Aquaman #19 review

A few issues ago Aquaman fought the Aquamarines, human-sealife hybrids sent by the US military when Atlantis and the States were at odds. That misunderstanding was ironed out, but not before some heavy casualties. So when the leader of the Aquamarines asks Aquaman for help, Mera is understandably iffy. 
Major Rhonda Ricoh wants Aquaman’s help to solve the mystery of the ‘Strange Water’ that transformed a henchman of Aquaman enemy the Scavenger into a nightmare who earned the name Dead Water. So it’s off to the Gulf of Mexico to rendezvous with other Aquamarines at a scientific base set over the sinkhole source of the mysterious liquid. All the researchers are missing…

Two heroes investigate a deserted scientific base where there’s a likelihood a monster is stalking the corridor? Dan Abnett is taking us into pure Doctor Who territory, and having written comics and novels based on the BBC’s Time Lord, he knows what he’s doing. We have an uneasy alliance between Aquaman and Mera, the Aquamarines and the new-look Scavenger, a looming threat, suspense aplenty, cracking dialogue… and Aquaman fits right in, not as a quirky alien but as the straightshooter expecting the unexpected. And when it comes, everyone leaps into action…
I like that Mera has a pop or two at the Aquamarines – yes, Aquaman has to be statesmanlike and accept them as allies, they were ‘just’ doing their job, but it doesn’t sit well with Mera’s regular person’s point of view. 
Those transformations don’t half look painful, I wonder if remaining in hybrid form is uncomfortable; otherwise, why not keep their tougher hides whenever they’re on a mission?
Courtesy of artist Philippe Briones, the Aquamarines look ready for anything, heroes worthy of fighting by the side of Mera and Arthur. But Dead Water – who previously encountered Aquaman last year – looks utterly terrifying, especially in a splash page reveal. 
And talking of splash pages, the literal splash that kicks off the issue is a lovely piece of work. 
Briones, teamed with talented colourist Gabe Eltaeb, produces page after page of nicely paced aqua-action, with even smaller panels bearing closer inspection. Take this image of Arthur knocked onto his royal bottom…
… or a tricky low-angle composition…
Briones has settled in well as one of the core Aquaman artists, and I hope he sticks around for awhile.  
Another of the regular artists, Brad Walker, pencils the regular cover, Andrew Hennessy inks and Eltaeb colours and it’s pretty good, though not representative of the issue. Josh Middleton’s variant, though, is another instant classic, lyrical and haunting. And a nod to whomever designed the title lettering on the Walker cover, I especially like how ‘Aquamarines’ is reminiscent of an old Aquaman logo… maybe stalwart Pat Brosseau, who letters the story. 
Every two weeks Abnett brings us the adventures of a complex hero in an ever scarier world, replete with humour, well-defined supporting cast and compelling villains. Briones, Walker and third artist Scot Eaton draw up a storm, with character and action to the fore. If you’re not reading Aquaman, you’re missing one of DC’s best. 

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