“You were made in their image. But this is not where the story ends.”
There’s a sense of the unknown with the new Aquaman run. It’s not one that’s eerie or petrifying, but it’s one of genuine mystery and intrigue. It’s the kind of unknown territory that makes one grin with excitement, because who knows what really lies ahead? After a series of conventional superhero and even political takes following Dan Abnett’s path, the Aquaman title has firmly captured the niche of epic fantasy in the DC Universe. However, whilst Abnett’s take was rooted in political struggles, the new DeConnick and Rocha run moves away from that to realm of pure mythology. Casting Arthur Curry, now an amnesiac going by Andy, as a champion of the gods, inhabiting the same space as mythological deities, in order to examine his place in universal oceanic ideas and concepts? Now that is an inspired choice. And it pays off, with the new issue driving deeper than ever into the mythological underpinnings of the run.
Arthur and Callie begin their voyage and sail on towards Namma, the angry ocean goddess and mother of Callie. Return Callie and make peace, that is Arthur’s mission and price in order to regain his lost memories. But, as this issue reveals, it is nowhere nearly as simple or easy as it seems. The issue, intercut between Arthur and Callie’s voyage and the ancient past, showcases the truth behind Namma and what that entails for Arthur’s own quest. DeConnick and Rocha build all new mythology here, blending various myths and tales across the globe to build a cohesive, shared oceanic landscape for Aquaman to explore, now and forever. We go back all the way to the dawn of creation and find the two primal forces: Father Sea and Mother Salt. Carrying many parallels with a great many myths, the entire origin is both classical and fresh, where in four elemental gods are birthed from these primal beings.
And from there onward, god after god, new creation after creation spring forth, enraging Father Sea. Sea proposes to Mother Salt that they destroy all that has come after them and remake the world from the sea and the salt, starting over once more. Mother Salt denies this offer and instead conveys his wishes to her four divine elemental children- Wind, Fire, Sky and Earth. Inevitably, he is murdered by his children, as is so common in myth, with the angry, prideful father being slain by the children so that they may survive and rule. This leads Mother Salt to greater rage, with her body giving way to seven monsters. The Giants, if you will, although there are many analogues to choose from. The monsters fail and Mother Salt remains weakened, vowing to reunite with all seven one day to reach her full might so that all may be plunged, allowing the word to be remade once more. It’s then that the book reveals the great truth. Mother Salt is Namma’s true identity, that is her greatest secret. And Callie is merely the child in which her last monster, who is gravely weak, is hidden. Once reunited properly, she will become unstoppable and all shall fade. But no one but Namma is truly aware of any of this, not yet. Arthur does not yet grasp how fruitless his mission is, for Namma is not a mother clamoring for her daughter and nor is she one willing to take peace. All Namma truly wants is the end of everything, so that the world maybe remade and done so to her new wishes this time around.
The entire issue is a cavalcade of gorgeous splashes and double page spreads, with Robson Rocha and Daniel Henriques getting to unleash their artistic talents in full for the creation myth sequences. Rocha’s sharp, detailed pencils find their perfect match in the smooth and elegant inks of Henriques and Gho’s radiant palette is a perfect pick for the book. The book emanates with a lovely glow with every page turn, as the colors pop. Rocha gets to do his own spin on the Kirby Krackle in the issue as well, although utilizing it with water rather than space, with which it is usually identified. It’s a smart decision which pays off and really works, granting sequences a rare sort of power that only The King’s Krackle could hope to deliver. Another strength Rocha gets to revel in the issue here is monsters — there’s some glorious beasts that get showcased here, alongside the old elemental gods we’ve seen so far. Creating so many characters right off the bat, three issues into the run, is rare. But then, this is an Aquaman epic bustling with ideas and creative energy and it doesn’t hold back. It’s a rapidfire of conceptualization that feels rewarding and fittingly epic. There’s a real echo of 80’s fantasy comics in here, particularly George Perez and Walt Simonson and that’s always a good thing.
DeConnick’s captions, which carry themselves with a grandiose tone and give the story its mythic sensibility, work to great effect throughout the entire issue. Letterer Clayton Cowles delivers as always, acting as the careful bridge between DeConnick’s words and Rocha, Henriques and Gho’s artwork, helping make a cohesive mythic text that feels momentous and exciting.
Aquaman is sailing boldly into shores that feel fresh for the character at this stage of his career. The expansive and additive approach of the creative team is a joy to witness, as they grant the title and its lead character fitting mythic dimension and scope. The battle for all of existence rages as gods, monsters, and primordial entities struggle to find their place. Disassembling core ideas one attributes to the ocean and giving them shape and form, whilst trying together every imaginable mythology to it is a bold move. It makes a lot of sense, too, when one thinks about it. It almost seems obvious, in a sense, given that it now exists and one cannot comprehend its absence. Aquaman has, for a good while, lacked lore, mechanics or story engines of any sort that weren’t intrinsically tied to Atlantis in some way. And that fact has bound him, held him in a bit of a bubble he can’t quite escape from, as all tales lead back to Atlantis. But the DeConnick and Rocha run shows us it doesn’t have to be that way. It gives the character a whole new playground to operate in, personifying so much of what he should be dealing with, beyond just Atlantis. It’s the kind of thinking that helps progress a character and world forward and boy is it exciting to see. Don’t wait on this folks, dive in!