Aquaman #51 Review

So by now, I’m sure you are aware of DC’s “Rebirth” initiative that is beginning this summer, right? Well if not, I’ll give you a brief summary. This summer, DC is going back to the core of their characters and relaunching their books with some pretty exciting creative teams and directions. If you wish to know more about Rebirth, check out my article I wrote last month. One of the takeaways from Rebirth is that Dan Abnett will be returning to the Aquaman series and I honestly couldn’t be more excited. He will be joined by artists Brad Walker, Jesus Merino and Phil Briones. So if you are enjoying Abnett’s run on Aquaman like I am, do not fret because he will be returning and he’ll be bringing Black Manta with him! It was also revealed that he would be collaborating with Geoff Johns to tell the highly-anticipated Rise of the Seven Seas story arc. Now that we have taken care of Rebirth, let’s see what we’ve got in store from this issue of Aquaman.

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Last month we saw guest artist Brett Booth join the book as we got our first look at Aquaman’s latest nemesis, Dead Water. He is a hideous, serpentine-like creature that can teleport through any form of water and can reform wherever there is water. At the same time, Arthur, Mera, and the Atlanteans have successfully built a new, embassy (Spindrift Station) on the surface to help bring a peace between the two different worlds. Mera is assuming her role as the face of Atlantis while Arthur investigates the killings caused by Dead Water. Well, this issue picks up with Dead Water in their custody, and it introduces a connection to one of Aquaman’s bigger villains: Scavenger.

SPOILERS HERE

Dead Water is in the Atlanteans custody at the beginning of the issue, but he has since reverted back to his human form. We learn he is a down-on-his-luck man named Jonah Payne, who has absolutely no recollection of his time as Dead Water. Arthur explains who and what Dead Water is and has done and why they cannot let him out of the Dehydration Chamber, even though everyone in the room wishes to help him out of the torture. Most of the issue deals with trying to get through to Payne, asking him how he became Dead Water as well as running through the victims he’s killed. All of the victims were people who had slighted him, even if it was a small dispute. We learn that Payne could not keep a job and had resorted to doing some shady business. Mera asks him who his last employer was and he says the name “Peter Mortimer”, a.k.a. The Scavenger. Arthur asks the FBI agents where Mortimer’s last known location was and he sets out after Scavenger while Mera, Murk, and the rest of the agents remain with Payne.

When Arthur arrives to the last known location of Scavenger, he is attacked by Mortimer’s henchmen, but easily dispatches them before taking on Scavenger himself. He’s had time to prepare for Arthur and adorns himself in an enormous underwater, power suit. While the two of them clash, Payne learns that he had killed his wife and pleads with them to let him see his son. Suddenly, a small tear drips down his cheek and instantly he reverts back to Dead Water, and soon takes on Murk and Mera. The issue ends with Scavenger and Aquaman fighting, with Mortimer having the upper hand.

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I’ve been loving what Dan Abnett has been doing with this series and this is another solid addition to his run. He hasn’t been shy about the fact that his intention is to bring Aquaman back to his roots and back in line with Geoff Johns run. So far, he’s done a very good job with it. While some might find the humor of last issue a bit forced, he’s also made the book serious as well by introducing and reintroducing some great Aquaman villains. Not to mention, his story arc for Rebirth brings Black Manta back into the fold. While this issue was a great look at who Dead Water and Jonah Payne are, there is little action in this issue and that could be an issue for some. Vicente Cifuentes returns to the book and does some solid work on this book. However, it’s not as crisp as issue #49 was. There are some odd looking faces in this issue but when his art shines, it really shines. His pencils for the Scavenger suit and Dead Water are gorgeous, so I’m not saying his art is bad by any means. My only real critique is that his panel layouts are rather boring, compared to last month’s issue with Booth. The action sequences were beautiful and dynamic. The action really stood out, and while the pencils with Cifuente are still very good, the boring layouts prevent it from really standing out like it could.

Dan Abnett gives us another brilliant issue in his run of Aquaman and sets up a great conclusion to this run. But don’t be sad! He’ll be returning to Aquaman with Rebirth as he brings Black Manta back in his first arc, “The Drowning”, as we see Black Manta set out to destroy everything Arthur loves. If you jumped off the title, I suggest you jump back on because the series is back on track and is as fun as ever. Aquaman fans will definitely want to pick this issue up.

Overall Score: 8.5/10