Aquaman dives back into action in AQUAMAN #35 and the beginning of the “Kingslayer” arc. Dan Abnett is back this month continuing the story of the Undercurrent rebellion’s assault against King Corum Rath.  With new artist Robson Rocha (GREEN LANTERNS), this comic gains a new tone and style which largely works with the war-themed storyline. Overall, AQUAMAN #35 is an entertaining journey even if it’s one without much emotional weight.

AQUAMAN #35 pg. 6. Courtesy of DC Comics

Come Drift Away

In this comic, King Rath is keen to destroy the Undercurrent uprising by any means necessary. He has taken over the Silent School and embraced the power of the Abyssal Dark. This dark magic has given Rath a leg up in this conflict where the odds were beginning to be set against him.

Now Rath, corrupted by the evil magic, wields an army of possessed soldiers led by his lieutenant, Kadaver. Kadaver and Rath’s elite soldiers, the Drift, convert into zombiesque taint-bloods. The magic in their blood makes them stronger and more resistant to attack, proving more difficult for Aquaman and his allies.

I am a little disappointed that Abnett opted to make Abyssal Dark the real big bad of this Aquaman arc. On one hand, this decision makes sense since Abnett has been hinting at the dangerous aspects of magic for several issues now. Making the Abyssal Dark corrupt Rath and his armies are, in many ways, a firing of ‘Chekhov’s Gun’ that has been set up for a long time.

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On the other hand, I had enjoyed Aquaman’s battle for Atlantis because it didn’t feel exactly like a war between good and evil.  Instead, it felt like a conflict between different political viewpoints. Aquaman and the Undercurrent were fighting for a modern, inclusive Atlantis whereas Rath was trying to restore Atlantis to its former glory. Having a great mystical force command Rath’s armies makes this arc another time our heroes have to defeat an all-powerful big bad. Abnett does take a lot of inspiration from high fantasy in this arc; I just wish he avoided this common fantasy trope.

Berserker Aquaman

AQUAMAN #35 feels like a culmination in the direction that DC comics has been moving Aquaman’s character. This new direction began when Warner Bros. first released a picture of Jason Momoa’s Aquaman with long flowing hair, a rugged beard, and tattoos across his body. This was radically different from the clean-cut, cleanshaven, blonde-haired Aquaman that was in the comics.

However, Jason Momoa’s Aquaman proved to be popular in JUSTICE LEAGUE. The comics probably wanted to cash in on the world’s familiarity with Momoa’s take on Arthur. That is why since AQUAMAN #25, Arthur’s hair has been growing longer and his beard he becomes more ragged.

AQUAMAN #35 pg. 7. Courtesy of DC Comics

AQUAMAN #35 was the first comic where I saw Arthur’s personality change to fit Jason Momoa’s. In this comic, Aquaman arrives into battle yelling “I’m sending you back to hell!” What follows is a brutal (but awesome) onslaught where Aquaman destroys much of the Drift. Aquaman is no longer depicted as the gallant, noble, friendly King.

Here is he is a boisterous and ruthless berserker. While this is extremely different than the Aquaman I am familiar with, I do not mind this interpretation. It fits that this long war would have an emotional impact on Aquaman. As long as the story continues to call for this version of Arthur Curry, I will enjoy it.

Art in AQUAMAN #35

It’s no secret if you read any of my previous AQUAMAN reviews, that I am a huge fan of Riccardo Federici’s work on the comic. Robson Rocha, the artist of AQUAMAN #35 does a fantastic job capturing the essence of Federici’s style while adding his own spin on the art.

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There’s still an element of glamour and enchantment in Rocha’s drawings that evokes Federici’s art. However, each panel is filtered through brutal depictions of battle. We get streams of blood and mountains of bodies lining every page. Whereas previous issues romanticized the perils of war, this one shows the reader the ugliness that is the Undercurrent rebellion.

AQUAMAN #35 pg. 2. Courtesy of DC Comics

This definitely fits with the themes that Abnett is going for. Obviously, Aquaman is becoming a much more barbaric soldier so the art should reflect this new coarse disposition. It also represents a greater contamination of Atlantis as a culture. We see this with the grotesque Drift soldiers becoming monsters.

They have fungi protruding off their skin, sharp claws and teeth, and sometimes tentacles as arms. They remind me of The Trench from the New 52 in that they evoke a fear of the depths of the ocean. Through all of this, Rocha is able to enthrall readers with a unique depiction of this Atlantean conflict.

The Battle for Atlantis Continues!

AQUAMAN #35 was a solid if slightly uninspired issue in Abnett’s run. It lacked the vision and the intricacies that make his comics so special. Nonetheless, it was still an entertaining story about Arthur Curry. This was largely due to the fun battles and the interesting art from Rocha. However, Abnett needs to tell a relatable and human story to really make “Kingslayer” a memorable AQUAMAN arc.

AQUAMAN #35 By Dan Abnett and Robson Rocha
AQUAMAN #35 is a worthy inclusion in the omnibus Dan Abnett's work but it does not scratch the intense quality of some of his previous issues on AQUAMAN. In this issue, story and character points are largely ignored for large-scale action sequences. However, the art by Robson Rocha does provide a nice counterpoint of nuance into this comic.
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