Aquaman #35 Review
Aquaman #35, by writer Dan Abnett and penciler Robson Rocha, continues the Darkness Falls arc, and the pace finally picks up after an excruciatingly slow previous issue. Aquaman leads a rebellion against King Rath, who has unleashed powerful dark magic on his own kingdom in order to maintain his seat on the throne.
Abnett does provide plenty of excitement in this issue, but he still doesn’t do much to make Rath seem like a well-rounded character that the audience can sink their teeth into. The mad king continues to just be a two-dimensional, power-hungry cliche that somehow keeps becoming harder and harder to stop. It has been entertaining over the last few issues, seeing him become desperate enough to turn to dark magics that the Atlanteans locked away long ago, and the resulting chaos that has come from that desperation, but those are actions that could have come from any Aquaman villain. This could have easily been an Ocean Master story and it would have been much more interesting, given that Orm is a much more fleshed out character that has a long history with Arthur.
On the positive side of things, a fight between Murk and Aquaman turns into a pointed debate that allows Abnett to point out Arthur’s weaknesses as a king. His preoccupations with the surface world, whether it be his blood ties to land dwellers or his side job as a superhero, have led the people of Atlantis to seek out a new king. The fact that it was a terrible person like Rath shows how desperate they were to get somebody else on the throne that would be totally devoted to the job. This is the most compelling thing about Aquaman, because, even though he is a good man and a hero, it doesn’t mean he is a good king. He loves his kingdom and he demonstrates that love by laying his life on the line for it, but he still isn’t necessarily the best person to lead it because he has always kept one foot on land.
The art this issue, by penciler Robson Rocha and inkers Daniel Henriques and Danny Miki, does a spectacular job of showing the brutality of war underwater, which is not an easy task. From Aquaman’s battle with Murk, to King Shark’s bloody attacks on the Atlantean army, to the disturbing transformations of Rath and his followers into sea monsters, this team delivers epic action and underwater mayhem well, and the art is only improved by the colors of Sunny Gho, who makes all of the magic and blood seem like big budget, widescreen special effects that anyone would pay good money to see.
In the end, this was a satisfying issue in a compelling arc that has questioned who Aquaman is, what his role in Atlantis should be, and how he will be changing as he moves forward with his life. It seems like Arthur will no longer be the king after this arc and, while it won’t be the first time that has happened in the history of the character, Abnett has put Aquaman in a place, character-wise, that seems to say that he’ll be okay with that and won’t necessarily be trying to retake the throne any time soon. That should be an interesting story moving forward, if it is allowed time to breathe and explore Arthur further.