Aquaman: Andromeda is a brand new DC Black Label comic from Ram V, Christian Ward, and Aditya Bidikar. Black Label is DC’s mature, prestige comics line that strives to deliver high quality standalone stories like Wonder Woman Historia without the confines of continuity.
Aquaman is the perfect candidate for the Black Label approach. Despite being a founding member of the Justice League, Aquaman has long-struggled to get his own definitive graphic novel in the vein of The Dark Knight Returns or All-Star Superman. The creative team behind Andromeda seems more than qualified to fill this void. V & Bidikar are an award-winning duo from These Savage Shores, and Ward has won multiple Eisner awards for his art in Black Bolt and Invisible Kingdom.
All together, this seems like a package for success, and the series has been getting buzz for the creator’s strong vision. But how does Aquaman: Andromeda hold up in the Aquaman mythos, and how could it inspire future adaptations of Aquaman in the DCU? In this edition of DC Showcase, let’s dive into the depths of the sea to find out!
In Andromeda, Aquaman is a deep-sea demigod
The story begins with a covert exploration team who are investigating a strange object at the bottom of the ocean. The closer they look, the stranger things seem to be, and eventually the situation spirals hopelessly out of control. But this story is merely a backdrop for the creative team to showcase their talents.
Writer Ram V crafts Aquaman: Andromeda with the narrative style of a folk legend. His poetic prose pulses with a dramatic oral history of humans who are one with nature and gods who rule the realm beneath the sea.
The comic portrays Aquaman as an ancient, terrifying, mysteriously mythic force who lurks underwater. His eyes glow out of the darkness of deep-sea shadows, his face carries the wrinkles of time, and his body is covered in coral and aquatic plant life. This Aquaman has clearly lived a long life and achieved symbiosis with the world of the sea.
Yet at the same time, this version of Aquaman is also a kind-hearted man hiding on the outskirts of civilization, reluctant to embrace the weight of his responsibilities. He is physically beyond human, and yet he is deeply human to his core. With this juxtaposition, Aquaman: Andromeda presents one of the most powerful and most humanizing portrayals Arthur Curry has ever had.
This effect is infused into the lettering as well. With the unearthly regalness of Christian Ward’s Aquaman design, I was struck when Aditya Bidikar’s text choices didn’t change for Aquaman’s speech. As such a mighty being in his home domain, I expected the lettering to reflect the full presence of his voice. Instead, Bidikar chooses to letter Aquaman’s dialogue as naturally as the other human characters. The effect immediately grounds the portrayal, so that even at his terrifying full strength, Aquaman is still a man of the people.
This is because in Aquaman: Andromeda, V, Ward, and Bidikar present Aquaman as not just a man or a god, but as a demigod. Their clear vision illustrates the possibilities that arise from breaking this dichotomy to explore the contradictory nuance of a being who comes from both humanity and divinity, yet belongs to neither.
V grapples with further big concepts, almost too many for a three-issue miniseries. Andromeda features one of the headiest creation myths I’ve ever seen from DC Comics, as well as layered commentaries on military politics, issues of authority, and even colonialist disruption. Andromeda is impressive not only for its unique approach to Aquaman, but also for its ability to explore real world themes through superhero comics in just a few issues.
The visual style of Aquaman: Andromeda
Christian Ward does the full art for the series, taking inspiration from both digital and traditional art styles. The interplay of watercolor-like textures with digital brushstrokes creates an experience that feels as of two worlds as the deep-sea demigod at the center of the story.
Ward’s loose lines and cosmic color contrasts illuminate the sea with his signature surrealist, pop art effect. His work on Aquaman: Andromeda becomes an inversion of his work on Black Bolt and Invisible Kingdom as an ocean of stars becomes the stars of the ocean and the blackness of space becomes the depths of the sea. Even his sea monsters are decorated with the symbolism of astronomical constellations, and recurring black hole imagery is teased throughout the book.
If Green Lantern: Earth One captured the cold isolation of Alien, Aquaman: Andromeda captures the paranoia. The horror of Andromeda feeds on the distrust between a group of strangers trapped underwater who need to rely on each other for survival. The fluid and innovative page layouts fill the comic with ominous claustrophobia that builds until the tension reaches an explosive breaking point.
The comic is shockingly violent and creepy in a way that Aquaman director James Wan would absolutely adore. Weird ghosts, disturbing memories, abandoned dolls, and a psychologically-terrifying big threat are given a horrifying reality through Ward’s dream-like art. The soft textures feel comforting to look at, but the nature of the events are far from comforting, heightening the surrealism of V’s story. One of my favorite sequences is when multiple pages are colored in flashing red panels like an Italian giallo horror film.
Aquaman: Andromeda is perfect for new fans
Like most of DC Black Label, Aquaman: Andromeda is completely new-reader-friendly. As a standalone, fresh take on Aquaman, even cursory knowledge of the movies would be more than enough to enjoy this comic. The story re-introduces some traditional Aquaman lore, but in an original way that keeps it interesting and accessible for both new and old fans.
For further reading, I would recommend Dan Abnett’s Aquaman saga from DC Rebirth (2016-2018). This series focused on Aquaman’s world through the lens of a Game of Thrones-style battle of kingdoms. It’s very different from the approach taken by Andromeda, but it’s a brilliant story featuring a more traditional version of Aquaman.
Beyond the comics medium, Aquaman: Andromeda is prime material for a cinematic adaptation too. Dreamy, unearthly, and mesmerizing, Andromeda‘s visually stunning horror-based approach could be adapted 1:1 for an indie horror reboot aimed at new audiences.
Andromeda could even be incorporated into the current Aquaman franchise. While it’s too late to inspire Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, this comic has the exact genre-heavy pulpy sci-fi horror vibe James Wan would be thrilled to capture on screen. Plus, revealing new secrets about Atlantis would make for an excellent way to cap the trilogy. If Wan returns for a third film, I would love to see the next Aquaman movie take inspiration from Aquaman: Andromeda.
My verdict on Aquaman: Andromeda
I would have liked the plot to be a little tighter and the characters to be a little deeper, but the atmosphere and themes are the main selling points of Aquaman: Andromeda, and V & Ward achieve those extremely well.
The story works as a thrilling horror mystery about an ancient half-god from the bottom of the ocean. In that way, Andromeda delivers a fascinating, must-see reinvention of the titular character. But as a natural result of the mystery approach, this Aquaman comic has relatively little Aquaman in it. I would love to see an expansion of the series where V & Ward flesh out their version of Atlantis with V’s penchant for mythological history like Timothy Truman did with Hawkworld.
Overall, Aquaman: Andromeda is one of the best and most unique interpretations of Arthur Curry we’ve gotten in a long time – but as an Aquaman story, it could have been more. I hope this miniseries inspires more creators to consider Aquaman from new points of view so that one day Arthur Curry might finally have the definitive, quintessential graphic novel he deserves.
Have you read any Aquaman comics before? Are you excited about Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom? Let me know on Twitter @vinwriteswords and remember to follow the site @MyCosmicCircus for more comics coverage coming soon!