Kelly Sue DeConnick got her run on Aquaman off to an unexpected start. Completely removing Aquaman from Atlantis and focusing the story around Arthur Curry rather than Aquaman was certainly surprising. The start of this story arc was given an intriguing hook based around the mysterious Unspoken Water and the people that inhabit an equally mysterious village. There are many questions that Aquaman #43 created for this story arc. As things progress the answers to those questions will be key to the success or failure of DeConnick’s first Aquaman story arc. Let’s see where things go now with Aquaman #44.
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Artist: Robson Rocha
Inker: Daniel Henriques
Colorist: Sunny Cho
Story Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: In Atlantis Mera reflects on how she is feeling the absence of Aquaman. Elena interrupts Mera to tell her a group of suitors have been gather for Mera. Elena says they will find a match for Mera and make a miracle happen. Mera rolls her eyes and then says she is hoping for a miracle as well.
Over at the Village of Unspoken Water Aquaman asks Wee who she is. Wee dodges the question with a riddle to who she is. Wee then says that she believes the ocean has plans for Aquaman. Aquaman demands to know what those plans are. Wee tells Aquaman to watch his tone and to start his questions over.
Aqauaman asks Wee who he is. Wee again creates a riddle as an answer and tells Aquaman to ask better questions. Aquaman then asks why are they letting him suffer. Wee says she does not know that or what his true name is. She then apologizes for offering to help Aquaman return home as it takes time and a great cost to return. Aquaman asks what that is. Wee responds that while she may have be wrong to offer that she will give Aquaman “the cure,” all he has to do is meet her at the shore at sunset.
Aquaman goes to visit Caille at her house. Aquaman questions Caille on what she said about him being a gift from the sea born on the night she found him. Caille questions who Aquaman is trying to discover his past for and if it’s for the people who helped “raise” her.
Aquaman says the others want someone to protect her. Caille asks Aquaman if that is him. Aquaman says he doesn’t know and needs to find out who he is and answers to everything that has been going on. Caille congratulates Aquaman and says she is set the way she is. Aquaman doesn’t think so and says this is her chance to save the sea that is dying. He then brings up the fact that Namma may be behind everything. This causes Caille to yell at Aquaman to get out of her house.
Once Aquaman does Caille has a concerned look on her face.
Sometime later Wee and the villagers are creating fire pit. We then begins a ceremony with the villagers standing in a circle around the fire. During the ceremony the villagers reveal themselves to be Tlaloc the God of Rain and Water, Kumungwe the God of Mysterious Undersea, Amanikable the God of Sea and Hunt, Caruna protector of water and commander of night, Atabey mother to storms and sea, Repun the God of Sea and Bounty, Manannan Mac Lir, Agwe the loa of the sea and Tangaroa.
As the villagers conduct their ceremony Aquaman and Caille stand by a near cliff.
They eventually join the villagers and Aquaman hands over his offering to the fire. This causes the fire to go green. Wee then tells the sea that they have found a champion worthy of it. Tangaroa grabs Aquaman and forces him under the sea. While underwater Aquaman’s eyes start to glow green. End of issue.
The Good: Aquaman #44 is a mixed bag of an issue. From one end there is a compelling mystery with what is going on with the Unspoken Water. On the other end is some underdeveloped plot points that keep this story from becoming fully invested into.
The overall mystery to what exactly is going on with the Unspoken Water has been compelling because of how Aquaman is being involved. Kelly Sue DeConnick is doing a good job in making Aquaman as confused as the reader is with how everyone is talking. Aquaman’s confusion adds to his own personal character arc as he tries to uncover who he is and what the Unspoken Water is.
What particularly works well with this characterization for Aquaman is that he is not just quietly standing back to figure things out. He is directly questioning all the villagers, showing that he is actively trying to figure out what is going on. Aquaman calling out Wee for going around all his questions with riddles showed his own frustration with how he is being treated. It helped drive the story forward so that DeConnick can add to the mystery around all the villagers with the ritual they conducted at the end of Aquaman #44.
That is where the strength of Aquaman #44 being the pacing does come into play. The story is moving forward rather than looking backwards. DeConnick has a good sense of how the reader should be following Aquaman through this adventure. She is having us discover things at the same time Aquaman is. This helps build suspense for what will come next with the Unspoken Water.
Robson Rocha’s artwork in Aquaman #44 was showed an improvement over the last issue. Rocha was able to strike a nice balance between the dark mystery going in the village of Unspoken Water and the mystical portion of Aquaman #44. His design for all the characters also stood out much more as there was a strong consistency with how each character was drawn. This helped the pacing of the story continue to move forward. The brief time we spent with Mera in Atlantis also nicely built anticipation with how Rocha will do when drawing the entire underwater city in the future.
The Bad: Where Aquaman #44 ends up falling flat is in the fact that there is a lack of connection with all the villagers that inhabit the Village of Unspoken Water. We’ve barely spent one issue before we went all in on how dark and creepy they all are. This caused the knowledge we pick up of the names of each villagers not to have any impact. They are all still just random characters who we haven’t seen much off.
This only helps to spotlight the fact that we have only seen Aquaman interact with three characters in the Village of Unspoken Water. And of those characters only Wee and Caille have had any sort of meaningful dialogue within this story. Everyone else has just stood around being background characters.
Because of that fact even though DeConnick gives each villager a striking name it does not matter since we never got to learn who they were before this. There was no development with why we should care about these character. This caused moments such as when Tangaroa grabbed Aquaman and put him underwater against his will not have the impact it was supposed to. There should’ve been a sense of betrayal from this due to Aquaman having a friendship with him before. But that development never happened causing this and the ritual that preceded it fall flat.
There is also something lacking when it comes to Caille’s portion of the story. There has been a lot of telling the reader why we should feel bad for her character. We haven’t actually seen how she is having a difficult time outside of how the previous issue ended. A quick flashback to Caille’s childhood, showing how the villagers raised her, would’ve gone a long way adding layers to her character. It would have also made her conversation with Aquaman hold more weight as they talked about what the villagers wanted.
The scene with Mera and Atlantis did not hit its intended mark. Rather than adding to the story it just led to greater confusion to what is going on. The way it is written it sounded like Aquaman’s continuity is being rebooted and that it is not connected to the rest of the DC Universe. Seeing Atlantis also will likely just remind newer readers that we are missing out on stories that could take place there. And with the success of the Aquaman movie driving newer fans to this comic book this may be a turn off.
Overall: Aquaman #44 did not turn out to be as strong as the previous issue. The mystery around the Unspoken Water and Aquaman’s amnesia help drive the story forward. Unfortunately the lack of development for key supporting characters have caused Kelly Sue DeConnick to not hit its intended mark. Hopefully with how Aquaman #44 ended these problems can be fixed so the story can quickly turn around.