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Aquaman: Rebirth #1

Written by Dan Abnett
Art by Oscar Jiminez
Published by DC Comics

Aquaman has been a long-running joke, that guy who summons fish you saw in that parody on Family Guy or some other late-night pop culture fest. One of the strengths of DC’s New 52 relaunch was Geoff Johns on Aquaman, working the joke into continuity but making a strong case for Aquaman as a great character. He fights crime in seaside locations, but what makes him interesting is that he has a human father but grew up as the future king of a world we can’t understand. Johns had a great run on the book, but subsequent writers had a hard time winning fans over, and as Rebirth approached, people just weren’t talking about Aquaman.

This is the book to bring him back.

Aquaman’s Rebirth issue opens with him fighting a group of Atlanteans dedicated to eradicating contact with the surface world. Topside, his fiancee Mera runs the mission from the Atlantean embassy. But all along, they’re being watched by one of the king’s most iconic villains, quietly plotting revenge.

Dan Abnett has made a name for himself writing believable heroes in vast cosmic settings, and he applies the same skills here, to a man audacious enough to claim rulership over most of the planet, living in a world as strange as space itself would be. In describing the Atlantean terrorists, Abnett’s narration casually drops how hard it would be for us to understand their culture, world-building with efficient grace. And, like Johns did so well before him, the writer works “Aquaman is a joke” into the story for the characters to deal with head-on. This version of Aquaman owns the problematic parts and makes them into draws – yes, Arthur Curry is not welcome on land or sea, but it’s much more interesting to put him between as a protector, keeping the anger of the sea people and the greed of the land people at bay.

Come back to Aquaman. He’s not a joke, he’s not embarrassing. He’s a complicated science fiction character who doesn’t conform to the expectations of the typical superhero, and that can make him better. This is a team that loves him as much as Geoff Johns loved him, and terrific books came out of that love.

And I made it through an entire Aquaman review without making a fishing joke.

-Matt Conner