It feels as if DC Comics has been a little too brazen with its crossover events as of late. The back-to-back frequency can hamper their importance, and sometimes even derail ongoing series. We understand why crossovers exist; slapping a "to be continued" caption on the last page that directs you to a different title (one you may not currently have on your pull list) can help overall sales and potentially broaden a reader's horizons. In theory, it's a win-win for everyone involved, but it can feel like a chore.
On the other hand, when crossover events like "The Witching Hour," and now "Drowned Earth," have a one-shot as the ostensible starting point, it can be a bit befuddling for readers who may not follow industry releases closely, especially when the starting point seems to just jump right into the middle of events. Thankfully, Justice League/Aquaman: Drowned Earth #1 does a pretty solid job at giving readers all the bullet points they might need to catch up and follow along if those choose to do so. In fact, it might do its job too well.
Justice League/Aquaman: Drowned Earth #1 often feels like the notes jotted down by someone who didn't open their text book all semester and spent all night cramming for finals. It's exposition heavy -- we're talking "Chris Claremont writing Magneto speeches" heavy. You get all the pertinent information at an exhausting pace.
For all intents and purposes, Drowned Earth is an apocalyptic story, one where the Ocean Lords have waged war against land-dwellers and look to level the playing field by flooding the planet. It's a dire situation, but the focus of the disaster is blurred.
Writer James Tynion IV knows how to make large-scale global cataclysms feel personal. His horror miniseries Memetic (drawn by artist extraordinaire Eryk Donovan) does a wonderful job of pinpointing the effect on individuals of an apocalyptic event on the ground level, filling each issue with heart and lost hope. But Drowned Earth is a also a superhero story, which means the consequences are significantly lower. We know Aquaman will make out of this predicament (they aren't going to sideline him with a huge movie release on the horizon), and cities like Metropolis and Gotham will bounce back. Hell, they've been through huge disasters so often, we're sure there's insurance policies for this sort of thing.
Sure there will be fatalities of nameless residents, and events will unfold that will have a lasting impact (at least for a little while) on some big names. But this issue is told in such a scatter shot manner, you don't get enough time to really feel how bad the global flooding really is beyond an elementary understanding of what it could mean when applied to the real world (we all saw Waterworld).
So is it any good? Well, yes -- but it's good in the sense that we get a lot of action and operatic drama as pieces move across the board. This is the starting point of something presumably big, but just how big is yet to be seen. The seeds of something potentially great here are planted, but the frantic pace of this issue obscure any sense of importance.
Howard Porter's artwork is mostly great. He seems to be pulling from his JLA days in terms of exaggerated character designs and high-impact action. However, there are a few panels here and there that feel strangely incomplete, as if the details have been obscured by the coloring or the printing process. It's really hard to tell. Regardless, his work is a standout -- we just wish it was presented with a bit more consistency since we know what Porter is capable of.
Overall, Justice League/Aquaman: Drowned Earth #1 feels a bit rushed and suffers from some pacing issues at the hands of trying to get as much information out as possible. However, the work is good enough to keep us interested in what happens next even if the horrors of such a catastrophic event feel a bit blasé.