Long before his big-screen solo debut that came out last year, Aquaman was always considered the butt of the joke, especially his portrayal in the cartoon Super Friends, where his perceived feeble powers and abilities have been staples of comedy programs and stand-up routines. However, for those who have read some DC comics, where he is a member of the Justice League, Aquaman has often been presented as the badass king of the ocean, something that Jason Momoa made his own in James Wan’s aquatic adventure.
On the heels of a successful first volume of Scott Snyder’s current run on Justice League comes the first big crossover event that will coincide with other DC titles as the world is going through yet another Earth-shattering moment. As the League tries to discover the secret headquarters of the Legion of Doom after claiming the Totality, Aquaman and Wonder Woman uncover an ancient Atlantean ship that bears the mark of Arion, Atlantis’s greatest hero. Upon this discovery, a global threat reveals itself in the shape of the Ocean Lords, who have cast a great infected water across the planet that can turn anyone into fish monsters, including some of the Justice League.
During the New 52 when Geoff Johns was writing Justice League and Aquaman, he did a crossover storyline titled “Throne of Atlantis”. It does seem like a coincidence that Snyder would do a similar thing and attempts to up the scale by going beyond the seven seas and goes even to space with the arrival of space krakens (yes, they are a thing). As Snyder collaborates with James Tynion IV and Dan Abnett – the latter being the writer of both the Aquaman and Titans titles – Drowned Earth falls into the typically problematic territory that most comic book events fall into, which is to juggle many moving gears to the point that readers can go cross-eyed trying to figure out what is entirely happening.
As it jumps from several members of the JL, characters from the Kingdom of Atlantis and even the Titans jump into the mayhem during one issue. The event is just non-stop chaos, including Snyder doing his best Grant Morrison impression by cramming as much sci-fi/fantasy jargon in his issues as he can. You just wish that this book would take a breather and focus more on the character interactions that had potential, such as Aquaman and Wonder Woman. Along with flashbacks showcasing Arthur’s childhood memories with his father, the only sense of spark you get in terms of characterization is from the brief appearances of the Legion of Doom, who have more personality than the outlandish Ocean Lords.
Jumping in between three ongoing titles, along with two Special issues, there are six artists involved in illustrating the apocalyptic waters that are drowning the Earth, and as is the case, some art is better than others. Francis Manapul is easily the best of the lot with his bold page designs and incredibly vivid colors. Everyone else is doing a serviceable job, although the abstract art by Frazer Irving is an interesting if not entirely successful fit for this superhero ensemble.
If you thought James Wan’s blockbuster was jam-packed, this comic is even more ambitious, which results in the realization “more is less”.