AQUAMAN #31 By Dan Abnett, Riccardo Federeci, and Sunny Gho
AQUAMAN #31 is a triumphant example of DC's recent success in comics. With an epic and exciting story from Dan Abnett and masterful art from Riccardo Federici and Suny Gho, we are cast into this amazing adventures of Arthur Curry!
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My Man!

With all the scrutiny the DCEU receives, it’s interesting that people do not credit DC for its currently thriving comic universe. In almost every way that the DCEU has failed, DC comics published after DC Rebirth have been resounding successes. AQUAMAN #31 is another example of how the people at DC have a complete understanding of their universe and characters. It is an example of writers continuing to tell clever, fresh new stories of characters that have been around for seventy years.

AQUAMAN #31 pg. 4. Image courtesy of DC Comics

In AQUAMAN #31, writer Dan Abnett successfully sheds all semblance of a campy, humorous take on Arthur Curry. Now Aquaman is a badass freedom fighter leading a revolution against Atlantean oppressors. Combine this with the gritty, gorgeous art from Riccardo Federici and Sunny Gho and you have one of the best DC books in recent memory at hand.

The Return of The King?

If you know one thing about me it’s that I am a huge GAME OF THRONES and LORD OF THE RINGS fanboy. It’s crazy to think that Abnett has reshaped AQUAMAN into a political drama similar to Martin’s series and a fantasy epic like Tolkien’s masterpiece. Crazy enough, all the elements are there. For starters, there’s our dark king, Corum Rath, who has usurped the Atlantean throne and revitalized forbidden ancient magic. Like Prince John from ROBIN HOOD or Claudius from HAMLET, Corum Rath is the classic cruel and ambitious, yet incompetent, ruler that threatens to throw Atlantis into chaos.

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Rath’s tyranny paves the way for our hero, Aquaman, to lead his revolution. Aquaman is our Jon Snow, Aragorn, and King Arthur: he is the king destined to return to bring healing to the land. Or is he?

AQUAMAN #31 pg. 16. Image courtesy of DC Comics

Arthur seems determined to reject the throne. He is much happier being the vengeful hero who works from the shadows. Taking a page from his friend Bruce, Arthur is becoming a symbol to light the flame of resistance against Rath. Will this force Arthur to return as King of Atlantis? Or will we find a new ruler? The comic has already hinted at the ascension of Mera to the Atlantean throne. Having an Atlantean Queen would be another fresh twist to keep this series exciting.

Abnett absolutely excels at telling epic stories like he does in AQUAMAN #31. His writing on WARHAMMER clearly assisted him in crafting interesting factions, fantastical elements, and a fascinating conflict that makes this such a terrific comic.

The Fires of Resistance

We should not expect for comics to always make a politcal statement. They are primarily made to entertain and fuel our imaginations. However, just by existing in a certain time period, they often make one without even trying. That might be the case with AQUAMAN #31. Perhaps it is because I am in a STAR WARS mindset and wrapped up with my own ideas of “the spark of the resistance,” but to me it seems like the resistance of this comic, called the Undercurrent, has a lot of connections to movements rising today.

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The Undercurrent unites different factions that are all unhappy with the oppressive Corum Rath. Rath has proven to be an unstable, morally repugnant, and corrupt leader. One of the most drastic things he does is round-up “dissidents” in the poorer sections of Atlantis known as the Lower Tirades. Rath has especially targeted Atlanteans showing underwater mutations whom the Atlanteans derogate as “taint-bloods.”

Strong and Thought-Provoking Parallels

Abnett is making some big racial and economic statements in this comic. He is warning against governments who target the impoverished and downtrodden. Then he is attacking this idea of “racial purity,” an idea that has come to light again in our country. The direct governmental discrimination against “taint-bloods” reminds me directly of our own government’s moves targeting immigrants, Muslims, and members of the LGBTQ community.

It is not a coincidence that Abnett calls Aquaman’s rebellion “a resistance.” Resistance has been a term that has been thrown around quite a bit the last year in order to fight the alt-right movement that has seemingly taken control of our country especially after the election of President Trump. AQUAMAN #31 calls for everyone to put their differences behind themselves to take on political injustices together. I am very impressed with how Abnett managed to weave these political themes into AQUAMAN #31 seamlessly.

Art in AQUAMAN #31

I absolutely adore the story of AQUAMAN #31. That being said, my favorite part of this comic is the spectacular art by Ricardo Federici and Sunny Gho. It calls back to neoclassical art showcasing legendary heroes wielding swords and majestic capes. Aquaman sometimes does appear in this comic like the vision of a bright knight striking down his villainous foes. You could easily imagine him riding a white horse into battle against Rath’s villainous forces.

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However, there is also a gritty element to this comic book. It evokes much harsher, Romanesque art like that of William the Conqueror on the Bayeux Embroidery. AQUAMAN #31 reflects this in its often muted color scheme. Gho uses darker shades of color both to elicit the bleaker themes of the comic and also simply to remind readers that we are deep in the dark ocean. This mix of styles is brilliant because it marks the inner conflict of Arthur Curry right now. So, on one hand, Arthur wants to embrace the Gothic style of Batman and become a creature of the night. Then, on the other, he wishes to walk into the light and become the hero that Atlantis needs him to be. The style that wins out will determine which way Abnett’s series continues.

AQUAMAN #31 pg. 19. Image courtesy of DC Comics

Jason Momoa on Paper

I will also point out how much Federici and Gho’s Aquaman looks like Jason Momoa now. If his long hair and beard weren’t enough, now he has the same intense eyebrows, piercing eyes, and build as Aquaman from JUSTICE LEAGUE. Amazingly, this doesn’t feel forced at all but a natural progression for the comic character. AQUAMAN #31’s Arthur Curry is a tough brawler just like Momoa’s version of the character. This gives me even more hope that James Wan’s AQUAMAN will kickass or at least some tail.

Final Thoughts

AQUAMAN #31 is the perfect comic to plunge this series into the new DC Universe phase. It is riveting, intense, thought-provoking and awesome to read. Abnett’s take on Aquaman continues to change how we view this character in the best possible way. Federici and Gho’s art is a perfect example of how different styles can make a superhero comic book stand out on the shelf. Overall, this comic is the exact boost of adrenaline that I needed to become hyped for the continuation of the DC universe in 2018.

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