Disclaimer: I am by no means an expert on Aquaman. Before starting this Rebirth project, most of my knowledge of the character came from the Hanna-Barbera cartoons, the DC animated “Timm-verse,” and our own HolyBeeofEphesus’s reminiscences over his Aquaman Underoos. I used to see the character as someone who embodies the frivolous excesses of superhero comics: goofy costumes, ludicrous powers, and a two-dimensional view of good and evil. Sure, Aquaman is helpful if your boogie board is carried off by the current and he’s no doubt great at giving informative lectures about recycling plastic six-pack rings, but in the middle of an invasion of Earth by Apokalips or a serial-killing spree, give me Batman or Superman, please. To me, Aquaman was a lot like a Speedo–there’s a time and a place that it’s useful, but in everyday life, I’m probably not going to need it.
Yet from the very first Rebirth issue, I found myself drawn to Dan Abnett’s interpretation of Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman: the King of Atlantis. The preconceptions I had of the character as a simple, orange-clad, fish-speaker, who at best is a B-lister on the Justice League, were replaced by an exciting and surprisingly complex character. Abnett draws extra attention to Aquaman’s Otherness. He is both human and not, the son of Atlantean royalty and a simple lighthouse keeper. In this context, Aquaman makes a fascinating outsider, someone who wants to belong and has dedicated his life to helping others, yet is rejected by those he’s chosen to protect. In an age when issues related to social identity make headlines weekly, it makes sense to see comic books, which have historically reflected social concerns, exploring these themes. Marvel has definitely been leading the charge on this front, and though DC is trying to highlight periphery heroes like Cyborg and Blue Beetle, it’s actually Aquaman with his blonde hair, blue eyes, and perfectly square jaw that tackles issues like xenophobia, classism, and the massive polarization that’s corroding the global community. Continue reading The Best of DC Rebirth #5: Aquaman