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Many fans of the character were undoubtedly taken aback when the announcement for Aquaman: King of Atlantis was made. Given that it is executive produced by James Wan (among others), the current director of the Aquaman movie, the miniseries’ visual design and animation style are a total departure from anything seen in the live-action pictures. Not only that, but it’s a total shift in tone, as it’s more similar to the action comedy cartoons that DC Comics franchises like Teen Titans Go!, DC Super Hero Girls, and others have nailed recently.
Using the events of the first Aquaman film as a springboard for its comedic premise, Aquaman: King of Atlantis opens with a highly energetic, bouncy, and hilariously fun premiere that establishes not only a new kind of world for a new kind of Aquaman, but also a whole new kind of universe that looks like it’ll be fun to play around in. It’s as though the marine superhero has his own playground here.
(Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Animation)
The first chapter of Aquaman: King of Atlantis: Chapter One – Dead Sea is based on the first Aquaman film and “takes place” soon after it finishes. Aquaman (Shazam! and The Walking Dead’s Cooper Andrews) is in his first week as the new King of Atlantis, and it’s kind of like a fish out of water situation, but in reverse. The citizens of Atlantis are attempting to accept the fact that their new king is a surface dweller, and things are made even more complicated by the fact that his half-brother Ocean Master (Aqua Teen Hunger Force, The Ghost and Molly McGee, and JellystoneDana !’s Snyder) is attempting to reclaim the throne at any cost.
Vulko (Reno 911’s Thomas Lennon) and Mera (Community’s Gillian Jacobs) are assisting the procedure, and there’s an instant chemistry between the three of them. As they combine the love connection between Aquaman and Mera with the crazy scenario they eventually find themselves in, Jacobs and Andrews in particular establish a wonderful comic rhythm. Andrews takes a more traditional approach to Aquaman than the crazy new interpretation of Mera on display here, but the two work well together, and it’s obvious that they’re both having a blast bringing these characters to life.
It’s clear from the first few seconds of Dead Sea what sort of animated series Aquaman: King of Atlantis is going to be. With a flexible animation style to boot, it offers an explosive energy that shoots off some gags straight away. Because showrunner (along with Marly Halpern-Graser) and co-executive producer Victor Courtright previously provided character designs and direction for the reboot series Thundercats Roar, the style and energy of the presentation, dialogue, and action will likely draw many comparisons, but it all works here just like it did in that show.
(Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Animation)
Character models are just a frame of reference, since they are continually contorted and morphed to offer the cutest, ugliest, or funniest perspectives imaginable in order to make each scene or character moment pop even more. Mera, for example, often behaves violently in a “punch first, ask questions later” style, thus her hands are depicted in a much larger size when she’s ready to fight to highlight her snappy nature. Aquaman, on the other hand, is a bit more reserved. But it’s much more powerful when he’s pushed into the craziness around him.
Although the jokes received a lot of attention, Dead Sea did not disappoint in terms of action. There are plenty of dynamic perspectives, entertaining usage of unexpected weapons (like Mera utilizing her abilities to create baseball bats out of water in each battle), and the flexibility of its character models means there’s a fluidity that’s simply enjoyable to watch when it truly dives into a fight. This debut gives us a good taste of what we may anticipate when the miniseries begins to tell its entire tale.
Aquaman: King of Atlantis: Chapter One – Dead Sea is a colorful and exciting new take on Aquaman’s universe that seems like it’ll be a wonderful source of laughs and action for the whole family. Now it’s just a question of seeing whether the king of the seas can maintain this level of flawless sailing.
4 out of 5 stars
On October 14th, HBO Max will debut Aquaman: King of Atlantis: Chapter One – Dead Sea, which will also air on Cartoon Network’s ACME Night block.