DC Comics is launching a new six-issue series featuring Jackson Hyde aka Aqualad training to become the next Aquaman. It appears Aquaman isn’t just a hero, but a mantle to be trained for and earned. In the new issue out this week, Brandon Thomas and Diego Olortegui begin to flesh out this character’s new direction and his supporting cast. Emblazoned with the DC’s Pride logo, this new series is not only about a young hero training up, but also being openly gay in a world that may hate him for it.
This issue opens with Jackson training in Apokolips, which turns out to be through a cool techno-water interface. It’s a neat way of showing how Atlantis has some advanced tech while also showing Jackson is nearly at the level where he could replace Aquaman if need be. He’s not quite Aquaman yet — one might suspect he’ll gain the mantle by the end, but he wants to prove himself. This leads to Aquaman giving Jackson a bit of a pep talk and Mera entering the scene.
A lot of people, myself included, will appreciate how Aquaman and Mera are aware Jackson is gay and are supportive of it. Aquaman even says he’ll help Jackson find a “cute boy” which is, somewhat sad to say, incredibly progressive for mainline heroes. It’s something that did not exist 30 years ago. This scene, and really the depiction of Jackson throughout the book, is incredibly positive. Jackson is like a ray of sunshine who is always smiling and is seemingly hopeful all the time.
After establishing Jackson’s relationship here, the narrative moves to his mother in a diner scene. You can read most of this scene in our preview. Lo and behold, the waiter is in fact a cute boy and it’s fun to see Jackson stumble through his order. A wrinkle you may not expect involves the mother, which adds a certain realism that could go in a few different directions. It’s unclear at this point if she’s overprotective or something else is going on. This first issue does a great job establishing Jackson’s various supporting characters and the different relationships.
There is of course action, this is a superhero comic after all, and yet it’s a touch unconventional. Instead of a long choreographed fight scene, Thomas and Olortegui cut away to the Teen Titans who comment on the villain Jackson is up against. It’s a clever choice in part because they all appear to be on Zoom, making their interactions relatable, but it also pokes a bit of fun at the kooky DC villains.
The book bookends well with a closing scene where we started. Olortegui gets to draw some good fighting in a tense scene that also layers in the stakes. If Jackson is nearly as good as Aquaman at this point, he’s got a tough five issues to go. It’s not exactly clear who the enemy is, which throws some doubt on what Jackson is up against making the arch-nemesis element vague and uninteresting. Still, the fight at the end certainly hints he’s up against somebody who can throw down with a superhero.
One other minor gripe is how Jackson seems almost too perfect. He’s nearly as good as Aquaman at fighting ability, he’s super positive and seems to have no character defects, and his life is pretty darn good too. One can surmise the ending of this issue is throwing that into disarray, but Jackson the man is less relatable at this point since we don’t know him that well.
Olortegui is backed up by inker Wade Von Grawbadger and color artist Adriano Lucas. Inking is sharp in this issue, adding good detailing when to comes to Jackson’s costume. Speaking of which, the colors are quite bright in the book, which lends to the hopeful and brighter feel. From the early morning rays of sunshine peeking into the diner, to the bright sky, there seems to be a younger reader feel to it. Even Mera’s costume is a brighter green than we’ve seen before.
Aquaman: The Becoming #1 is a strong start for the series establishing a good supporting cast, high stakes, and the unique position Jackson is in. The various character dynamics make for a lot of interesting relationships to explore while never shying away from Jackson’s infectious positivity. Aquaman: The Becoming is a pure superhero story with pure heart.
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