Future State: Aquaman #1 Review - Blowing Away The Competition
I've never read an Aquaman story that really resonated with me. The film made me a fan of the character but none of the material I've consumed since the movie dropped made me want to actually invest in the characters history or supporting cast. I did review "Drowned Earth" which focused on Arthur and Atlantis but that story was middling at best. The Irony is that Future State: Aquaman is the best Aquaman comic I've ever read and Arthur Curry doesn't even appear in the book.
The comic follows Aqualad who has graduated to the role of Aquaman. I've never read an Aqualad story either so this issue was my first experience with this character aside from seeing screenshots from the Teen Titans animated series or scan's from other comics. In this issue, he acts as knight and protector for Aqualass the daughter of Arthur Curry and Mera.
The comic moves back and forth within the Future State timeline. The past starts after an encounter with Black Manta who also happens to be Jackson's Father. The comic immediately establish the relationship between our two leads but doesn't give much insight into what has happened Arthur or Mera. What the comic does do is establish Jackson as an A-List character and firmly establishes him as the Aquaman by the end of the issue. The comic also establishes new abilities for Aquawoman that fans familar with the character may not have seen before.
The two characters are split up early on with Aquawoman being MIA most of the issue. In the Future State andscape Jackson has been imprisoned and although he attempts to escape his captors he fails constantly. This continues until he receives a hint that Aquawoman is alive which renews his vigor to escape and reunite with her.
This is a beautifully written story. The pacing is also solid as the creative team strings along several strong moments in the issue. Brandon Thomas is the writer/co-creator of "Excellence" over at Image Comics. Excellence is one of the best books out there so although I had little knowledge of what to expect from the comic I knew it wasn't gonna suck.
I love Brandon's take on the new Aquaman. Jackson is a strong, earnest and extremely loyal character with flaws but feels fully realized in a way that Black characters in 2021 are lacking. He's suffered immensely over the course of the issue but once he receives a glimmer of hope that Aquawoman is alive he reverts back to his role as Knight and protector. These a powerful moments in the issue and a ton of depth to the character as the story goes on.
The book is also beautiful to look at. There is a lot of variety in locales, colors. The creature and character designs also look great. I loved the updated look for Jackson. He fits the role of Aquaman nicely but maintains enough distinction to differentiate him from Arthur. I don't know a lot about the character but Future State gives enough insight into the current situation that I never felt the need to dig into the backstory of either lead.
Daniel Sampere also does a great job of visually showing the transition of Jackson's progression from Aqualad to Aquaman. In the flashbacks, we're clearly not far removed from the current DC timeline and the little bit I do know of him. As the comic flashes forward we see Aquaman has aged and filled out which makes the story feel like a coming-of-age story filled with some traditional superhero elements.
The only weak link to the comic is the cover. If I hadn't subscribed to the Future State event I probably would have passed on the book altogether. It really doesn't sell the story or concept of the issue. The variant cover isn't much better. This is unfortunate because the book is one of the best that Future State has to offer. The content of the book is proof that you simply can't judge a comic by its cover. Aquaman hit's hard and promises to deliver even more action and solid characterization in the next installment. This is a perfect intro for these characters and I hope the story has a life beyond Future State.