The oceans are rising again.
With the Aquaman movie hitting theaters in less than two months, DC needs a new reader-friendly, Aquaman-centric event comic that can give newcomers a primer on all things Atlantis. Drowned Earth definitely fits that bill. This one-shot special kicks off a crossover between the ongoing Justice League and Aquaman comics. Some of the beats in this issue are overly familiar, but it serves as an engaging start to this crossover all the same.
Fans of 2013’s Throne of Atlantis crossover will find themselves in comfortably familiar territory. Once again Aquaman takes center stage in a conflict that involves the surface world being flooded by an oceanic enemy. The key difference this time being that this enemy hails from the stars and harbors just as much resentment toward Atlantis as it does the rest of the world.
Again, certain aspects of this new storyline feel a bit too similar to what we’ve seen in the past – scenes of major metropolitan areas facing catastrophic flooding, ancient Atlantean secrets being brought to light, etc. The biggest factors helping to distinguish this conflict are the cosmic and Greek mythological elements, but neither winds up playing a significant role yet. Wonder Woman herself barely even appears in this issue. The hope is that Drowned Earth will do more to distinguish itself with time. But for right now, the needs of setting the board and establishing the basics of this crossover take precedent.
The crossover stands out less on the strength of its plot than the combination of spectacle and memorable character moments. Artist Howard Porter and colorist Hi-Fi bring a very larger-than-life quality to this issue, whether it’s rendering massive undersea creatures, cities being devoured by floodwaters or heroes like Superman and Flash fighting a losing battle against overwhelming odds. Porter’s art has scale to spare, and it rarely misses the mark when it comes to emotion, either.
There are instances where the script and the art seem to be somewhat at odds. There’s a certain darkness to James Tynion’s writing that doesn’t always come across in Porter’s character designs or Hi-Fi’s bright hues. In particular, some of the monster designs are more comical than imposing.
The best moments in this opening chapter are the ones that take a step back from the carnage to dig in deeper with some of the major players. The opening sequence provides a heartfelt look back at Arthur Curry’s childhood and the fleeting affair between Queen Atlanna and Thomas Curry. The scenes focused on Mera and Ocean Master take full advantage of the strained Curry family dynamic. And in many ways, Batman is the real MVP of this issue, as he takes the weight of the world on his shoulders and risks his life to safeguard the secrets contained within the Hall of Justice. With more moments like that, Drowned Earth may just be able to take its place among the great Justice League crossovers.