You Brought Me the Ocean is a 2020 graphic novel by Alex Sanchez and Jul Maroh. Despite being published by DC Comics and name dropping a few DC characters, it’s completely unlike the rest of their superhero-heavy catalog. Instead of action battles or world-ending stakes, the soulful comic is as intimate as a personal diary.
The story follows a teenager named Jake Hyde (someday Aqualad) coming to terms with his sexuality and his mysterious heritage. Along the way he deals with rejection, love, friendship, and small-town blues. It’s a small-scale story but the emotions and visual storytelling are seismic in scope. You Brought Me the Ocean is one of the most unique and emotionally vulnerable graphic novels DC has published in years.
The one-shot book was nominated for the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding LGBT Comic Book in 2021. Alex Sanchez is a multi-award winning gay novelist who explores queer stories through his books for young adults. One of his most notable works is the novel Rainbow Boys from 2001. Jul Maroh is the transgender nonbinary author of the award-winning Blue Is the Warmest Color graphic novel, among other comics of their own. Jake Hyde is based on Jackson Hyde/Kaldur’ahm, the Aqualad character created by Brandon Vietti and Greg Weisman for the DC animated show Young Justice.
Before James Gunn and Peter Safran took over DC Studios, an HBO Max series adaptation of You Brought Me the Ocean was announced to be produced by Charlize Theron. While it’s unclear if the project will ever come to fruition, this remains a wonderful comic worth celebrating this Pride month. So let’s it break down and speculate how You Brought Me the Ocean could fit into the futures of Aquaman and Black Manta in the DCU!
Jake Hyde’s story in You Brought Me the Ocean
You Brought Me the Ocean is a really sweet, heartwarming story about the search for identity, acceptance, and inner strength. I was immersed deeply in Jake Hyde’s character journey, first in his search to understand himself, and then how to share that with the people around him. While the coming-of-age genre might feel well-known, this story is far from predictable, and the comic is so much better for it.
The story takes place in Jake’s final year of high school. As he and his best friend Maria are making their plans for college, they reflect on their childhoods together and their potential futures ahead. But Jake and Maria want different things. The situation is complicated when Jake makes a new friend and starts to explore the unresolved questions in his life. Between bullies, boys, and supernatural events, the answers may threaten Jake’s friendship with Maria forever.
Author Alex Sanchez elegantly threads the DC Universe into the book without letting it overpower the story. This is entirely one boy’s self-journey, which just happens to be in a world with superheroes. By boldly creating a DC comic where superheroics don’t play a major role in the story, Sanchez is able to focus on the minutiae of Jake’s complicated emotions throughout the whole book. The character conflicts are real and emotionally honest. I loved the close relationships with his friends and the charm of his small-town community, which could have easily been lost in an action-forward superhero book.
I did have questions about the ending and I thought some of the high school conflicts felt a bit two-dimensional. But that’s the truth of teenage drama! In several ways, You Brought Me the Ocean puts Jake Hyde in conversation with the teenage troubles of Peter Parker and Kamala Khan.
I would love to see Sanchez and Maroh continue the story further in a sequel or even a trilogy. There is so much more to Jake’s Hyde future that I would like to see, both for his own maturation and his place greater legacy in the DC Universe.
The visual style of You Brought Me the Ocean
Sanchez’s heartfelt script is captured perfectly with Jul Maroh’s gorgeously painted panels. Maroh does the complete art for the book and every element shares their special touch. Their desaturated colors emphasize the mood and contrast of each scene, and pencil-soft linework enhances the smallest details in the characters’ body language with a simple cartoonist feel. From melancholic drama to goofy comedy, Maroh is able to masterfully balance the tones of the book through their focus on the characters’ emotions.
Maroh also organizes most of the comic panels in a neat rectangular grid layout. The minimalist style of their work keeps the reading flow simple and unintrusive, letting the reader focus on the contents of the panels themselves. This makes it doubly effective when Maroh breaks the grid for dramatic effect in the more expressive moments.
Working closely with the art, Deron Bennett’s lettering style helps the book feel handcrafted. Because Bennett uses normal sentence capitalization and the typeface evokes natural handwriting, the book feels like an authentic real-world journal. Instead of narration boxes, Bennett also puts the internal monologue directly in the panels themselves.
This distinctive decision helps the story feel less like a traditional comic book, allowing the words to become a natural part of the art and Jake’s world. With Bennett’s lettering and Maroh’s art, You Brought Me the Ocean becomes a personal diary, with illustrations charting the most important moments in one kid’s life.
Aqualad lore: Is You Brought Me the Ocean new-reader friendly?
Despite starring a younger version of the popular character Aqualad (Jackson Hyde/Kaldur’ahm), You Brought Me the Ocean is totally standalone and new-reader friendly. While it is set in a world with DC characters, this is an entirely separate alternate-canon story and can serve as a proper introduction to Jake Hyde’s character.
If you’re already familiar with Kaldur, then this will bring an interesting perspective to the character you already know. But if this is your first time with Jackson, don’t worry! The storytelling is so human and down to earth that even people who don’t like superhero stories will easily understand and love this comic.
Be sure to also read Alex Sanchez’s introduction to the book, which is just as sweet as the comic story itself. For more stories featuring Kaldur, check out the Young Justice animated series and his modern comics like Aquaman: The Becoming!
Adapting You Brought Me the Ocean with Aquaman and Black Manta in the DC Universe
Jackson Hyde has a unique position in DC canon, given the conflict between him and Black Manta. While it’s unlikely that a live-action adaptation of Jackson would have the same backstory as in the comics or animation, it’s still possible to retcon Jackson into the DCEU. Similar to You Brought Me the Ocean, they could simply explain that he was somewhere in hiding during the events of the Aquaman movies so far. Especially with The Flash resetting the timeline, anything could be possible for the future of these characters.
However, trying to shoehorn Jackson’s origin into a potential Aquaman 3 could be disappointing if they don’t give his story the screen time it deserves. Instead, I would rather a Black Manta solo project that focuses on the anti-hero and his relationship to Jackson. Since we know that Damian Wayne will be introduced in DC Studios’ Brave and the Bold, Jackson could fit in a future Young Justice or Teen Titans team-up project that spotlights the legacy characters across the new DC Universe.
But given the emotional power of Jackson’s coming-out story, I think adapting You Brought Me the Ocean as its own project would be the best way to go. Jackson Hyde has such an important and thrilling arc that he deserve his own spotlight, whether a movie, TV show, or streaming special. There’s enough story for You Brought Me the Ocean to become a CW series like Smallville, charting Jake’s growth into Aqualad.
For something shorter, Max could adapt the graphic novel as an animated film with visual inspiration from Maroh’s beautiful art style. No matter what form it takes, I look forward to seeing how Gunn, Safran, and Theron choose to adapt this essential DC story.
My verdict on You Brought Me the Ocean
With first-person narration, gently expressive art, and script font lettering, You Brought Me the Ocean feels as intimate and truthful as a memoir. Even though it takes place in the heightened DC Universe, the graphic novel is bravely crafted like a personal journal of someone’s most private memories from their coming-of-age years.
Alex Sanchez and Jul Maroh explore the fear and joy of a queer teenager discovering their identity with so much compassion and humanity that it’s astounding to believe this is from a superhero publisher. You Brought Me the Ocean is truly one of the most special comics DC has ever printed. Do not miss this.
Have you seen Aqualad in Young Justice? Are you excited for Jake’s potential future in the DCU? Let me know on Twitter @vinwriteswords and remember to follow the site @MyCosmicCircus for more comics coverage coming soon!