DC Comics has found its legacy once more and nowhere is that more clear than the stunning first issue of Aquaman: The Becoming. There is a clear love and passion from everyone involved for both Jackson Hyde and everything that is part of Aquaman’s world and comic books in general.
There have been quite a number of really interesting angles that were born out of Future State and have found new extended life in the Infinite Frontier era of DC Comics, the rise of Jackson Hyde as Aquaman is one of those things.
It can be really tempting to just leap right into the action or the main thrust of a plotline when telling stories in formats that might have limited space (an issue or episode count, run time, etc). One of the things that Aquaman: The Becoming does beautifully in its first issue though is taking almost the entire issue to just setup what Jackson’s life is like, his relationships, what he means to both the undersea and above the ocean worlds, and just who he is as a character.
Not only does this give new readers a chance to really get a glimpse of Jackson’s current situation, and the situation of Arthur and Mera and others, it builds up the stakes. It’s not as narratively satisfying to tear everything down if you don’t establish just what it is that will be lost if the character, Jackson in this case, doesn’t find a way to make things right again.
Infinite Frontier has truly been an era so far that has fully remembered, thanks to a great number of people behind the scenes, that what makes these shared universes so strong and inviting is the relationships and sense of legacy within the world. It’s something that was missing at times when the reboot happened and even as things were slowly pieced back together over the last decade. This series is just rife with that legacy and embraces it, putting the spotlight upon it as it cheers loudly.
Brandon Thomas has a tremendous handle on the character work of this issue, endearing Jackson and the rest of the cast rather quickly. Even with the looming knowledge of a forthcoming threat (we’re given some off-panel chatter showcasing this through the issue), Thomas makes sure to throw in plenty of humor and heart and just fun moments between Jackson and those he cares about as well as civilians that he comes across and interacts with.
Just that moment of him sticking around to comfort one of the bank hostages that watched a man be shot shows what type of hero that Jackson is and will be. This honestly is something that at times feels like it’s missing from superhero comics, heroes just being there more for the people in a down to Earth way. Rather than having to bounce quickly because there is constantly some world-ending threat knocking on the proverbial door.
On the art side, Diego Olortegui was a great choice for this issue as he has a style that is both more on the light fun side but at the same time has enough detailed depth to make the harsher and rougher moments have a weight to them. Such as the image of the entire Justice League beaten on Apokolips. Wade Von Gawbadger provides the inks over these pencils and helps with a lot of that depth and weight that was mentioned before.
Both Amnesty Bay and Atlantis look great and the action beats are pretty solid, with the colors of Adriano Lucas bringing it all together. There is a wonderful not-so-subtle change with the colors where Amnesty Bay is brighter and more colorful while Atlantis is a bit more shadowed and duller at points but is beautiful and shiny in its own ways. It’s a reminder not only that one world is above in the sunlight and the other far below the ocean, but also just how far apart these worlds are that Jackson is able to glide through with such ease.
The final piece of the creative puzzle is the lettering from Andworld Design, which is pretty great as usual. Plenty of spaces for some big bold bright and comic booky in the best way possible SFX. You as the reader just feel what is on the page thanks to these, whether it’s Jackson beating down Parademons or the moment Atlantis is attacked in the end or all the fights and actions in between.
One also cannot forget the work done across all the captions and dialogue that flows just as smoothly as much of the watery depths that are Aquaman’s domain. Also, those echo bubbles later in the issue, are just a genius beautiful touch.
Aquaman: The Becoming #1 is now on sale in print and digitally from DC Comics.