Written by Dan Abnett
Art by Stjepan Sejic
Lettering by Steve Wands
Published by DC Comics
‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10
Aquaman goes from dark horse hit to full tilt blockbuster in the tense, sexy, and epic #25. While writer Dan Abnett makes full use of the extra pages he was given for this double-sized anniversary issue, the title gains a not-so-secret-weapon this month with artist Stjepan Sejic. Readers might best know his work from the sultry Sunstone, but his clean and emotive pin-up like artwork more than sells the scale of Abnett’s script, it makes every character feel and look so real, almost scarily so. The "Rebirth" Aquaman title has had its fans as a sleeper hit, but one could argue it just needed one really stellar issue in order to propel it from cult hit to another level of recognition. Aquaman #25 is that issue and it is about damn time.
One of the truly cool things about Dan Abnett’s Aquaman has always been its scale. As he moved farther and farther away from a traditional superhero story, the more interesting the title would become. Now, with #25, Abnett turns his eye for scale to below the surface, introducing readers to the Ninth Tride, a ghetto-like lower region of Atlantis in which the dregs and criminals of Atlantean society take refuge or build crime empires on the back of the new king’s despotic rule. It is here where most of our story takes place as Arthur is using the Tride to hide is identity from a royal court and city that thinks him murdered.
While the first arcs functioned more like a socio-political drama, Abnett and Sejic turn this anniversary issue into more a Count of Monte Cristo situation, with Arthur off the board only to be pulled back into the fray thanks to violently racist raids from Drift soldiers as they gather magical relics for the new king, Corum Rath. Abnett’s Arthur has always had a regal charm about him, but seeing him outsted from his throne and working to free the masses from Rath’s forces (using a few pages from Batman’s book to do so) is a welcome change of pace and one that sets up the title to head in some very interesting directions going forward.
But while Abnett is clearly focused and excited about this new direction, the real creative coup here is the artwork of Stjepan Sejic. Sejic is usually associated with his steamy and heartfelt creator-owned work, but he transitions beautifully into the world of DC Comics, bringing that same heart and, dare I say, eroticism to the world of Aquaman. Literally every single character in this issue, aside from the purposefully grotesquely hulking undersea crime boss in the Tride, is drop dead gorgeous.
But more than that, Sejic makes his characters feel real with subtle tweaks to their expressions and naturalistic character blocking as they move through the story. Better still, Sejic proves early that he can keep pace with Abnett’s epic scale with breathtaking single page vistas of the Crown of Thorns encased Atlantis and our first look at the cavernous Tride. Stjepan Sejic even gets a chance to flex his action scene muscles somewhat with a tense scene of Arthur stopping an undersea shakedown with a swarm of fish, ending with a fight scene that reveals the new hunky as hell bearded Aquaman as he saves a group of Tride citizens from the Drift’s merciless raids. If you weren’t a fan or even aware of Stjepan Sejic before Aquaman #25, then you will receive the best possible introduction to his work here in all its sexy, powerful glory.
You don’t often hear words like “sexy” or “beautiful” in regards to an Aquaman comic book, but the sheer talent on display in #25 cannot be denied, even by the staunchest of Aquaman haters. Dan Abnett completely tore apart Arthur’s world, and is now showing us just how a hero and king without a throne operates in a world that has seemingly abandoned him. Couple that new, propulsive direction with the smoothly engaging and often vapor-inducing artwork of Stjepan Sejic, and you have a title that has leveled up in a big, big way.