If you’ve seen Aquaman then you know one thing about the movie: It has a lot.
A lot of creatures; a lot of underwater politics; a lot of wet, shirtless actors. That said, the grand comic book probably left you wanting more: More octopuses playing the drums, more kaiju-sized sea monsters, more high fantasy struggles for an ancient throne.
Here are half a dozen Aquaman books that will quench that thirst — no matter what part of the movie swept you away.
I couldn’t get enough of the Seven Tribes of Atlantis’ bizarre fantasy stylings
Read The Atlantis Chronicles.
Aquaman entered a Renaissance in the early ’90s, gaining a beard and long hair, and losing his shirt, as writers reworked his image. A tweak to his origin story turned him into the hero into the son of the queen of Atlantis and an Atlantean demigod — not a human man. Peter David’s long tenure on the main Aquaman title cemented the modern Aquaman in readers’ minds.
But before David ever took on that series, he and Spanish artist Estban Maroto crafted The Atlantis Chronicles. Chronicles was comprised of seven extra-long issues that spanned thousands of years of Atlantean history, condensing decades of cobbled-together elements of DC’s Atlantis into a single fantasy epic. Maroto’s rendering of kingly warriors and hard-eyed queens is perfect for the material — exactly what you’d expect from the sword and sorcery comics artist who invented Red Sonja’s chainmail bikini.
Despite all the narrative scale and artistic bombast, The Atlantis Chronicles remains a story with human (OK, Atlantean) focus. David gave the series a cheeky framing device — it was all based on “real” recently discovered books of Atlantean history and merely “transcribed and adapted” by Peter David. Each Atlantean scribe has their own clear biases, encouraging readers to consider the story as a real piece of history — not just an enumeration of what was canon and what wasn’t.
While the book does contain an unnecessarily graphic rape scene — a regrettably routine habit of the sword and sorcery genre — if what you wanted from Aquaman the movie was more ancient rivalries, prophecy and contested thrones, pick up The Atlantis Chronicles.
The Tribes were OK but I’d like more shirtless, underwater Game of Thrones with Arthur and Mera, please
Read Aquaman (2016-) Vol. 4: Underworld Part 1 and onward.
In 2016, Aquaman ... died. Or, at least, everybody thought he was dead. Mera was ousted to the surface with her powers disrupted and Atlantis’ rule was usurped by this bad guy called Corum Wrath. But of course, Arthur Curry was still around, fighting street crime in the lowest levels of Atlantis’ Ninth Tride, where rumors swirled that the ghost of the Old King protected the most vulnerable outcasts.
From there, writer Dan Abnett (Legion of Superheroes) and artist Stjepan Sejic (Witchblade) brought in a story full of plots to retake the throne, crab-man mob bosses, ancient magic, unstoppable assassins and giant sea creatures. The arc begins in Aquaman Vol. 4, and continues through Aquaman Vol. 5: The Crown Comes Down, and Aquaman: Vol. 6: Kingslayer.
I’d like more Mera, just generally
Read Mera: Queen of Atlantis.
From Dan Abnett again, but this time with artist Lan Median, Mera: Queen of Atlantis is an excellent introduction to the decades-old character’s comics origin story, as well as a fine Atlantis adventure on its own.
In comics, Atlantis and the underwater kingdom of Xebel have an even more testy relationship than in the movie. Mera, princess of Xebel, spent her childhood training as a Xebellian warrior, learning to kill with or without her unique ability to control water with her mind. In Queen of Atlantis, she’s lost her powers and Atlantis has lost its king.
With no Atlanean heirs, the next in line to the throne is actually Mera, but her Xebellian heritage is going to cause some problems, not least among Xebel’s rulers. Queen of Atlantis shows Mera on a journey to regain and defend her rightful power, literally, in the case of her aquakinesis; and more figuratively against the scheming of Xebel’s royal family — her family.
It’s a fun six issue miniseries packed with action, royal duels and shaky alliances, and you can grab the whole thing in one volume.
Do you have some Mera, but for young folk?
Read Mera: Tidebreaker (soon).
Almost a year ago, DC Comics announced plans for two new imprints, DC Ink and DC Zoom, that would pair best-selling YA novelists with experienced comics artists, to begin a diverse line of out-of-continuity graphic novels aimed at younger readers. Among the first to hit shelves is Mera: Tidebreaker, written by Danielle Steel (the Dorothy Must Die series) and drawn by Stephen Byrne (Serenity, Green Arrow).
The book will follow a teenage Mera as she rebels against the Atlantean occupation of her native Xebel and meets Arthur Curry for the first time — when she attempts to assassinate him.
Mera: Tidebreaker hits shelves on April 2, 2019, but if you can’t wait that long, or you’re looking for something aimed even younger, check out DC Superhero Girls: The Search for Atlantis, in which Shea Fontana and Yancey Labat introduce Mera to the Superhero Girls roster.
Is there just a good overall book about Aquaman’s comics history?
Released in 2016 to mark the 75th anniversary of the character’s creation, Aquaman: A Celebration of 75 Years guides the reader through nearly two dozen issues from almost eight decades of history. The selections — from his first appearance in 1941’s More Fun Comics #73, to the time he ran the Justice League into the ground, to his New 52 incarnation — cover the various distinct eras of Aquaman’s publication history.
Between sections, DC Comics’ librarian Steve Korté explains the editorial decisions, audience shifts, and major events of the era that framed the stories you’re about to read. And in an undersea world with a drum-playing octopus or two, context really can be king.
I want to read what’s hot right now
Read Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Aquaman, starting with Aquaman #43.
The latest challenge that the King of the Seven Seas finds himself in began in Aquaman #43, the first issue of writer Kelly Sue DeConnick’s run on the title. He’s washed ashore on a strange island with a strange village — and he doesn’t remember who he is.
“The Village of Unspoken Water is a metaphysical isle,” DeConnick told Polygon, “and it is populated by bunch of [...] I mean, you sort of know, when you see them, I think, that it’s not just a bunch of old people.
“These are ocean gods of the world. An Indian ocean god and a Japanese ocean god and South American ocean gods and Native American ocean gods. Just a whole bunch of different mythic traditions from around the world.”
These gods need Arthur’s help, and helping them — in the tradition of hero quests everywhere — may just lead him to what he needs as well. And the story only kicked off with last month’s Aquaman #43, so there’s plenty of time to catch up.