Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Aquamen #4 Review

Chaos For Its Own Sake

Written by: Brandon Thomas, Chuck Brown
Art by: Sami Basri, Vicente Cifuentes
Colors by: Adriano Lucas
Letters by: Andworld Design
Cover Art by: Travis Moore, Adriano Lucas (cover A)
Cover price: $3.99
Release date: May 24, 2022

Aquamen #4 unveils Scavenger's role in the conspiracy to instigate a war between Atlantis and the Dry-landers. Meanwhile, the Aqua-family formulates a plan.

Was It Good?

Aquamen #4 is a middle-of-the-road, serviceable comic that technically gets the job done but doesn't give you much to warrant the cover price.
When last we left the Aqua-family, Arthur's trip to Mars turned out to be a ruse, Jackson went undercover in Gotham with Batwoman to track down one of the co-conspirators, and the mystery behind who was activating the sleeper agents was still unanswered. So, technically, we progress on all these fronts with varying degrees of satisfaction.

Jackson fights off Scavenger and drives him off. Batwoman's involvement isn't seen again and is barely mentioned besides a brief comment in Jackson's earbud. Given the number of overlapping Batwoman appearances last month, it looks like her appearance was nothing more than a gimmick. The fight somehow makes Jackson a little less angry with Black Manta. It's a shockingly abrupt change in emotional states for Jackson that doesn't make sense and comes out of nowhere. After a brief side-by-side battle, how do you suddenly stop hating that "evil" father you've hated for years?

Aquaman's unexplained absence during his trip to Mars is clarified. He used the time away to track down and neutralize as many sleeper agents on his own. It's unclear why he felt the need to keep this activity a secret from everyone, including Mera. Arthur could have used the extra help, and his bizarre need to carry out this mission secretly only led to more deaths. What's stranger still is the lack of concern or even hard feelings from the Aqua-family about Arthur's confession. They don't act like they care and spend no time discussing it.


What should have been the big reveal in this issue is the source of the conspiracy. Instead, it's a Xebelian plan. Thomas seems dead set on making Xebel a much larger part of the Aquaman mythos, but that reveal falls completely flat here. It's mentioned in a throwaway line by one of the terrorists. Still, the Aqua-family doesn't discuss it or make any moves to head to Xebel with the information to find out who's trying to start a war. There's no apparent reason why Xebel (a sister city to Atlantis) would want to start a world-ending war in the first place. This could be a cool reveal if there were a clear, compelling motivation behind it, but the way it's presented here makes it seem like a convenience rather than part of a bigger story.
When the interim ambassador from Atlantis meets with a special UN security council group (wasn't the UN underwater in the first issue after Ocean Master sent a tidal wave to sweep NYC?!?), Mera enlists the help of Mr. Terrific to help build a machine that will counteract the sleeper cell instructions.

In general, the pacing is good, the action is okay, the dialog is fine, and things are happening. What's missing is a clear understanding of the plan and a reason to care. These sleepers carry out terrorist attacks that are mostly only discussed causally or briefly. Nothing feels big, the weight of the attacks isn't expressed as stakes or consequences, and the plan is presented as haphazard chaos.

The art by Basri, Cifuentes, and Lucas is at least pleasant. It's a little flat, but the character designs are clean, and the coloring is bold. Much like the writing, the art is just fine. It's nothing special or extraordinary and not overtly bad, either.

Bits and Pieces:

Aquamen #4 is another acceptable entry in the series. The plot moves forward, and the dialog, pacing, and action are fine. What's missing is any sense of scale from the attacks, a motivation behind the attacks, or stakes beyond stopping bad people from doing bad things. Again, the technical execution is here, but this comic never crosses the line between competent and memorable.


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