DC's crossover event "Drowned Earth" has arrived at its conclusion, and much like the installments leading up to Aquaman/Justice League: Drowned Earth #1, it's a bit problematic, but far too ambitious to completely disregard. Overall, "Drowned Earth" has been a prime example of what is wonderful about blockbuster crossovers and how, despite the talent behind them, they can often feel weightless even when dire stakes are present within the narrative. Aquaman/Justice League: Drowned Earth #1 is packed with bountiful craziness to warrant its cover price and is a satisfying enough conclusion to make you forget some of the weaker chapters. Mostly.
Such crossovers can break the flow of a title, such as with the recent Justice League Dark and Wonder Woman event "The Witching Hour," which ultimately felt as if it could have unfolded within the pages of either comic (or its own miniseries). "Drowned Earth" felt very much the same; it could have been told through Justice League if not its own standalone title. With that broad grievance out of the way, let's talk about the actual issue.
Aquaman/Justice League: Drowned Earth #1 plays to writer Scott Snyder's strengths and weaknesses. We've said it before: Snyder excels in the realm of horror and family dramas. But this issue doesn't really have much of either, sadly. Outside of a saccharine, yet effective, sequence of panels reflecting on Arthur's relationship with his father, the personal beats don't quite sing. All the dialogue between Mera and Arthur feels like pure exposition set to recap the events of previous issues and to reassure the reader just how bad things might get if the heroes fail. However, Snyder is also great at creating larger-than-life scenarios that feel as if they could play out on the big screen. Surprise characters return to lend a hand in the 11th hour; inevitable betrayals occur; and heroes find some level success by the skin of their teeth. It all moves like clockwork.
But seeing the gears and cogs can be difficult, as we don't get a lot of time to appreciate the workmanship of what Snyder has built with artists Francis Manapul, Howard Porter and Scott Godlewski. There's little time to appreciate the events as they unfold as things move with such a breakneck pace. Moments that could have played out beautifully in silence are often plastered with expository dialogue or unnecessary omnipotent narration. Even the artwork can sometimes look a bit haphazard. Panels feel rushed to print and the cluttered panels can be difficult to have any sort of impact.
Now, it might sound like we're really bagging on Aquaman/Justice League: Drowned Earth #1, but there is a lot of like in this issue. As mentioned before, Snyder knocks it out of the park in terms of creating a climatic ending, that, despite the missteps, is quite effective. In fact, when "Drowned Earth" eventually gets turned into one of the DC animated movies, we're sure what was on the page will translate beautifully. Some of the character designs are also great: Superman with an 'S' eye patch and a jacket that looks like he stole if from Robotman from Doom Patrol is a sight to behold.
We don't think "Drowned Earth" will be a game-changer like Snyder and Greg Capullo's mega-hit Dark Nights: Metal was, but the fabric of the DC Universe was shaken enough in this crossover to make for some interesting fallout. We look forward to see where Snyder takes things from here. While there wasn't necessarily a clif-hanger at the end of Aquaman/Justice League: Drowned Earth #1, there are plenty of questions still looming -- like why wasn't Jarro in this issue? We don't care if his appearance doesn't fit into the narrative, we just want him to be there ... like, all the time.