From acclaimed creators Ram V (These Savage Shores, Swamp Thing) and Christian Ward (Invisible Kingdom, Blood-Stained Teeth) comes a tale of the deep and its king like nothing you’ve seen before in Aquaman: Andromeda #1. Featuring letters from Aditya Bidikar, this DC Black Label chapter is a stunning and thought-provoking blend of scientific adventure, mythology, and philosophy. With a wickedly smart and thoughtful script coupled with medium-breaking visual work, Andromeda is one of the most refreshing releases from DC Comics in recent years.
“Deep in the Pacific Ocean, at the farthest possible distance from any land, sits Point Nemo: the spaceship graveyard. Since the dawn of the space race, the nations of the world have sent their crafts there on splashdown, to sink beneath the silent seas. But there is something…else at Point Nemo. A structure never made by man. And that structure seems to be…waking up.
The crew of the experimental submarine Andromeda, powered by a mysterious black-hole drive, have been chosen to investigate this mystery. But they aren’t the only ones pursuing it. Anything of value beneath the ocean is of value to the master pirate Black Manta…and anything that attracts Black Manta attracts Arthur Curry, his lifelong foe, the Aquaman! But heaven help them all when the doors of the mystery at Point Nemo swing wide to admit them in…”
Writing & Plot
Ram V is taking us under the sea and asking us to pay attention with his script for Aquaman: Andromeda #1. He throws notions of cosmic horror regarding the unknowns of the sea our way almost immediately, connecting this with the potential terrors out in the depths of space. He then tosses in discussions regarding the dual identities of Arthur Curry & Aquaman – a man of 2 worlds. These premises are guided by a plot that feels like an amalgamation of Jules Verne, Lovecraft, and a take on DC’s king of the sea we’ve never seen before. Note that this is a Black Label comic, so this book isn’t limited by the underpinnings of the DC universe proper. As such, Ram has made an Aquaman story in a world where he is an unknown figure, and humanity has not yet met alien life. As such, this issue is a first contact story on two fronts. Like a mix of 10,000 Leagues Under The Sea and James Cameron’s The Abyss, this comic mixes wonder and terror in a carefully cultivated manner, while still having time to also be a book with DC heroes and villains.
If you’ve read Ram V’s works, you should know that he’s a writer that asks a bit more from his audience. He tends to use narrative anecdotes that offer a thematic window into the kind of ground his writing will cover. Andromeda is very much the same, with characters’ internal narration and some conversations having deep thematic significance that will carry weight through the rest of the series. Crew members meditate on their past experiences with the ocean and with death. Arthur Curry contemplates his dual nature as man and god-king of the sea. These sequences in the script are fascinating and in some ways poetic, deepening the comic’s presence between the more brass-tacks plot events. This is not your typical mainstream superhero comic. This is a chapter that asks its readers to pay attention so the text and subtext, so as to glean as much from what the story is doing as possible. If you aren’t the type to like their comics dense and wordy (in the best possible way), this won’t be for you. However, if you’re willing to take the narrative journey Ram is offering here – and it is indeed a journey – I think you’ll find it most fulfilling.
So much of what makes this comic such a unique trip into uncharted waters is Christian Ward’s visual work. The unique blend of aquatic wonder and cosmic horror is brought to life in striking detail by Ward’s painted art style. Every one of his sequences feel carefully planned, with every kind of moment being memorable and thoughtfully presented. Those quiet conversations and meditative moments come off as both intimate and vast thanks to how Ward presents those scenes. Close ups on characters get the audience a better view of their perspective, before Ward changes the scale and focus to remind us just how small these people are. This works in perfect tandem with the words Ram is writing and, on the whole, makes for some of the best writer & artist synergy that can be observed in the medium. The big plot moments feel properly grandiose and terrifyingly thrilling. Ward’s design for Aquaman’s armor here is fantastically alien in an almost classical way. It combines the hostile and mysterious unknown of the deep with Curry’s traditional suit. I’d be curious to see what specific moments in the comic were Ward interpreting Ram’s script, and which were parts just added in by the artist on a whim.
Ward’s use of his sort of watercolor painted approach creates a further depth to the comic’s atmosphere. The ocean is a murky combination of blues and greens, its bottom intentionally unclear. The scenes within the Andromeda and during dreams/flashbacks are dominated by hazy light and atmosphere that makes every moment feel cold and lonesome. There’s a sense of inconsistency in Ward’s character detail that, while it may rub some the wrong way, feels totally intentional. The way Ward crafts his colors to make specific details intentionally hard to parse is what lends credence to that theory. The lettering from Aditya Bidikar is as stellar as one would expect from one of the best in the industry. His work here perfectly captures conversation with dynamic fonts that alter ever so slightly with the tone. His lettering for Verne’s narration/journaling is done in a standard Word doc. style font, and this separates itself from the in-story dialogue nicely. Overall, Andromeda is a deeply atmospheric and complex use of visual storytelling in a comic.
Aquaman: Andromeda #1 is a beautiful and tension-filled mix of horror and wonder. Ram V starts this Black Label series off by presenting an Aquaman story for both complete newcomers and longtime fans, focusing on ideas of legend and the unknown instead of super heroics. Christian Ward’s visuals are deep, gorgeous, and complex, crafting an experience that works in perfect synergy with the contemplative cosmic horror script Ram has made. Do yourself a favor and pick up this issue when it hits shelves on June 7th!