels less like displays of personality and more like expositional captions stuffed into word bubbles.
Artistically, this issue is a mixed bag. On the positive side, Stjepan Sejic’s backgrounds are usually quite aesthetically pleasing. The skyscrapers surrounding Titans Tower are beautifully painted, as is Krush’s headquarters. The textures throughout are often impressive, especially in the case of Orin’s scaled costume. The numerous bubble details throughout create a constant sense of being underwater, and Krush’s sea monster is intimidating. Sejic’s wide variety of compositional choices is also nice, as are his decisions on when and how to utilize blank space. His coloration is, as always, a lot of fun to behold.
Unfortunately, the artwork also has some cons that are major enough to detract from the issue’s overall sense of visual splendor. Sejic’s characters frequently suffer from same face syndrome, and a lot of the foreground pencils feel phoned in or rushed, to the point of looking unfinished. This is less obvious in panels where the coloration adds a lot of detail through textures, but images with more flat coloring are hindered by the stark difference in detail between the foregrounds and backgrounds. The artistic style’s lack of consistency makes it hard to remain fully immersed in the plot.
Overall, Aquaman #27 is enjoyable. Krush is an interesting antagonist, and there is enough to love about the artwork to outweigh its flaws. With that said, neither the writing nor the visuals are consistently high quality enough to make this issue a must-read. Hopefully the rest of the arc will up the consistency in order to better actualize its potential.