Aquaman: King of Atlantis: Dead Sea Review: An Energetic and Action-Packed Start
The announcement for Aquaman: King of Atlantis probably took many fans of the character by surprise. Given that it is executive produced by the current director of the Aquaman films, James Wan (along with many others), the actual reveal of the miniseries' art design and animation style is a complete departure from anything seen in the live-action films. Not only that, but it's a complete departure in tone as well as it's more akin to the action comedy cartoons that DC Comics properties have nailed lately with the likes of Teen Titans Go!, DC Super Hero Girls, and more.
Using the events of the first Aquaman film as a springboard for its comedic premise, Aquaman: King of Atlantis kicks things off with highly energetic, bouncy, and hilariously fun premiere that establishes not only a new kind of world for a new kind of Aquaman, but kicks open the door to a whole new kind of universe that seems like it's going to continue to be fun to play around in. It's like a playground has been built for the oceanic superhero here.
Aquaman: King of Atlantis: Chapter One - Dead Sea is inspired by the first Aquaman film, and "takes place" shortly after it ends. Aquaman (Shazam! and The Walking Dead's Cooper Andrews) is on his first week of being the new King of Atlantis, and it's a fish out of water idea, but in complete reverse. The citizens of Atlantis are trying to accept the fact that a surface dweller is their new king, and making matters even more awkward is that his half-brother Ocean Master (Aqua Teen Hunger Force, The Ghost and Molly McGee, and Jellystone!'s Dana Snyder) is trying to take back the throne at every opportunity.
Easing the process along are Vulko (Reno 911's Thomas Lennon) and Mera (Community's Gillian Jacobs), and there's an immediate dynamic present between the three of them. Jacobs and Andrews especially find a great comedic rhythm as they balance the romantic relationship between Aquaman and Mera with the wild situation they soon find themselves in. Andrews takes a more straight edged approach to Aquaman compared to the wild new interpretation of Mera present here, but they bounce off of one another well and it's clear that both of them are having a great time bringing these characters to life.
From the opening seconds of Dead Sea, it's immediately apparent what kind of animated series Aquaman: King of Atlantis is going to be. It presents an explosive energy that fires off some jokes right from the jump with a malleable animation style to boot. The style and energy of the presentation, dialogue, and action overall is likely going to draw many comparisons to Thundercats Roar due to showrunner (alongside Marly Halpern-Graser) and co-executive producer Victor Courtright previously providing character designs and direction for that reboot series, but it all works here just like it did in that show.
Character models are really just a frame of reference as they are shown to contort and morph constantly to present either the cutest, ugliest, or funniest angles possible to make sure each scene or character moment pops even more. For example, Mera often acts aggressively in a "punch first, ask questions later" type of manner and thus each time she's ready to fight, her hands are drawn in a much more exaggerated size to emphasize her punchy personality. In comparison, Aquaman is a little more subdued. But when he gets pushed into the wackiness around him it's that much more effective.
There might be a lot of attention paid towards the jokes, but Dead Sea certainly did not skimp on the action. When it really dives into a fight there are lots of dynamic angles, fun use of unexpected weaponry (like Mera using her powers to form baseball bats out of water in each fight), and the flexibility of its character models means there's a fluidity that's just fun to watch. This premiere provides a great tease of what we can hopefully expect to come as this miniseries dives into its story in full.
Aquaman: King of Atlantis: Chapter One - Dead Sea is a fun and energetic new take on Aquaman's world that already seems like it's going to be a great avenue for lots of jokes and action the whole family can enjoy. Now it's a just a matter of seeing if the king of the seas can keep smooth sailing like this.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Aquaman: King of Atlantis: Chapter One - Dead Sea premieres on HBO Max on October 14th, and will also air on Cartoon Network's ACME Night block.