Aquaman #41 kicks off a new direction for this franchise as DC continues their new DCYOU campaign. I was neutral on the Aquaman Sneak Peek that we got during Convergence. It was a bit too much like a 1990’s Image comic. I do not need any more dark and edgy these days. Hopefully, Aquaman #41 will be a more balanced read than what we saw in the Sneak Peek. Cullen Bunn is a solid writer so I have hope that this issue will be better than what we got with the Sneak Peek. Let’s find out!
Words: Cullen Bunn
Pencils: Tervor McCarthy
Colors: Guy Major
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin in St. Louis. Aquaman narrates that he always has avoided Missouri since it is a landlocked state. That it is no place for the King of Atlantis. Even an exiled King like Arthur is now. We see an ancient structure suddenly appear beneath the Gateway Arch. Black tendrils come out of the ancient structure and start attacking the locals in the park surrounding the Gateway Arch. Aquaman comes leaping out of the Mississippi River and starts hacking up the black tendrils with his enchanted blade.
Aquaman enters the ancient structure and inside comes face-to-face with a bunch of creatures. Aquaman thinks how these creatures have no choice to attack because if they do not then their Kingdom, their world, may cease to exist. Aquaman says he can relate to that. Aquaman’s enchanted sword then crackles with lightning and transforms into a large trident. (Damn. That is a pretty sweet weapon.)
We flashback to “then.” We see Aquaman, Mera, Tula and two other characters that I do not recognize. They are all investigating an area of the Atlantic Ocean that has been “poisoned” by an ancient structure with black tendrils that kills everything the tendrils touch. Aquaman tries his hand at wise-cracking on their way to the structure. It does not impress Mera. Aquaman comments that the Flash makes witty banter seem easy.
They arrive at the ancient alien structure. The tendrils attack them. One of the tendrils touches Aquaman. He says that it felt like his cells were dying when the tendril touched him. That it was like frostbite. Mer uses her powers to transport the structure back into the abyss.
We hop back to “now.” Aquaman is kicking ass on all of the creatures. Aquaman says that these creatures were bred to fight. That they know nothing about love or friendship. That it is actually sad. Aquaman channels “the sorrow…the loneliness…the anger” and calls forth “the ice.” Suddenly, massive ice spikes spring up from the ground and impale the creatures. (Wow! Another serious power up!)
One of the creatures just gets trapped in the ice and not impaled. The creature says that the fallen king wields an old monarch’s power. The creature says that they tell stories about Aquaman back home. That the children burn Aquaman in effigy. The creature says that Aquaman is not going to kill them. That if he would do so then he would not be at odds with his people. The creature says that Aquaman does not look like the “ravager of worlds.”
Aquaman replies “You’re kidding, right?” Aquaman uses his trident to destroy some piece of machinery in the structure. Suddenly, all the creatures explode from inside and waste away into skeletons. The dying creature says “No…I never knew…never imagined…” The entire alien structure turns into ashes along with all of the creatures. Aquaman wonders how long it will be before he has to kill again.
We flashback to “then” in Atlantis. Aquaman, Mera and other members of the royal court talk about the alien structure they just encountered. They decide that it is the remnants of another civilization that is invading the ocean. Vulko, who is in restraints because he is being held captive for treason, is brought in so he may render his expert opinion. Vulko says that despite his actions he will always remain loyal to Atlantis. Vulko says that the alien structure is more like a genetic disease that has been with the Atlanteans for centuries. That they are now just feeling the first symptoms. That this other realm is poisoning the Earth. That it is clearing the Earthlings away and that it will happen more rapidly as more sentinels (alien structures) appear on Earth.
Aquaman says that they will stop this even if it means ripping the other world apart in the process.
We shift back to “now” in St. Louis. The bystanders are all praising and thanking Aquaman for saving them. Suddenly, Atlantean warships rise out of the Mississippi River. They tell Aquaman to surrender or they will use lethal force. Aquaman then uses his trident to whip up the water around him. Aquaman then teleports away from the scene. (Check that out! Yet another power up for Aquaman!)
We cut back to “then” with Aquaman telling Mera not to worry. That they will stop this alien invasion. Aquaman says that Vulko says that he might be able to use his telepathy to track the source of this alien invasion. Mera urges Aquaman to send envoys instead of placing himself on the front line. Aquaman quips that Mera “never complained about my hands on approach before.” Mera says Aquaman still stinks at witty banter. Mera says that she should go with Aquaman. Aquaman says that Mera needs to stay in Atlantis. That Atlantis needs its Queen to protect it while Aquaman is gone. Mera asks “Arthur…was that a proposal?” The two then embrace each other and kiss.
We zip back to “now.” We see Aquaman teleporting to the Amazon. Aquaman narrates how it has been three months since he was last in Atlantis or Amnesty Bay or anywhere he has called home. And it does not look like that is going to change anytime soon. Aquaman then enters an ancient structure. Aquaman narrates that he promised Mera that he would do whatever it took to save their people. Even if it meant destroying the other world.
Inside of the structure are a bunch of refugees. Aquaman narrates that he could raise this structure right now if he wanted to do so. But, instead he is letting the enemy survive. He is bringing them into his world. Even though the threat to his kingdom grows with every second. End of issue. Aquaman then says “No wonder she is so pissed.” End of issue.
The Good: How about that? I was not blown away by the Aquaman Sneak Peek at all. But, Aquaman #41? This was a great read. Bunn managed to address my concerns stemming from the Aquaman Sneek Peak and then hook me into wanting to come back for the next issue. My criticisms with the Aquaman Sneak Peek centered around the tone of the story and the portrayal of Aquaman’s character. It all felt like an “edgy” 1990’s Image comic. Aquaman seemed like a one-dimensional dark and brooding character. It seemed that we were going to deal with yet another DC super hero who was unsure if he was a hero or not. Who was unsure of his place in the world. Absolutely none of that was even remotely interesting.
Fortunately, Bunn delivered a much different take on Aquaman’s character in Aquaman #41. What we get in this issue is an interesting take on Aquaman’s character. Bunn delivers a wonderfully textured take on Aquaman’s character. Aquaman’s personality is complex and multifaceted. There is far more going on with Arther’s character in this issue than I was expecting with this issue. Bunn assuaged my greatest fear that we were in store for an angst ridden Aquaman who came across like a typical violent 1990’s super hero.
Instead, Bunn goes out of his way to show that Arthur is absolutely a hero at his core. That Arthur is driven by his desire to “do the right thing.” That Arthur wants to protect life and innocent people even if it may place him at odds with his lover and his people. Yes, in battle we definitely understand that Arthur is a badass. In a big way. I love that Arthur has a warrior king approach when battling the creatures attacking St. Louis. I had no problem with Arthur killing the creatures in order to prevent the loss of innocent lives.
At the same time, Bunn shows that Arthur is willing to go to great lengths to save lives, too. Even those of his supposed enemies. The fact that Arthur is protecting the inhabitants of the alien structure in the Amazon shows that he is not blindly warlike. Arthur realizes that all innocent life should be protected. And the fact that Arthur is willing to go against Mera and his people hammers home to the reader that Arthur is a man of principle and a man of honor. That Arthur has his own strong set of morals that he will not violate even for his wife or his people.
Bunn succeeds in showing that Arthur possess a heart of a true hero. No, Arthur does not always feel supremely confident. Just like any other mortal man, Aquaman can wonder if he is making the right decision. He can worry that he may be making a mistake. Arthur’s concern and questioning himself over what he is doing serves to make him seem more human. To make Arthur more relatable. This helps the reader form more of a connection with Arthur’s character.
I love that Aquaman gets cheered by all of the bystanders in St. Louis. This is an important moment. We get enough moments where characters like Superman and Martian Manhunter receive fear and distrust from innocent bystanders. It was great to see Aquaman treated like the true hero that he is by the bystanders in St. Louis. This is important. It absolutely matters that DC have heroes who are great heroes and are viewed positively by the general public.
I loved the new super powers that Aquaman burnishes in this issue. These new powers certainly help to get Aquaman over with the reader as a legitimate heavy hitter in the DCU. Aquaman has always suffered from an image problem. It has always been a tough sell for DC to get Aquaman to be taken seriously by readers. One time-tested way to get a character who has been viewed as a bit of a joke in the past is to give him some impressive powers. And Bunn definitely does that with Aquaman #41.
Aquaman comes across as a total badass that nobody in their right mind would want to tangle with. Aquaman unveils multiple new powers including his enchanted sword that can transform into a huge trident, the ability to create ice spikes from the ground and the ability to teleport. I love these powers and am excited to see what else Arthur can do. I think this is a great move by DC. It helps to place Aquaman on more of an equal footing in terms of power levels with his fellow Justice Leaguers.
Mera is a fantastic character and I am glad she got some decent panel time in Aquaman #41. Bunn displayed a nice feel for Mera’s character. Mera comes across as the no-nonsense and tough woman that she is who also is very loving and loyal to Arthur. Bunn is able to create strong chemistry between Arthur and Mera. These two character work so wonderfully together. I enjoyed all the scenes with them in this issue. However, the final scene where Arthur proposes to her by saying that she is the Queen of Atlantis was my favorite. This was a great moment that truly captured the relationship that these two characters have with each other.
From a technical standpoint, Aquaman #41 is well written and constructed. This is a strongly paced and plotted issue. Bunn wastes no time getting multiple plot lines installed in just this issue. We have the alien threat, Arthur’s exile from Atlantis, Arthur’s fractured relationship with Mera and Arthur’s decision to go against his people. There is a ton of plot development in this issue. Bunn whips up an issue with numerous layers and plenty of depth for the reader to enjoy. The reader certainly gets their money’s worth with Aquaman #41. This issue is well-balanced as Bunn dials in a proper mix of dialogue heavy dramatic scenes with action packed fight scenes. The story moves with a purpose and at a crisp pace. There are no wasted panels or any dead space in this issue.
Bunn ends Aquaman #41 with an excellent hook ending. Bunn nicely juxtaposes the scene with Arthur proposing to Mera with the stunning revelation that Arthur is now protecting the people he swore to Mera that he would destroy. Bunn succeeds in hooking the reader’s attention and getting them excited for the next issue.
The dialogue in this issue was well done. What was particularly well done was Aquaman’s narration which served as the spine to this issue. Bunn does a fine job with Aquaman’s voice. I enjoyed how Bunn employed Arthur’s narration to feed the reader necessary back story in an economical fashion and to give the reader some nice insight into Arthur’s thoughts and emotions.
Trevor McCarthy whips up some solid artwork. McCarthy is equally adept at action scenes as he is the dialogue heavy dramatic scenes. The character’s all had nice facial expressions which helped bring Bunn’s story to life.
The Bad: The colors in Aquaman #41 are too muddy and dark for me. This issue looks like it is under a dim light for the entire story. Reading this issue was like watching a Zack Snyder movie where everything is washed over in the same muted and dull color tone. And that is definitely not a good thing.
My only other criticism would be Arthur’s new costume design. Costume design continues to be a real problem for DC ever since the New 52 reboot. I do not know if this is once again Jim Lee forcing a design or if McCarthy is responsible for this new outfit. Either way, I much prefer Aquaman’s classic and more colorful costume. The grey breastplate that Arthur has with his new costume gives him a dull and drab look.
Overall: Aquaman #41 was a great read. Bunn and McCarthy combine to deliver an entertaining read that offered an excellent balance of action, adventure, mystery and drama. I am stunned at how much I enjoyed this issue. I would definitely recommend giving Aquaman #41 a try. I have a feeling that Bunn has something special in store for us with this title.