REVIEW: ‘Aquaman: King Of Atlantis,’ Chapter 1 — “Dead Sea”

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Aquaman: King of Atlantis

Aquaman: King of Atlantis is an HBO Max Original animated miniseries developed by Victor Courtright and Marly Halpern-Graser. Chapter One of the miniseries, “Dead Sea,” picks up almost immediately after the events of the Aquaman film. Arthur Curry (Cooper Andrews), better known as Aquaman, has taken over ruling Atlantis from his half-brother Ocean Master (Dana Snyder). With the help of his royal adviser Vulko (Thomas Lennon) and girlfriend Mera (Gillian Jacobs), Aquaman intends to prove that he can be a good king to the people of Atlantis. His first task: a journey to the seemingly abandoned Outpost 4, which hasn’t had contact with Atlantis in years.

I’ve always been of the mind that DC’s heroes excel the best in animation. From Batman: The Animated Series to Young Justice, animation has given creators a canvas to tackle all manner of heroes in all manner of styles. King of Atlantis is the latest example of this, using an exaggerated style that perfectly balances comedy with action. Much of said comedy and action comes from the misadventures of Aquaman and Mera; he’s willing to actually strategize his ways out of problems while she usually resorts to fighting. There’s also Mera’s constant misunderstanding of how baseball works, Ocean Master constantly trying to usurp Aquaman’s position as king, and a hilarious joke I won’t spoil concerning another aquatic hero.

The action sequences themselves are full of chaotic, rubbery energy thanks to the character design. A key example of this happens near the halfway point, where Aquaman and Mera face a group of aquatic bandits in an oasis. Mera uses her hydrokinetic powers to create a series of bats and whales on the bandits, while Aquaman summons a giant fish that crushes the largest of the bandits under its weight. Yes: Aquaman literally summons a fish to sit on someone. That’s how wacky (yet innovative) this show is.

The other part of what makes King of Atlantis work is its willingness to let Aquaman in on the joke. One of the most common things that you’ll hear about Aquaman is that outside of water; he’s worthless—a perception fueled in part by his appearances on the Challenge of the Superfriends animated series. “Dead Sea” thankfully avoids this stereotype. Still, much like Aquaman’s portrayal in Batman: The Brave and the Bold, it understands that Aquaman is a character born of contradictions and leans into that for humor. Arthur Curry may be a muscular, gung-ho hero, but he also wears his heart on his sleeve and is willing to listen to others. He finds himself torn between Vulko’s diplomacy and Mera’s gung-ho-ness but manages to find a way to service both points of view. Part of what I love about Aquaman is how he balances both of his worlds, so I’m glad this series will continue that.

And what helps sell that balance is the voice work, particularly Cooper and Jacobs’ interaction. Neither are strangers to the superhero world—Cooper played Billy Batson’s adoptive father, Victor Vasquez in Shazam, and Jacobs voiced Atom Eve in Invincible—yet their rapport feels like a fresh take on one of DC’s most iconic couples. Aquaman’s strategy helps reign in Mera’s more impulsive tendencies, and she pushes him to be the best king he can be. Cooper and Jacobs deliver their lines with pitch-perfect comic timing. Their bond feels like a natural extension of the film—one can feel the influence of Aquaman director James Wan, who serves as executive producer on King of Atlantis.

Aquaman: King of Atlantis is a hilarious, charming, and action-packed animated show that’s willing to let Aquaman be in on the joke for once. Fans of the Aquaman movie and DC’s other animated fare will definitely enjoy it, especially if they have kids of their own.

Aquaman: King of Atlantis Chapter One is available to stream now on HBO Max.


Aquaman: King of Atlantis Chapter One
  • 9/10
    Rating - 9/10
9/10

TL;DR

Aquaman: King of Atlantis is a hilarious, charming, and action-packed animated show that’s willing to let Aquaman be in on the joke for once. Fans of the Aquaman movie and DC’s other animated fare will definitely enjoy it, especially if they have kids of their own.