The new Aquaman stands up, mostly submerged by water, smiling at the reader.

Aquaman: The Becoming #1! Comic Book Reviews 9/22

This is a heavy week. There’s so much going on emotionally in all of these issues that I’ve chosen to review this week. I got whiplash going from the hopeful heroics of Aquaman: The Becoming, to the emotional goodbyes of Guardians of the Galaxy, and the emotional revelations of The Onslaught Revelation. Though, none compare to the utter emotional turmoil Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow has put me through. 

But it’s all worth it because they’re all winners. They all succeed in the emotions they set out to instill and rip out of me. This is a week for tissues for tears of happiness and not. Maybe I’m being a bit overdramatic. Quality storytelling can hit me where it hurts. 

Basically, I’m saying each and every one of the four books I read this week are worth reading. 

Aquaman: The Becoming #1

Script by: Brandon Thomas

Penciling by: Diego Olortegui

Inking by: Wade Von Grawbadger

Coloring by: Adriano Lucas

Lettering by: Andworld Design

I’ve never been a terribly huge Aquaman fan. Yeah, I bought the whole, “he only talks to fish” garbage that’s plagued him for decades, but even once I moved past that, I still wasn’t a fan. His aesthetic really did him no favors, and that’s important to me in a visual medium. In one of the few good points of corporate synergy, making Arthur Curry look more like a white Jason Momoa has taken down a barrier of entry for me. Albeit, it wasn’t in the most racially sensitive way. At least now, replacing Arthur Curry, the classic Aquaman, with Jackson Hyde was just another way to get me in. 

The amazing Future State: Aquaman was the last time we saw Jackson in the role of Aquaman, but that doesn’t mean this outing is similar. Jackson is becoming Aquaman in this book, he’s not an experienced superhero with a sidekick just yet. There’s far more focus on building up who he is as a hero than there is on building his relationship with any one character.

This leads to several new dynamics that each hit different emotional beats, but they hit just as hard. While the battle to reunite with Andy was heartbreaking, Jackson’s new tale is full of hope. I can’t comment as to how Arthur would react to people, but the way Jackson has formed a sense of community around his town is key to the story’s pathos. 

Everyone knows him, and by that I mean he has no secret identity. When he saves someone, they say, “Thanks Jackson,” not “Thanks Aquaman.” I almost said “aww” while reading when the kidnapping victim Jackson saved asked him to stay with her by calling him, “Mr. Hyde.” He feels like a real hero of the people, but also a friend. This is not only an interesting creative choice, but the perfect one to set Jackson apart from other heroes.

Is Jackson the only one who would sit and wait with a victim to make them feel safe? No, of course not, most heroes would. But none of them would be asked to by their real name, even the ones with open identities. Our main character is Jackson first, and Aquaman second. 

This book could have been called Jackson Hyde instead of Aquaman and it would have felt as thematically relevant. His identity and who he is seeps through every scene of this book seamlessly. I could go on and on about how great the character-building scenes are like where he fails to flirt with the waiter, completes the Apocalypse training exercise, or is on a first-name basis with the joe-shmoes in Atlantis and on the surface. I don’t want to because you should read it for yourself. Do yourself a favor and pick up Aquaman: The Becoming, I can’t recommend it more without spoiling more.

Guardians of the Galaxy #18

A Legion of Doombots fly towards the screen with the words, "Then it's Us," in the bottom right corner.
Then the Doombots are on us.

Written by: Al Ewing

Art by: Juan Frigeri

Coloring by: Federico Blee

Lettering by: VC’s Cory Petit

I’ve been covering this series since I jumped on with its huge crazy crossover and expansion of the roster. I’m sad to read this issue and learn that it is the last. Before this series, I’ve never been a fan of the Guardians of the Galaxy. That feels like a theme this week, reading books about characters that were never my cup of tea.

This series came and changed my mind about a lot of characters. Characters I thought bland and boring like Star-Lord and Nova, gained emotional depth I hadn’t seen in a long time. The story was so emotionally understanding of them, that I couldn’t help but grow to care. Then it introduced me to new characters I was never familiar with, like Moondragon, Phyla-Vell, and Marvel Boy. It showed the magic of loving characters who are C- and D-Tier characters on their best day.

In a galaxy as vast as Marvel’s, with so many heroes to protect it, it’s amazing this series has been as personal as it has.

This issue was no different from previous ones, but of course, the ending wasn’t satisfactory. Was it bad? By no means. Was it enough? How could it be? We get small snapshots of everyone, setting up for the inevitable Guardians reboot, and a nice farewell to this status quo of the Guardians. 

Was the fight against Dormammu terribly interesting? No, but that was always just a backdrop to the character work going on. Can Star-Lord, Nova, and Gamora truly reconcile their feelings for each other, and the exhaustion brought about from their job? Will Dr. Doom betray them or will he actually do the right thing? Dormammu was never important, he was just a set-piece.

This story, the Last Annihilation, is the perfect example of when the plot is nothing more than a way to bring characters to their emotional catharsis. In the end, I don’t really care that Dormammu was defeated rather easily. All I care about is that Gamora, Star-Lord, and Nova defeated him together as one. 

This issue felt like it was ending one of, if not the most definitive run on the Guardians of the Galaxy. The next creative team has far too much to live up to here. I don’t envy them.

X-Men: The Onslaught Revelation

Nightcrawler and Legion argue as Onslaught emanates from Professor X.
This is the one good story about Onslaught and it slaps.

Written by: Si Spurrier

Art by: Bob Quinn

Coloring by: Java Tartaglia

Lettering by: VC’s Clayton Cowles

Onslaught is the product of the worst capitalism can do to the comic book industry. Take something that was barely an idea, and try to do a whole universe-changing event around it. It’s fitting that the next amazing tale, is the best tale Onslaught has ever been a part of it, is a part of a small miniseries that ends with one large issue. 

If there was ever an argument to be made for Nightcrawler as the best X-Man, this series would be it. His ability to find compassion, not by judging, but by ultimately accepting people for everything that they are, is perfectly illustrated in this issue. A true believer of God should believe that everyone can be forgiven, everyone can let go of their hate, but no one can do it for them but themselves. Nightcrawler reminds mutants that to dethrone death is not the end of all threats but just the beginning of others. 

Onslaught was the culmination of Magneto’s and Professor X’s worst emotions and brings out the worst emotions in all mutants here. This tale is so expertly crafted and thought out that it feels as if every part of its climax could only happen the way that it did. Only a self-hating asshole like Cortez could be the one to showcase the worst of mutandom becoming better; the son of Professor X was the only one who could discover his brother; Fabian’s victim, Lost, was the only one who could teach mutants not to feed Onslaught with hate; only Nightcrawler could bring them together.

The final page feels like the ultimate moment in Nightcrawler’s life when he takes everything Way of X has built up to, and gifts mutants with this revelation on life. It’s not condescending, or forceful, it’s truly the gift of understanding that mutants must choose to use. 

To say this finale made me ‘feel things’ would be an understatement. This is an issue that will leave me thinking deep into the night. To say that I recommend every X-fan buy this issue, even if they haven’t read Way of X, would be an understatement.

Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow #4

A close up on Supergirl's face as she's consumed by fire.
I’m not gonna cry… oh god, I’m crying.

Written by: Tom King

Art by: Bilquis Evely

Coloring by: Matheus Lopes

Lettering by: Clayton Cowles

With every issue, I feel like I’ve read one of the best issues I’ve read all year. Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow, should it continue as it has, will be my favorite Supergirl story ever told, and it will be my favorite story Tom King has ever told. I found myself struck by emotion with every page, as Supergirl walked in the aftermath of her enemy. 

I thought at one time that Supergirl should never kill, but after this, I think there can be an exception. The ‘S’ she wears on her chest is about hope, and hope means forgiveness and second chances… but this can be the exception. The oath to never kill is a sacred thing, that shows people they can be better than they are… but this can be the exception.

All the pain these brigands have caused across worlds, to untold numbers of people, is unforgivable. The fact that Supergirl has taken this pain on, to help as many as she can to grieve, leaves me with little reason to believe she should allow them the chance for forgiveness when she catches them. 

This issue is nothing but catharsis as Supergirl holds person after person across several worlds and species as they morn. She holds them each in a different way to help them grieve and get closer to the ones causing so much pain. Supergirl becomes more than a symbol of hope in this issue, but one of empathy. 

Every page in this issue will drag some kind of emotion out of you that you don’t want to feel but may feel glad for having felt it. It’s an issue I both recommend and warn against. It’s not something for the momentarily faint of heart, but it’ll show anyone why Supergirl is one of the best superheroes we have.

Behold the Rise of Aquaman and the End of the Guardians of the Galaxy

The new Aquaman runs from parademons.
Here’s your new Aquaman!

As one series starts, another series ends. They kind of wave to each other as they each go passing in the night, knowing they’re both books of quality. Seriously, don’t sleep on any of the books that were released this week. Don’t sleep on Aquaman, don’t sleep on Guardians of the Galaxy, don’t sleep on The Onslaught Revelation, and don’t sleep on Supergirl. Catch up on Supergirl or GOTG, get the previous issues and binge-read them, they are worth it.

But if you’re looking for two books to read that you don’t have to read anything else first to understand, read Aquaman: The Becoming and The Onslaught Revelation. You won’t regret it.

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