I have never consistently read an Aquaman book. I’ve got nothing against the character, I just wasn’t interested in him. But I knew Dan Abnett (the writer behind….look just go look at his wiki page, dude’s written everything you like) was writing it, and I knew I should give it a look. And then I heard Stjepan Sejic (Sunstone, Switch, a freaking gorgeous deviantart page) (lightly NSFW link there) had the art, and I threw money in their direction, sight-unseen. I’m incredibly biased when it comes to Stjepan, so rather than a review, see below for a lot of incoherent hyperventilating. This issue is gorgeous.
Even if you’re jumping into the Aquaman story for the first time (like me) it doesn’t take long to get caught up. Aquaman was killed in battle, and the new King Rath doesn’t waste a second before trashing his name about “consorting with air-breathers” and blaming all of Atlantis’ problems on the recently murdered.
Rath has cast a magical “Crown of Thorns” over the city to “protect” it (conveniently trapping all his subjects inside) and he sets his shark-faced goons into the worst areas of the city, clearing out undesirables (i.e. anybody who can give him trouble. Or might think about giving him trouble. Or look at him sideways. Or doesn’t have any money. You know the type.)
So we’ve got tyrant kings, heroes in hiding, a plucky group of rebels, and a secret revolution. These are all things that I like, but really, they had me at “Sejic”and the art did not disappoint.
I’ve been a fan of Stjepan Sejic for years, and if you’ve never followed him before, this issue is a great example of his style. He’s a master at drawing pretty people of course (go check out Sunstone sometime, but not at work, unless your boss is way more laid back than most.) But he can do not-pretty people too. He knows how to put lines in someone’s face without making it look like he painstakingly traced them from a photo. He can make teeth look real without making them look creepy. And there are a ton of other-wordly people in Atlantis, people more fish than human, definitely not pretty and absolutely amazing.
He does excellent things with expressions too, he’s not afraid to make someone’s face go all ugly with rage, and he can draw the hell out of someone giving a side-eye. And there’s one panel where he did this amazing thing with King Rath’s eyes, giving the reader no doubt that Rath is two fish short of an aquarium. Dude’s crazy, is what I’m saying. (Rath, not Stjepan. Well Stjepan may be crazy, but in the best possible way. Rath is just a psychopath.)
Stjepan also does the colors for this this issue, and they’re just delicious. The magical lines and symbols of the Crown of Thorns are fascinating, I keep coming back to those panels just to stare a bit longer. The colors throughout are intensely detailed, there’s a panel where the light from a magical device is reflecting off Rath’s scale-mail armor, and it’s kind of mesmerizing. And then there’s panels and panels of the city itself, right down to these gorgeous images of a dark neighborhood built into the walls of an abyss.
But speaking of pretty people (we were, a couple paragraphs ago but we were) Stjepan has said before how he loves to draw redheads, and it looks like he’s been waiting for the chance to draw Mera for ages, he’s putting everything he’s got into it. The images of her grieving just broke my heart, but I think we’ve got some badass-Mera images still to come, if the pictures on his deviantart account are any indication.
I’ve also been seeing his recent artwork of Dolphin and I love everything about her. I also think she’s going to make things…complicated. It’s not clear, but we were given some hints. I hope I’m wrong.
In short, my money’s already set aside for the next issue.