Review – Aquaman 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular #1: The Ancient Seas

Comic Books DC This Week
Aquaman 80th Anniversary Ramona Fradon variant, via DC Comics.

Aquaman 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super-Spectacular #1 – Jeff Parker, Geoff Johns, Michael Moreci, Stephanie Ohillips, Shawn Aldridge, Marguerite Bennett, Cavan Scott, Dan Watters, Dan Jurgens, Chuck Brown, Brandon Thomas, Writers; Evan “Doc” Shaner, Paul Pelletier/Norm Rapmund, Hendry Prasetya, Tom Derenick, Trung Le Nguyen, Scot Eaton/Norm Rapmund, Miguel Mendonca/Daniel Henriques, Steve Epting, Valentine De Landro, Diego Olortegui/Wade Von Grawbadger, Artists; Hi-Fi, Tony Avina, Ulises Arreola, Nick Filardi, Jordie Bellaire, Romulo Fajardo Jr, Jeromy Cox, Marissa Louise, Adriano Lucas, Colorists

Ray – 9/10

Ray: It’s time for another giant one-shot celebrating a character’s history, and this time it’s Aquaman’s turn. The character hasn’t had too many iconic runs outside of the last ten years—how does the talent shake out?

Credits list. Via DC Comics.

We start out with Jeff Parker and Evan “Doc” Shaner on “Foxtail, and it kicks this off on a bang. A Russian sub is in combat with a massive deep-sea volcano squid, and it threatens to poison the water if the squid crushes it. But why is the squid so enraged? It all comes back to a memory from Aquaman’s youth. The art is stunning, featuring a kaiju that is equal parts terrifying and oddly cute. A great look at how Aquaman protects the oceans.

Next up are Geoff Johns and Paul Pelletier on “Father’s Day,” a Jackson Hyde story. This almost seemed like it was from the era of the original run, but a reference to Jackson being out of the closet makes clear it’s modern. It’s a tense confrontation between Jackson and Black Manta, as Jackson tries to make sense of his complex relationship with his father and see if the notorious villain is ever truly capable of being a father. Some powerful emotions for a short story.

Aquaman 80th Anniversary variant cover, via DC Comics.

Michael Moreci and Pop Mhan take on Arthur and his original partner Garth in “Lady in the Lake,” a fast-paced and spooky story. Aquaman and Tempest follow a path of dead fish to confront an ancient, undead sorceress carrying out magical rituals from ages past. It’s a good horror story with some great visuals, but what makes it really work is the look at the struggles of a former hero and sidekick team to find the right balance to their partnership as adults.

Stephanie Phillips and Hendry Prasetya are the team on “Multitudes,” which takes place during one of Arthur’s past runs (the costume is a dead giveaway). Struggling after a battle that left Orm presumed dead, Arthur finds himself lost in time and teaming up with the ancient Atlantean sorcerer king Arion against a horde of enemies. This story is kind of inside baseball, but it seems to have a strong take on Arthur from this era.

“It’s a Family Affair,” by Shawn Aldridge and Tom Derenick, goes back even further to the silver age when Arthur was training Garth. As Arthur, Mera, and Garth plan a family bonding day on land, they’re interrupted by a threat from the deep. The hulking Aquabeast, a mutated rival obsessed with Mera, makes a good threat for the issue but is defeated pretty quickly and I doubt most people will know who he is. Still, the dynamic of the core three characters is a lot of fun.

“The Rhine Maidens” by Marguerite Bennett and Trung Le Nguyen is probably the first classic Aquaman story to make its debut here. A short story featuring Aquaman going up against a group of mysterious sirens, it shows him finding a unique loophole against their powers and demonstrating how strong his bond with Mera is. It’s the art that really stuns, though—a unique, painted shift from Nguyen’s usual style that shows the diversity of his skills.

Cavan Scott has never written Aquaman before, but “Between Two Shores” with Scot Eaton is one of the best stories in this volume. It start with Aquaman and two squabbling camps of Atlantean hunters on the trail of a rampaging Trench monster who attacked a group of them. But the actual story turns out to be much more complicated and calls back to Arthur’s own history of being caught between two worlds. Great twist-filled story in only a few pages.

“What Remains of a Storm,” by Dan Watters and Miguel Mendonca, is a spotlight for Ocean Master and his complicated relationship with Aquaman. The two brothers have an annual meeting where they try to bury their tensions—and usually fail—amid the center of a massive storm threatening the shore. The ambiguity about whether Ocean Master is causing the chaos, or Arthur is treating him unfairly, helps to drive the poignant, frustrating way these two interact.

“Rebellion,” by Dan Jurgens and Steve Epting, takes place during a unique era in Aquaman’s history. The country came under attack by a surface nation, Cerdia, and Atlantis conquered it. In this story, the occupation of Cerdia takes a turn when a drone attack destroys Atlantis’ royal palace, and the evidence points to Cerdian rebels. While Atlantean hard-liners call for war, Arthur investigates—and unravels a complex plot. This is a great look at a more political Aquaman status-quo.

Chuck Brown and Valentine De Landro tackle “Red Sea,” a preview for the upcoming Black Manta mini. So how do you make a villain like Manta a lead? You pit him against something scarier. In this story, Manta and his ally Gallous have come across a stone with magic powers—that also seems to attract horrible creatures to try to reclaim it. The visuals are nicely creepy, and Manta is… if not likable, at least compelling. Looking forward to the series.

Finally, it’s Brandon Thomas and Diego Olortegui on “Foreshadow,” which also works as a preview for the upcoming “Aquaman: The Becoming” series. A family bonding day turns into chaos when Jackson and baby Andy wind up running from Scavenger and a group of ruthless pirates. This one packs a lot of story into only a few pages but never feels rushed, and it’s great seeing how Aquaman has become a great mentor to Jackson. Intriguing cliffhanger, too.

Overall, there are a lot of top-tier stories in this volume. It’s surprising not to see Kelly Sue DeConnick or Cullen Bunn in the writers, but the talent they picked up delivered a great volume.

To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.

GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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