It's Aquaman's 80th Birthday, and DC Comics is celebrating in style with the aptly titled Aquaman 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular, which brings together a number of talented creative teams for 11 short stories all focused on the King of Atlantis. There's a bit of everything in this collection, ranging from vintage-style Aquaman tales and jumps into possible futures to stories spinning out of the here and now as two new series prepare to launch. Despite the name at the top, this is really a collection that highlights the entire Aquaman family, which has been built out to include a stellar cast that makes the franchise the strongest it's been in decades, and they are also the reason this collection makes such a thrilling splash.
The 80th Anniversary Special kicks off with Jeff Parker, Doc Shaner, and Rob Leigh's wonderful opener "Foxtail," which sets up the rest of this trip through Aquaman's mythology to stellar effect. Shaner's work is just gorgeous, and Parker spins a quintessential Aquaman story that captures the essence of the character and his relationships with those he protects under the sea.
That is followed up by Geoff Johns, Paul Pelletier, and Hi-Fi's compelling father-son story "Father's Day," which in a brief span shines a spotlight on a relationship that perhaps holds too much baggage to ever truly recover from. Jackson and Manta want to reach out to each other, but in many ways, they just don't know how, and Pelletier and Hi-Fi truly convey that struggle throughout the story.
"Lady in the Lake" was fine but didn't really click with me, though surprisingly "Multitudes" did, which has Arthur meeting a legendary King of Atlantis in the past. Stephanie Phillips, Hendry Prasetya, and Ulises Arreola explore Arthur's self-doubt and the bar of perfection he holds himself up to juxtaposed with a battle of Wolf-Men, and the combination works quite well. The discussion between the two Kings is rich and worth sticking around for, and I wish I could say the same for "It's A Family Affair." This vintage-style story will be beloved by some I'm sure, but it's just not my speed, though there are some lovely visuals by Tom Derenick and Nick Filardi. The same can be said of the Bombshells story "The Rhine Maidens" by Marguerite Bennett, Trung Le Nguyen, and Jordie Bellaire. I typically adore Bombshells stories, but there wasn't a lot of meat on the bone here, though it did look stunning.
The collection really hits its rhythm in the second half with stories like "Between Two Shores," the wonderfully inventive "What Remains of a Storm," "Red Sea, and "Foreshadow." "What Remains of a Storm" by Dan Watters, Miguel Mendonca, and Romulo Fajardo Jr tells the story of two brothers in a truly creative way, illustrating their personalities, caution, and perspectives within the construct of the weather and the sea in stunning fashion. Meanwhile, "Red Sea" by Chuck Brown, Valentine de Landro, and Marissa Louise gives you just enough of a taste of the upcoming Black Manta series to get you hooked.
The comic then ends on a high note with the Aqua-family in full force, brought to life by Brandon Thomas, Diego Olortegui, and Adriano Lucas in a story fittingly titled "Foreshadow." The Aqua family has become one of the best aspects of Aquaman's world thanks to Kelly Sue DeConnick's run, and it was wonderful to see them all together once again. Olortegui and Lucas' Andy is absolutely adorable, and her little moments of joy break up the at times rather tense action sequences (and her calling Jackson "Yacsun" is just precious). Still, it's in how Jackson cares for Andy that sticks out the most. Through his protective instincts, it's clear to see how ready he is to embrace the Aquaman legacy, and that seems to be where we are going in Aquaman: The Becoming, so this is the perfect launching pad for what's coming next.
Aquaman is one of DC's biggest icons, and he deserves to be celebrated as such. Thankfully DC did just that with the Aquaman 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular, and it's a celebration no Aquaman fan will want to miss.
Published by DC Comics
On August 31, 2021
Written by various
Art by various
Colors by various
Letters by various
Cover by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, and Alex Sinclair