“Aquaman” #35 is a quieter issue where Jeff Parker, Paul Pelletier, Sean Parsons, Rain Beredo and Taylor Esposito focus on the deeds of King Arthur, ruler of Atlantis as opposed to Arthur Curry, citizen of Amnesty or Aquaman, member of the Justice League. Part one of a tale titled “Maelstrom,” the issue showcases Atlantis through the eyes of Stephen Shin and Daniel Evans.
Readers who have been with the title longer than this installment will recognize both characters as significant sources of pain for Aquaman, and the fact that the Sea King reaches out to both of them is writer Jeff Parker’s way of showing how committed Aquaman is to find some answers and how human he can be in looking for the very best in other people. Aquaman’s humanity and his Atlantean heritage come to a head in this issue as Atlantis itself — not the people or the government, but the location — shudders whenever he enters.
As excellent as Paul Pelletier is at drawing Aquaman in action, he is just as adept at drawing Arthur talking. Not just Arthur, mind you — this issue is filled with characters from across this volume of “Aquaman,” and Parker continues to enlarge the cast of characters for Pelletier. The artist draws up scowls, pleas for understanding and modest smiles interrupted by Mera placing a reaffirming hand on Arthur’s shoulder. Pelletier constructs every single panel in “Aquaman” #35 with its own little story, whether it is the harsh environment outside the dining hall or Shin holding his lower jaw in place while Evans’ eyes nearly expand out of his skull as the two first set eyes upon Atlantis. This issue, if nothing else, allows Pelletier to continue to construct his image of Atlantis, with guidance from Parker and gorgeous ink work from Parsons.
Inkers are frequently underappreciated in comics, but one look at the cityscape of Atlantis is all it takes to emphasize the work Sean Parsons puts into every page, which is no small feat, considering he follows Pelletier’s lead on defining the scales on Aquaman’s top. Similarly, Esposito’s lettering brings emphasis to the many conversations throughout “Aquaman” #35. For example, Elder Koah’s disregard for surface dwellers becomes evident in one word balloon with two words totaling ten letters, where Koah corrects Shin’s salutation of Aquaman.
Surpassing the title of “colorist,” Rain Beredo adds depth, texture and temperature to Pelletier’s artwork. Since he first appeared, Aquaman has worn orange and green, but Beredo, like Rod Reis before, makes the Sea King’s top shimmer, catching light like the scales of a fish. The surface of every building in Atlantis bears a different tone and texture, making the city attempt to rise from the pages of “Aquaman” #35. Likewise, the Royal Line statues bear different grades of erosion. Beredo keeps this issue looking fluid throughout, from the watercolor-inspired work on the figures to the different shades in the clouds above. Beredo deserves an elevated title of “texturizer” or some such for the exemplary work performed in making this comic so gorgeous.
“Aquaman” #35 is yet another fine example of this title bringing out the very best in talented creators while they come together as a single creative team. Parker, Pelletier, Parsons, Beredo and Esposito each augment one another’s strengths and find their own particular way to influence the story at hand. “Maelstrom” is just getting started, but this creative team has “Aquaman” #35 shaped into mid-arc form. The thought that this tale is only going to get more intense is invigorating, especially as Parker and company leave readers with a last-page revelation that launches a queen-sized mystery for Aquaman and Mera in one of DC’s greatest looking and most consistently entertaining titles.