REVIEW: ‘Aquaman’ #26

(DC Comics, 2013)

Review by Shawn Warner

Written by Jeff Parker
Pencils by Paul Pelletier & Netho Diaz
Inks by Sean Parsons
Color Artwork by Wil Quintana

If I had to personally pick Geoff Johns’ successor on Aquaman the series would have still ended up in the very capable hands of the extremely talented and prolific Jeff Parker. After reading issue #26 it is glaringly obvious that Parker is the man for the job, the transition is about as seamless as it could be. There are no enormous tonal changes or redirecting of the narrative trajectory of the overall story, the differences are subtle and nuanced not drastic. Parker maintains several of the elements employed by Johns’ including the “Game of Thrones” style hierarchy set up by the Atlanteans and the heated relationship between Arthur and Mera. If you were a fan of Johns’ Aquaman I feel confident that you will not jump ship during Parker’s tenure as series scribe, in fact I believe this is an optimal jumping-on point for new readers.

There is no fanfare or big event kick-off to welcome Parker as the new series writer and that is the way he prefers it. He is more of a slow-burn kind of writer, much like he has done in the past on his runs like Hulk and Dark Avengers Parker lets the details reveal themselves over the course of meticulously building a solid story foundation. His dialogue is always spot on and his characterizations run the gamut from light and humorous to dark and imposing. Parker can handle any tone and develops his characters accordingly. Similar to Johns in many respects Parker is very much an innovator and seasoned storyteller particularly in the super hero genre.

This issue focuses on political pressures among the Atlantean privileged and Aquaman’s precarious hold on the throne amidst a divided citizenry. He and his consort, Mera strive to unite the populace when an unforeseen threat rises from the depths. Off the coast of Iceland, Aquaman faces the Karaqan, a giant crab-like creature rivaling Topo in size with tendrils for appendages, an imposing mouth full of jagged teeth and covered with spiny armor. In Atlantean myth, the Karaqan was the protector of the realm and answered to the royal family however this monster does not seem to recognize Arthur as the true king. The creature is bent on destroying anything in its path and unless Aquaman can stop the monstrous leviathan it will. Arthur is warned not to use his mind control powers to subdue the monster fearing that to do so would leave him in a coma. The watery battle rages on with no end in sight.

Jeff Parker masterfully brings a sense of intense urgency to the narrative by alternating between scenes of Mera as she deals with the Atlantean statesmen and Arthur as he battles the “Kaiju-like” creature from the depths. This lets the tension build organically as we see both sides of the dilemma play out. The dialogue during the action is mostly over the comms acting as a sort of running commentary and further heightening the tension already reaching white-knuckle status.

Series artist Paul Pelletier has remained on the book which is a bit unusual with the series writer departing but he is a very welcome member of this creative team. Pelletier’s line work is sharp, clean and exact, his character designs and anatomical rendering are flawless. He captures a full spectrum of emotions through his expert use of facial expression and his storytelling is precise allowing him to accurately express the tone and feeling of the narrative. Unfortunately the same things cannot be said of the fill-in artist on this issue, Netho Diaz. He is not awful but when viewed adjacent to Pelletier, his work is woefully pedestrian and his facial expressions extremely flat. Diaz is however a solid storyteller making effective panel and page layout decisions. The inconsistency evident between the two pencilers is the only thing that hurt this otherwise stellar issue. I believe Diaz has the potential to become a solid comic book artist, as I said his storytelling chops are up to scratch he just needs to work on becoming more dynamic and developing his own style.

Overall this issue is a first-rate example of top notch sequential storytelling. Jeff Parker makes an impressive debut on a title that has been satisfying and entertaining from its first issue. I love this series and the character, Parker is one of the most consistent and solid writers in the industry today making this a wonderful fit. I would suggest to anyone who missed Geoff Johns’ run on Aquaman to pick up the trades and start out fresh with Jeff Parker. I believe you will be glad you did. (4.5/5) So until next time, see you at the comic book store.

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Follow Shawn Warner on Twitter:  @shawnwarner629

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