The Return of Bearded Aquaman (Spoilers for Aquaman #25)
Aquaman. Arguably one of the most underrated characters in DC Comics. For decades, this half-Atlantean powerhouse has been regarded by many lost souls as one of the weaker, more useless members of the Justice League.
Among the reasons people cite for this inaccurate assumption are (a) his aquatelepathic abilities (he does not talk to fish, they are incapable of dialogue), (b) some of his sillier appearances in early comics and animated media, and of course (c) the interestingly campy design of his half-orange, half-green costume.
Although Aquaman seems to be most easily recognized by his classic short, blonde hair and smooth-as-a-baby’s-bottom face, the Aquaman comics of the early 1990's popularized a very different, quite badass design for the character, adding long, flowing locks, a handsome beard and, last but not least, the hook-hand.
This was the Aquaman look that influenced the design of his animated counterpart in the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited TV shows of the 2000's, the design of Aquaman's Earth-3 counterpart, the Sea King, and most recently, the design of Jason Momoa's live-action Aquaman of the DCEU.
After the 90's series of comics, Arthur Curry returned to his original clean-shaven look for a number of years. It is a design that has thus far been maintained throughout Arthur's current Aquaman Rebirth run...until now.
Aquaman's latest comic book, Aquaman #25, is a pivotal issue in this series because, with the start of a brand new story arc, it employs a new artist, whose design and depiction of Arthur, Mera, the rest of the Atlanteans and Atlantis itself is nothing short of breathtaking. Stjepan Sejic's artwork is absolutely stunning and, with the start of this newest storyline, he brings back a look that many have been waiting years for: bearded Aquaman.
Aside from Sejic's glorious artwork, Dan Abnett's storytelling in Aquaman #25 is absolutely magnificent. This issue, taking both art and storytelling into account, very quickly became my favorite single comic book issue since the start of Rebirth.
The previous story arc outlined the fall of Arthur Curry's monarchy, and the instatement of Atlantean terrorist Corum Rath as the new, replacement king of Atlantis. In the final panels of the arc, Arthur is seemingly stabbed by his former right-hand guard, and left for dead.
This leads us directly into one of the most interesting Aquaman issues I've ever read. Arthur survives the attack and travels down to the lower depths of Atlantis, knows as the Ninth Tride. It's a hellish little area, devoid of law and order, and completely overrun by local criminals.
It is here that Arthur, weeks after his supposed death, reveals his simultaneously nostalgic and badass man-mane, and I don't think any of us wants to go back to the baby-faced Arthur of yesterday.
This is an exciting time for Aquaman fans! With some of the best storytelling (in my opinion, obviously) we've seen in an Aquaman run in a while, and Sejic's new gorgeous artwork, it's clear that the coming issues are going to be quite memorable. Be sure to pick up Aquaman #25 in stores now!