Can’t Choose Your Family: Reviewing ‘Aquaman: The Becoming’ #4
by Scott Redmond
Passing the halfway point, Aquaman: The Becoming loses no steam as the series continues to flesh out Jackson Hyde’s world while taking the character on an emotional roller coaster ride. This fourth issue presents another fantastical yet grounded artistic journey through the widest realms of the DC Universe.
Family is rarely ever an easy or simple topic for many. Especially when your family consists of a supervillain father, a mother who was a resistance member branded a terrorist from a hidden war minded underwater civilization, a hidden half-sister that masqueraded as a villain foe and is part of the same resistance group as her mother, and the chosen family that includes royalty from two underwater kingdoms and their young child.
Jackson Hyde is a character that is caught between multiple worlds, not just the physical sense of Xebel/Atlantis/the surface but emotionally, socially, and mentally as well. Through the four issues of Aquaman: The Becoming so far Brandon Thomas has brought those conflicts to life perfectly and in a way has shifted each one to be a focus of each issue. From focusing on his life in the first one, to how he deals with being on the run/his connection to the Curry’s in the second, to then the strain of it all and the threat of the mysterious Deluge as he bounces around the DC Universe looking for safe harbor.
Often at this point in stories, the point where a lot of backstory is dropped to flesh out what we’ve seen happen, things begin to slow down some as a lot must be explained. With this issue, the pace doesn’t change one bit because the backstory collides with the drama of Jackson’s family and a return to Xebel that looks to have major ramifications for his future. It’s a big family issue, with a bit of misunderstanding action in the middle, which is fantastic when it is done as grippingly as we see here.
Letting Delilah/Deluge, Jackson’s newly revealed half-sister, get caption boxes to set things up at the start was a nice change. It allows us to get into the head of this character that we presumed to be a full-on villain/enemy and see somewhat how she thinks. At least in the particular moment. As noted in the last review, Thomas is really giving us a lot of information and looks at Xebel to understand this other kingdom much more and the struggles and issues that its people are going through.
Scott Koblish, Wade Von Grawbadger, and Adriano Lucas continue to do a great job of bringing to stunning life the various realms of the DC Universe this book has traveled through. The title page shot of Atlantis and the broken-down areas leading to Xebel are so detailed and perfectly opposite of one another. There are so many deep emotions at play here, anger being a huge one, and they are captured perfectly on the faces of each character. Speaking of the faces there is a lot of work put into making the characters clearly look related to one another that works so well, with Delilah and her mother Lucia having very similar looks but with Lucia being visibly older.
There is a lot of depth shown through the art, as these places have a weight to them that helps ground them despite them being fantastical realms beyond our reach. There is a darker tone to the story and within the colors, as we get a lot of shadows and muted colors to bring that feeling. At the same time, it’s so very colorful and bright, fitting of both a superhero-type story as well as just these realms in which the book plays.
One of the neat things mentioned above plays out deeper in the issue, and that is how the colors remain consistent but there are notable changes once the book is firmly in the realm of Xebel. It’s still a colorful place in its own regard but it’s noticeably not as shiny in many ways as Atlantis or other realms. There is a bit of a softer but also muted aspect added to the colors here to make it stand out. The more colorful costumes of the characters, whether it’s Jackson/Lucia or Delilah and her stepmother Meeka, stand out even more against the grays and whites that fill the Xebel area they inhabit.
In recent times Andworld Design is making quite a name for themselves as they appear in more and more books. A lot of the energy that has been mentioned to exist in this book can be also traced back to the really popping variety of lettering work on display. From the ways that the dialogue shifts to fit whatever mood the character is in (from regular sized to larger bolder fonts or smaller less emphasized fonts) to the fun and personality-filled SFX dotting the landscape.
Dialogue-heavy issues, like this one, would seemingly present quite the challenge when it comes to lettering but the execution just makes it seem like it’s easier than it definitely actually is. The way the panels are set up (some fantastic paneling work going on here) helps in many cases but the dialogue just flows like the steadiest river through the pages and hits with all the right impact as you go through.
There are only two issues left of this series (and companion book Black Manta) before the launch of Aquamen (starring Jackson and the Curries and Black Manta and more), it’s going to be quite interesting to see where this all shakes out.
Aquaman: The Becoming #4 is now on sale in print and digitally from DC Comics.