Aquaman #42 // Review
It’s a “Drowned Earth” tie-in again in Aquaman #42, written by Dan Abnett, with pencils by Lan Medina, inks by Vicente Cifuentes, and colors by Gabe Eltaeb, but a marked improvement over the last issue. Alien sea gods have come to Earth to flood it and turn all of its inhabitants into mindless aquatic creatures, and only Arthur and the Justice League stand in their way. Aquaman and Wonder Woman traveled to Poseidon’s secret location to ask for his help, but he, instead, ran Arthur through with his trident, seemingly killing him. Now, the once-powerful king has awoken as a child on a boat, with his deceased father guiding him through the mythical Dead Sea, and--wait, what?
Abnett makes the most of his last issue, even with his hands tied, forced to conclude his story as part of a Justice League crossover, but he can only do so much within those confines. A dead Aquaman, in the form of his childhood self, working through his issues alongside his deceased father to try to regain his powers is an interesting idea, and perfect for a one-off story, so he was off to a good start. As opposed to last issue, where the title character was all but missing from his own book, Arthur manages to get some decent panel-time in this chapter. In the end, it’s a nice, simple character piece that shows something rare--Aquaman interacting with his long-dead father.
Unfortunately, this issue was clearly designed as filler for the “Drowned Earth” story, where all the real action anyone cares about is happening in Justice League. This hurts the story, as it’s literally supposed to take place between moments of Scott Snyder’s epic, and meant to stretch the issues until said story concludes. Honestly, this book could have taken a hiatus during Drowned Earth, or even let Dan Abnett tell a brief farewell arc with his last two issues, and it wouldn’t have hurt Snyder’s story at all. Instead, the powers that be at DC seem to be too worried about that confusing the readers, because the Justice League event is clearly going to change Aquaman in some significant way, leading directly into the next writer’s run next month.
Lan Medina’s pencils are the highlight of the book, as he makes what could have been mundane boat scenes under another artist seem dynamic and full of tension. His characters’ faces also show a wide range of emotion, which is helpful in an issue where Arthur is interacting with his long-gone dad. The inks and colors of Vicente Cifuentes and Gabe Eltaeb also factor in heavily in this issue, as things get wild on the Dead Sea, especially in scenes where a storm threatens to sink young Arthur’s boat. The red sea water, dark skies, lighting, and magic all make great visuals.
To put it simply, this being the legendary Dan Abnett’s last issue of Aquaman, it should have been something special. The concept and broad strokes of the story are there, but being wedged into another writer’s mega-event didn’t do Abnett any favors. This was a waste of a good writer, and a waste of a potentially great story. Here’s hoping DeConnick is spared this treatment in her upcoming run.