By Kelly Sue Deconnick, Robson Rocha, Daniel Henriques, Sunny Gho, Clayton Cowles
Aquaman #44 is the second issue in Kelly Sue Deconnick’s bombastic run with the character. Tonally, it’s quiet and ominous, but on a character level, Deconnick is oozing confidence. She has no qualms tearing apart the Arthur Curry we’re familiar with to get at the core of what makes him interesting; it’s a take that’s more than welcome for a character that’s been mostly lukewarm in recent memory, but is gaining popularity with the release around the kind of hyped movie that made way more money than anyone expected. Regardless of what you thought about the film though, Deconnick, with Robson Rocha on lines, Daniel Henriques on inks, Sunny Gho on colors, and Clayton Cowles on letters turn out a great issue with an ending that genuinely lives up to the hype.
Because Deconnick is tearing away the familiar elements of Aquaman, even this second issue in the run feels accessible. The story is inherently mysterious, so any uncertainty about what’s going on, who any of these people are is natural – we all want the same answers, from newbies to longtime Aqua-fans. That’s the beauty of this issue. All it takes to get excited for this run is an interest in Aquaman and what makes him tick. Most of the conversation here addresses how Arthur’s stranded on an island with no recollection of how he got there and a newfound water phobia. It feels odd at first, but it holds up throughout and leaves with a question about how this will affect him in coming issues. Yet, Deconnick is almost certainly holding something for herself. By the end of issue #44, Arthur may be one step closer to being the man we remember, but that doesn’t mean any new light is shed on the situation he’s found himself in or the people he’s surrounded by.
It’s still a pretty creepy situation when all’s set and done, mostly thanks to the ambiance. Rocha’s disturbing lines turn into hacked up, bloody rabbits, bits of age on characters’ faces and Henriques’ inks leave a lot of the pencils’ scratchiness on the final product. It’s a textured look that gives everything that extra wear and tear, a strange ragginess. Gho follows up with a muted color palette that escalates as the story unfolds. Aquaman #44 begins in the morning, when things are most ‘normal’ and becomes more and more sinister as night falls. The colors follow that pattern by growing progressively darker, giving everything a subconscious eeriness.
Aquaman #44 is a strong entry in Deconnick, Rocha, Henriques, Gho and Cowles’ tenure. From the looks of things, this arc is going to be a foundational touchstone for a much longer story. The team is preparing for a fresh, accessible take on DC’s master of the oceans.