Comic book stories and mythology share a lot of the same DNA. The arguments been made that superhero stories act as our modern day myths, tales filled with god-like heroes and villains engaged in constant struggle for the heart of humanity, pit against each other in order to teach readers to see the good in each other and themselves. Comics and myths are so intertwined, the former regularly borrows from the latter, incorporating actual gods from Norse, Greek and Roman mythology to fill their superhero pantheons, blurring the line that separates them. When the romance of myths and legends is explored in the graphic medium, the connective tissue between them is exposed like a raw nerve, but when this is handled with finesse and a certain level of respect, tales of how the world was created and defined are as epic as any off-world action spectacle comics books can offer.
Aquaman #45 is a prime example of how the idea of legend on a grand scale can help shape modern comic book lore in interesting ways. There are essentially two plot lines in this issue, the first being focused on Arthur and Caille's journey to find her mother, while the secondary plot line, which really feels like what this issue is the most interested in telling, is the history of how the world was created and how the struggle between elemental gods impacted that creation. Told through gorgeous art and lyrical prose, Aquaman #45 illustrates how something as frivolous as superpeople running around in tights can feel larger than life, even beyond their huge personalities and immense powers.
Those of you who have been rocking with Kelly Sue DeConnick and Robson Rocha's run already may feel as if this issue is somewhat of exposition dump issue, which... it kind of is. Something like this can be irksome, and often make you less excited for next month to roll around, but the creative team on this book is so damn good, it's hard not be enchanted by each issue. DeConnick (Bitch Planet, Captain Marvel) is one of the best writers working in comics today. She's always bold in her storytelling choices, and has a gift for explaining lore that is both narratively informative and beautifully lyrical, the kind of person you'd want to tell folk stories around a camp fire.
Rocha's pencils and Daniel Henriques' inks render the characters in wonderful, excquisite detail, line work reminiscent of a cross between Bernie Wrightson and the Kubert brothers. But it's Sunny Gho's colors that set the visual tone of the entire issue. The scenes focusing on Arthur and Caille's journey are muted, stoking the feeling of being lost in the vast ocean. The panels centered around the legends of gods and monsters, however, are bright, warm and aggressive, creating a wonderful visual divide. But where the art team really comes together is in the gorgeous double-page spreads, pages that are grand and frantic, but never busy.
The new direction Aquaman has taken is bold, but has turned out to be a welcomed\ change of pace. DeConnick's writing is as sharp as ever, and Rocha, Henriques and Gho's art is stunning, visuals which flow like the deep, dark sea through which our heroes travel. With the character of Arthur Curry suddenly becoming a global phenomenon thanks to a bright and shiny film, seeing a muted and personal story of myth and legend play out in the source material feels like we're getting the other side of one of comics' most misunderstood superheroes.