Jeff Parker is in a tough position with “Aquaman” #26, merely by accepting the job as the book’s new writer. While Geoff Johns by no means created Aquaman, there’s no denying that Johns brought the character back onto an A-level playing field within DC Comics when the book began in 2011 as part of the New 52. Here, Parker, Paul Pelletier and Netho Diaz try to keep that trend moving forward, but right now this ship is still trying to get back on course.
I appreciate that Parker is trying to keep the Ruler-of-Atlantis aspect of “Aquaman” around; it’s one of the few things that really sets the character apart from the rest of the DC Universe. But frustratingly, this is the part that never feels like it’s quite on track. There’s a lot of clunky exposition in that half of the comic, ones that has Parker re-establishing the status quo but in a way that never feels natural. Hopefully Parker is getting it all out of the way here, because every time one character tells another something they already know (in an effort to update the reader) the book stops dead in its tracks.
On the other hand, once the politics are put aside and the action kicks in, it’s here that Parker feels much more sure-footed. This is certainly the first part of a larger story, but it feels engaging and fun as Aquaman fights a massive new creature that is sacking Reykjavik. Parker also introduces a new way for Aquaman to travel huge distances in the blink of an eye; it’s the sort of addition that is plugging a logical plot hole (with two-thirds of the planet underwater, it’s a ridiculously large amount of territory to cover) but at the same time suffers a tiny bit from exposition. Again, now that Parker’s explained it, hopefully future issues will be a little smoother in that regard. Still, it’s a fun concept, if nothing else.
Pelletier’s pencils in “Aquaman” #26 are polished and attractive as ever, with that smooth and rounded style that we’ve seen for literally decades now. I’ve got no complaints with Pelletier’s art; it’s what we’ve come to expect on “Aquaman” ever since he took over the art, and it’s consistent. Pelletier is joined by penciler Netho Diaz for a handful of pages this issue. Diaz’ pages are interesting; the characters are a bit leaner, and in some ways it reminds me of a cross between Phil Jimenez and long-time “Aquaman” artist J. Calafiore. Faces are a little too pinched and narrow in spots, but on the whole it’s a good substitution, and if Diaz is called up again the next time assistance is needed that would be a smart decision.
“Aquaman” #26 is absolutely middle of the road. I’d have been more happy if Parker’s first issue had a bit more punch, especially because I worry that with Johns gone some of the readership will leave without even trying out Parker’s stories. His writing has been strong enough on other titles that I’ll certainly stick around for a few months and see what happens once he’s had a chance to settle in. But for now, the end result is totally average.