Tie-in comics are odd things. When they're tie-ins connected to event series, it's one thing because you're dealing with stories and characterizations that exist in the larger continuity and will arguably continue beyond that issue and story but when it's a movie tie-in, things are different. These are stories that are more or less one-offs. They're stories with lower stakes and less impact and, in the case of Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom Special #1, may not matter much beyond its specific moment in time anyway. As fans of DC's live-action films already know, the upcoming Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is the last in the DCEU continuity with new stories on the horizon with DC Films. This particular take on Arthur Curry is one we're not likely to see again. But for all of that, this tie-in is a surprisingly solid read and one that doesn't rely too much on the first Aquaman film to be interesting, sets a strong stage for the upcoming sequel, and manages to be a pretty good Aquaman story over all.
The comic book is actually comprised of three stories – one focusing on Aquaman, one focusing on Black Manta, and one focusing on Orm. In the first, from writer Tim Seeley and artist Miguel Mendonca, readers catch up with Arthur, now part of the Justice League, in the lead up to his wedding to Mera where he inadvertently creates yet another villain. This time it is an assassin named Charybdis whose partner-in-crime and wife, Scylla, is accidentally killed when Arthur addresses an anti-meta bomb. With Charybdis now possessing powers of his own, he goes mad and right after Aquaman for revenge. It's a silly little plot that is eerily like Black Manta's origin, but it's functional and out of it readers get some well-crafted human moments with the characters – there are some beautifully written moments with Arthur's parents as well as with Vulko and even Mera is well written. Seeley also seems to get Arthur in a way that makes him both fun and poignant so the story features more than cringe to read. It's a little on the long side, but it's nice overall.
The second story in the issue is from writer Joey Esposito and artist Ray-Anthony Height and centers on Black Manta; it is genuinely the best story in the issue. Readers find Black Manta planning his assault on Atlantis and it's intense, it's dark, it's complicated but it delves into Manta's psyche in a way I haven't really seen before. There are some deeply personal reasons that Manta hates Arthur and this story richly explores them without coming across in a way that cheapens Manta as a character. The art is also fantastic.
The third, Orm-centric story comes from Ethan Sacks and artist Scot Eaton and gives readers an insight into what life has been like for Arthur's half-brother while imprisoned under Atlantis. Although the character was the primary villain of the first movie, this story gives him a bit more humanity than one might expect – even as he plans escape. It definitely feels like the story is laying the groundwork for the character to switch sides, as it were, in the sequel. It's a solid enough story and it might be the story in this tie-in that feels the most like it might be "required" reading.
Overall, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom Special #1 is a surprisingly solid comic book. All three stories in the issue are good reads, though the Black Manta offering is probably the best of the trio. It leaves the reader with the sense that maybe the story that the Aquaman movies is trying to tell could be better suited for page than screen in the future. While it will certainly be interesting to see where the seeds planted by this unusual tie-in issue may go, it is one worth reading on its own.
Published by DC Comics
On October 31, 2023
Written by Tim Seeley, Joey Esposito, and Ethan Sacks
Art by Miguel Mendonca, Ray-Anthony Height, Scot Eaton, and Norm Rapmund
Colors by Andrew Dalhouse, Eren Angiolini, and Tony Avina
Letters by Wes Abbott, Josh Reed, and Carlos M. Mangual
Cover by Ivan Reis, Danny Mikki, and Brad Anderson0comments