Aquaman #38 review

Aquaman and Mera continue their investigation into the mysterious portal technology used by the ancient Atlanteans and related disappearance of his mother. The action this issue moves from Gorilla City to Polynesia to somewhere very, very far away, where an encounter with gigantic flame-spewing beasts presages a meeting that could change Aquaman’s life. 

Look at them go in this spectacular spread! If I’m not mistaken, writer Jeff Parker is giving us an update on the fire trolls from the debut issue of Aquaman’s first solo book, back in 1962. 

He’s also giving us a wonderfully entertaining narrative, a splendidly superheroic romp that’s big in scale but full of the little character moments that make his protagonists come alive. Eventful and action packed as part four of the Maelstrom story is, the heart of the book is the relationship between Arthur and Mera. Parker really knows how to write a couple in love without things getting sappy or dull, presenting the king of Atlantis and his consort as true partners in the personal and public arenas. 

What’s more, Aquaman is an edyoocayshunal read – as well as this nugget, you’ll learn some Polynesian this time. 

I dunno about a maelstrom, but Paul Pelletier draws up a storm, supported by inkers Sean Parsons and Sandra Hope. The art is expressive, as plenty of attention is paid to facial expressions and body language, the environments look great, and as for those fire trolls, like, eek. So far as Rain Beredo’s colours go, I love the sunshiny tones of Polynesia, the intensity of the fire-fight, the darkening towards the end. It’s beautiful work from the entire artistic team – Arthur and Mera have rarely looked so majestic -with letterer Travis Lanham adding the finishing touch. 

Aquaman has been one of DC’s strongest books since the beginning of the New 52, but its gore and foregrounding of negative perceptions against Arthur – even though the point was to hobble them – meant it wasn’t a favourite. Those aspects have gone, and there’s nothing I don’t like about the current direction and execution. Maelstrom has everything I want in an Aquaman comic – likeable, competent heroes; a strong, shaded supporting cast; a playfulness around the politics; and big, colourful antagonists. If you’ve not tried the current series, jump right in – Parker, Pelletier and the rest of the gang wrangled by editors Harvey Richards and Frank Pittarese make these particular waters very inviting. 

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