Aquaman has seen reinvention under the new creative team of Kelly Sue DeConnick, Robson Rocha, Daniel Henriques, Sunny Gho and Clayton Cowles. Plunged into the depths of myth and elemental power, the book is very much about water and what it is and can be, tapping into the primal power of the core concept one thinks of with a name like “Aquaman.” And thus we now have celestial mother and father figures of creation, the source of the ocean and all life which emerged from it in ages past. And we have their children, the gods, who would go onto wage war against these parents. But it also means we have a renewed focus on the core power of Aquaman. It’s the one that got him laughed at for ages and it’s one that still elicits laughs from many, as crude jokes are made of it. And that power is The Call, the ability that Arthur Curry has to call for help from all life tied to water. And not through words, but through a simple telepathic message. A power that conveys that which is necessary, no more, no less, which bears one’s heart to all others, asking for aid.
It’s this power that reawakened the gods from their dormant states, bringing them back to their true forms of power. And it’s also the power integral to the story, for how can it not be given its so vital to the character?
Issue #47 sees the culmination of a lot of things the team has set up and built to over the course of this five part arc: all the gods are back in full force and power, Namma is raging and almost at her full might and people are aware Arthur is still alive due to The Call. And here, the final battle commences, with Arthur riding Namma, who is an oceanic dragon. Corrupting and killing all that comes within her reach in the waters, she blazes in her rage and need for vengeance. As her pain and anger increase, her visage splits into three heads, allowing for Rocha to let loose and display more emotion in the antagonist. Henriques continues to ink Rocha perfectly here, bringing out the best of his work, with the spiky forms of salt-bending blending perfectly with its grainy textures and never feeling odd. The team sells a lot of wild, fantastical imagery with relative ease, which is the most impressive part. Gho sets the tone and atmosphere for the entire book and she enhances Rocha’s water imagery by using varying colors, from bright blues to dark blues and even greens, to make the ocean a lively setting that isn’t just visually stagnant.
DeConnick’s epic narration also continues throughout this issue, delivered meticulously by Cowles here. Once again, he makes use of thicker-edged balloons and bent, serpentine tails to distinguish Namma, while nailing the captions with white text on a maroon background. His placements all work really nicely, helping the reader decode the massive tidal wave of information packed into the issue, full of so many gods and a whirlwind of action. And all the while DeConnick gives the story much needed weight, keeping things centered on the core ideas, the mythic mother figure who evokes deep horror and the sanctity and safety of the entire ocean, which means all life.
Rocha is also given the room to go wild with a huge array of divine designs he’s prepped for the book at last here. Given life by Gho’s eye-popping colors here, from flaming reds and warm oranges to deep, soothing blues and emerald, they all boast looks that really work for the identity of the title. Wee’s design, in particular, is standout, with flowing hair, a mighty golden helm and green lipstick making for a really simple but cool look for a god. Tang’s flaming design with tusks, sharp teeth and distinct helm, topped off with crimson hands, is also rather remarkable, with Loc’s design being the runnerup. All of them are written to be noble and selfless, willing to serve the ocean and aid, rather than hurt or harm as gods in myth tend to. These are not beings who expect to rule, they hope to serve, their power is for others and never for themselves and it’s precisely why they make for a fun cast in the title. The issue also definitely familiarizes them to us a bit more as the battle rages, with DeConnick and Rocha giving each of them a key moment to highlight the crew.
And as the battle rages on here, the book sees a terrible sacrifice, with all the odds turning. The gods decide the only way to calm the rage of their divine mother is to become on with her, soothing her rage against all of existence, so that salvation may be possible. Arthur and Callie, however, do not merely give in. Namma, the mythical evil mother, is played as a monstrous extremity to contrast Arthur’s core truth here. The idea of “unity” under her is absorption, suppression, control, with will being stripped away. It’s the destruction of one’s self to serve a tyrant. It’s fascistic. Arthur’s power of unity, however, differs and is about a gentle request for help. One that respects and encourages free will, which is what motivates the gods to begin with. Arthur is very much a figure and symbol of unity and that idea of balance is key here.
And so, The Call is used once more and it does save the day. The gods are freed from Namma’s villainous grasp once more and her essence of sand is scattered across the sea, delaying her reconstitution and return. But miraculously, as Arthur begins to faint, he’s rescued by Father Sea, the believed to be lost progenitor and father figure. Appearing out of nowhere after the fall of his consort, the saves Arthur. Once back on the isle of Unspoken Water, Arthur is promised his memories back and to commemorate his work and status, a tattoo is bestowed upon him by the gods. A mark to truly symbolize who he is, not a ruler of the seas, but a man who serves the seas. Then, with Father Sea granting him a new trident (both the tattoo and trident evoke their movie counterparts), Arthur stands tall, finally ready to reclaim his past, as he moves forward into the future.
Apart from the gods and Arthur, Callie is the other character really worth talking about. A big addition by DeConnick, Rocha, Henriques, Gho and Cowles, she feels she has a monster in her. But she’s quickly corrected, because what she really has is power. Whether that is monstrous or not is up to her. Playing off the idea that she’s a child abandoned by her mother since the start, DeConnick has built a character taps into the core trauma at the heart of the Aquaman myth, where in Arthur’s mother had to abandon him. Seeing where she’s headed after this is sure to be exciting.
Aquaman #47 is a nice finale to the story so far, tying up a lot of the pieces that have been setup and built to, while opening up the space for new ones. It’s an action packed finale that showcases great scope and scale alongside its fun characters and every moment is visually engaging while staying true to its core ideas.
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