Comic Book Reader – Aquaman: Andromeda

Aquaman: Andromeda (2023)
Reprints Aquaman: Andromeda #1-3
Written by Ram V
Art by Christian Ward

DC Comics’s Black Label imprint has produced some of the best work from the company in recent years, and that trend continues with this three-part mini-series, Aquaman: Andromeda. I won’t say this is my favorite Black Label book so far, that belongs to Catwoman: Lonely City, but it is a fantastic science fiction/horror story. My one wrinkle is that it didn’t feel like this was an Aquaman story but rather a story in which Aquaman appears. Instead, this is a clear homage to the work of writers like Michael Crichton, particularly his novel Sphere, but also elements of cosmic horror straight out of H.P. Lovecraft and the psychic manifestations of Solaris. The writing is handled by the insanely prolific Ram V, and the art is handled expertly by Christian Ward.

There is a place deep in the Pacific Ocean where a vessel has laid dormant for as long as humanity has been aware of it. The world’s nations often use space missions as an excuse to explore it; when the astronauts crash back to Earth, they actually take part in deep-sea explorations to study this object. In the place nicknamed Point Nemo, the structure has awakened, and governments across the globe are quietly trying to determine what happens next. The crew of the Andromeda, an experimental submarine powered by a black hole drive, are sent to probe & document the energy coming out of the sunken ship. However, mercenary Black Manta has also been hired to bring back anything of value and kill the crew of Andromeda in the process. Aquaman is also on the scene, and all parties are about to witness something of vast cosmic proportions.

The biggest thing that cannot be emphasized enough is how unimportant Aquaman actually is to the story being told here. That’s the one thing that left me feeling odd about the book. The actual protagonist of the book is Yvette Verne, a French marine biologist on the crew of the Andromeda. Yvette is haunted by a moment from the year before she left for college when she saw her father tumble over the side of his fishing boat and drown during a terrible storm. This has left her with complicated emotions about the ocean and how cold & deadly it can be. She and the rest of the crew begin to see traumas from their pasts appearing before them on the ship, which is tied to the energy readings coming out of the sunken object. 

Ram V’s writing might jolt your casual comics reader because he seems interested in something other than rigid plot beats and formulaic narrative structures. His style is more lyrical, finding the rhythm of a story and letting that dictate the pace. Some moments freeze us and let the reader explore a character’s psychology deeper. If you were to outline the plot, you’d find very little happens on the surface, but the psychological elements fuel the narrative, and they don’t exist as easily definable beats. The characters drive the story, and they are some interesting ones.

My biggest complaint with the book is that I don’t think you needed Aquaman and his associated lore. I don’t see what it added to the story, and instead, it was just this weird thing tacked on because DC assumed a superhero name would sell more issues, I guess? I don’t know why they would attach Aquaman other than that it is a story about things underwater. Nothing about Black Manta’s presence feels crucial as to where the plot goes. Nothing about that character’s back history in the DC Universe adds to the experience of reading Andromeda. 

The best thing about Aquaman in this book is the unique design Christian Ward gives him. Using the same basic color palette, Ward creates a suit for Aquaman that consists of elements found in the ocean, almost like coral reef armor. It’s a look that shifts Aquaman from your typical four-color superhero into something more primal. This suit is a perfect fit for the long-hair & beard version of the character. That redesign and some of the few elements of Atlantis lore here make me think Ram V has ideas for an Aquaman reboot. The character has no ongoing series, but Ram also writes The Swamp Thing, Venom, and nearly five more books/mini-series. I doubt he has time for an Aquaman ongoing. I’d be up for it, though, imagining a series would center the hero much more than this prestige mini-series does. If you are interested in a cosmic horror comic, I’d recommend this one, but if you’re simply looking for a new Aquaman story, I’m not so sure this one does it.


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