After many years of hoping and waiting for a solo movie, Aquaman, the King of the Seven Seas, will finally get his chance to shine. The film, featuring Jason Momoa as Aquaman/Arthur Curry and Amber Heard as Mera, arrives in theaters this December and now is a great time for audiences to freshen up on their knowledge of the aquatic hero. While many are aware of who Aquaman is, whether by appearances in other media such as the old Justice League animated cartoons or video games such as Injustice, there may be those who are eager to dive into some of his comic series.
Aquaman has gotten a bad rap over the years, often referred to as the superhero who just “talks to fish.” However, Aquaman has had an exciting publication history of the many years since his introduction into the DC Universe. Aquaman, or Arthur Curry, was the son of a lighthouse keeper and the Queen of Atlantis. Fearful for her son’s life, Arthur’s mother, Atlanna, left him with his father as she returned to Atlantis. While growing up, Arthur began to learn about his heritage and his connection to the sea. He found he had the ability to command sea life, possessed super strength and durability that could withstand the tremendous pressures of the deep. Constantly fighting a battle within himself about where he belongs, Arthur was a founding member of the Justice League and fights to protect both the land and sea from all manner of threats. In this article, I’m going to highlight certain Aquaman stories new readers will enjoy and stories that will help readers understand who Aquaman is.
1. Geoff Johns’ Aquaman (New 52)
Geoff Johns’ work on Aquaman back in 2011-2013 is regarded as one of the best runs of Aquaman ever written and for good reason. Fans who are excited for the new movie should pick this run up as the foundation of DCEU Aquaman is built from this run. Johns chose to bring Aquaman back to basics and give him a definitive origin while also surrounding him by familiar characters such as Mera, Black Manta, and Ocean Master. Johns reintroduced us to the fantastic and mysterious world of Atlantis and the inner struggle of Arthur as he is torn between the worlds above and below the waves. Johns presented Aquaman in a way that was accessible to both new Aquaman readers and old. Arthur constantly struggles with feeling like a man with nowhere to call home and yet continues to fight for both land and sea. Joined by a stunning art team of Ivan Reis, Paul Pelletier, Joe Prado, and Rod Reis, DC Comics was publishing one of the most exciting and beautiful Aquaman series of all time. Each month saw Aquaman and Mera in exciting new adventures that dove into the history of Atlantis. If there’s one Aquaman series to read to get ready for the new Aquaman movie, this is the one you’ll want to pick up.
The Subdiego story arc that came out in 2003 is regarded as one of the most popular Aquaman stories. In this story, an enormous earthquake sends much of San Diego into the ocean. Aquaman is quick to respond and to his surprise finds that there are survivors of the earthquake who are living and breathing underwater. Part mystery and part political thriller, Subdiego sees Aquaman attempting to create a new home for the displaced and mutated individuals who once called the surface their home. At the same time, Aquaman must find those who were responsible for mutating the citizens of San Diego. With a captivating story by Will Pfeifer and gorgeous artwork by fan-favorite Patrick Gleason, Subdiego is an essential Aquaman story to read.
3. Maelstrom (Jeff Parker/Paul Pelletier)
When Johns left the book at the end of 2013, Jeff Parker joined the book as the new series writer. Parker’s run on the book is criminally underrated as he continued the world building that Johns had laid out. Along with bringing back a familiar Silver Age villain, Creature King, Parker sought to bring Aquaman’s mother, Atlanna, back into the DC Universe. During this exciting story, Aquaman runs across characters such as Martian Manhunter and Gorilla Grodd as he searches for his mother who he learns is still alive! Maelstrom remains one of my favorite Aquaman stories and like Parker’s run, it was very underrated. If you’re looking for an exciting adventure book with Arthur and Mera, this story arc is one you’ll want to pick up!
4. The Atlantis Chronicles
While The Atlantis Chronicles is no longer canon, this series explained the history of Atlantis. Imagine reading Game of Thrones set in Atlantis and you would have The Atlantis Chronicles. This book explored the various ages of Atlantis, starting with Orin and his fight against Shalako and the Deluge that sank Atlantis. Peter David explored the fight between science and magic and even set up the legacy that would one day come to affect Aquaman himself. While Arthur is not the focus of this run, it’s a series that is worth checking out for the exciting political intrigue and world building.
5. Death of a Prince
Easily the most famous Aquaman story ever told, Death of a Prince is the story of Black Manta’s revenge on his arch-nemesis that resulted in the death of Aquaman’s only child. While the story arc itself lasted only a few issues, the ramifications of this story lasted for years to come even until Blackest Night in 2009, cementing itself as the darkest chapter in the history of Aquaman. In this story, we see not only Black Manta, but another one of Aquaman’s classic villains: Fisherman, who is being re-imagined in the Jason Momoa-led film as the “Fisherman King.” Death of a Prince remains one of the most important stories in Aquaman’s history and is a story arc that those interested in Aquaman should read.
Honorable mention: Peter David’s entire run
It’s hard to forget the work that Peter David did for Aquaman during the late nineties. David’s run remains a popular era for the aquatic hero as David took him in a bold, new direction. During his time on the book, David gave Aquaman a new look. Sporting longer hair, a beard, and giving him a harpoon hand, Peter David’s Aquaman was radically different from previous incarnations of the character. David’s Aquaman was a little rougher and showed why you don’t get on the wrong side of the King of the Seas. The series also introduced Dolphin, a popular DC character who was recently just re-introduced to the DC Universe. Peter David’s run on Aquaman cemented him as an A-list superhero and one you didn’t make fun of. His take on Aquaman continued to inspire even years after his run concluded. Jason Momoa’s Aquaman is partially inspired by the Peter David era of Aquaman in regards to giving him a beard and long hair.
Aquaman has had an exciting history since his introduction to the DC Universe and there are plenty of other stories that belong here as well. So tell us, what are your favorite Aquaman stories?