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‘Justice League/Aquaman: Drowned Earth #1’ (review)

Written by James T Tynion IV
Illustrated by Howard Porter
Published by DC Comics


“You had this much power…. and you used it to speak to fish?!”

Vengeful gods are the worst.

The prelude to Drowned Earth is over. Welcome to the flood.

The Earth is under attack, and her greatest cities are drowning in alien waters, a calamity so overwhelming not even the strongest heroes of the Justice League can prevent it from happening. Aquaman has been abducted, chained to the Blood Reef in deep space, and his captors the Ocean Lords, displaced ocean gods from ruined worlds, think Earth would serve quite well as their new home.

Once they’ve change the world’s population into terrifying sea monsters, of course.

Following months of teases, and hot on the heels of foundational stories in Aquaman, Justice League, and Titans, the epic battle over the fate of earth’s oceans officially kicks off this week with Justice League/Aquaman: Drowned Earth #1, a 36-page blockbuster told in bold strokes by the creative team of James Tynion, Howard Porter and HiFi.

Tynion is a welcome voice for the first book of the Drowned Earth project. He is nothing if not thorough, and with this much room to work with, he’s got plenty of time to bring together all the various loose threads of storytelling we’ve been introduced to, blending them together into a satisfying account of the first several hours of this unfathomable crisis, taking all that momentum and driving the story forward like a killer wave of awesome, dude.

Equal time is given to the Justice League in their frantic efforts to stem the tide, Mera under assault in Atlantis, and Aquaman watching it all unfold in captivity.

For the League the objective is two-fold: protect the people of earth and ensure the safety of the Totality in the Hall of Justice. The effect in both cases is the same, which is to say, complete submersion beneath the waves. Between ancient sea gods, mighty alien krakens and magical transformative waters, it’s all the League can do to save themselves. Better hope Batman in a body cast is enough to protect the most important piece on the chess board.

Mera is not faring much better. But here we have the introduction of our first glimmer of hope, The Tear of Extinction, a deadly counter-measure against the Ocean Lords, hidden in an unknown location by Poseidon and Arion, ancient Mage of Atlantis.

Arion has been a bit too-long missing from the pages of the DCU, and I’m pleased to see his presence showing up now. The legend of the ancient red-haired Sea-Mariner, uniting the tribes of Man, is one of the oldest in our history. To have it upgraded here, both to expand the scale of Arthur’s legacy, but also to extend that myth into the ocean-inhabited worlds of the cosmos is a brilliant move, one that portends remarkable new vistas for Aquaman. Just to add a bit of spice to that idea, if you’ve ever thought that Arion sounded suspiciously like the name Orion, you would not be mistaken.

And then there’s Arthur himself, bound on the Blood Reef, beneath a glowing sheath of mysterious runic tattoos, under the cruel ministrations of Tyyde, one of the Ocean Masters bent on the enslavement (liberation?) of our planet. Turns out they’ve struck a deal with Black Manta and the Legion of Doom to ensure this, with the consequences of that pact looking more than a little dire for Aquaman. But where does that leave Black Manta?

Can our heroes fight back against the tsunami that has swamped them, and claim victory from the disaster flooding them from all sides? Maybe, but it won’t be easy. Good thing there’s four more parts to the saga. The full run down begins next week with Justice League #11 written by Scott Snyder, followed by Justice League #12 by Tynion again on November 21, then Aquaman #42 by Dan Abnett, also on November 21, and then onto the finale in Aquaman/Justice League: Drowned Earth #1, by Scott Snyder and Francis Manapul, one November 28.

This week the work of artists Howard Porter and HiFi, together makes for a bright, bold, sharply drawn comic that captures the epic scale and frenetic motion of this story very nicely indeed. It’s a striking kick-off to a story of high-seas adventure, that spans both space and time.

So enjoy! This one’s a doozy. And our heroes are in deep. Don’t be surprised if they have to get deeper to find the solutions they need. Much, much deeper. *Blub*


Next time: Justice League #11 makes it a matter of Life vs. Death. And the fate of the multiverse at stake…


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