If you are a fan of superheroes, whether it’s through the comics or the motive and TV adaptations, you are probably well aware of how Aquaman is perceived in the mainstream: an incapable hero, someone who is useless when he is not in the water and a less cool character than the likes of Flash, Superman or Batman. This is mostly a reaction from the character’s iteration in the classic Super Friends show, with Arthur Curry riding a seahorse and all the memes that has generated, but it is doing him a massive disservice.
DC Comics has never been extremely consistent in terms of how to portray the character, but there are a lot of memorable and enjoyable Aquaman stories in the comics that don’t get the attention and credit they deserve for putting the King of Atlantis in a much more positive light. So what do we do here in those situations? A ranking, of course!
In this article, we will give you eleven of the best Aquaman comics and graphic novels that are worth your time and will give you a much different perspective about one of the most underrated characters in comic book history. Let’s get started!
The Best Aquaman Comics that you MUST read:
11. Flashpoint: Emperor Aquaman
The 2011 Flashpoint event was, for better or worse, a game-changer for DC Comics. Arguably the Flash’s most known and popular storyline, Barry Allen uses his powers to go back to the past and save his mother from being murdered–he succeeds, but he ends up changing the entire timeline radically and this affects the destinies and personalities of a lot of characters we know and love, including Aquaman.
In this timeline, Arthur Curry and Diana, also known as Wonder Woman and the princess of the Amazons, were going to get married, bringing peace to both Atlantis and Themyscira. However, tragic events unfold and a war starts between these two sides, which results in the entire world being consumed by the conflict and fall apart as a direct ramification of this.
Aquaman usually has the misfortune of playing second fiddle in these big events, but this time around, benefitting from an alternate timeline, allows us to see the King of Atlantis in a main role and engaging in an all-out war with his people by his side. This is not the heroic Arthur we are familiar with–this is a violent, rugged and gritty Aquaman that wants blood and has no qualms in taking lives to get his revenge.
If you want to get to know the classic Aquaman, this is not the story for you, but it does give you a better understanding of what he is capable of when he is not holding back due to his moral code.
10. The Atlantis Chronicles.
A 1990 miniseries spawning seven issues written by Peter David (a major player in the development of Aquaman in the 90s), this comic has the caveat of not actually featuring the Aquaman, but the events here play a big role in David’s run for the coming decade, so you could benefit from reading this miniseries if you want to read said run.
Worldbuilding when it comes to the city of Atlantis has always been quite complicated with DC Comics, but David made a very interesting decision here by writing a graphic novel about the history of Atlantis since its foundation and a lot of different events that molded it, serving as the groundwork for what he was going to do with Arthur in the near future.
If you want to get to know a lot more about the world Aquaman is a part of, then this comic is absolutely perfect for you and it is also a nice change of pace from the typical superhero comics that you might get from DC.
The Hardcover is a nice option for this story. You may find it in Amazon at a reasonable price.
9. Out Of Darkness.
I wouldn’t say that this is a better storyline than the first two, but considering that this one does feature the Arthur Curry we all know and is a clearer representation of who the character is, I thought it should go a bit higher.
It’s the final New 52 storyline, which was a very fruitful period for Aquaman, where the King of Atlantis and his love interest and partner, Mera, have to deal with a monster that can use Hydro-Teleportation, which is as deadly as you can imagine. It is a very challenging test for Aquaman and a very nice way to end what was arguably the best period of the character’s history.
Dan Abnett is one of those comic book writers that are never going to get the credit they deserve, but he makes a great job portraying Arthur here and the story has a nice pacing, great action fights, and overall a feel that is faithful to the character’s ethos.
8. Sword Of Atlantis.
A lot of people don’t know this, but there was a period in the mid-2000s where Arthur Curry, the Aquaman everybody knows, was dead and his replacement was… Arthur Joseph Curry. I know, it doesn’t sound very convincing, but the series is quite good, though!
Sword of Atlantis, released in 2006 and written by Kurt Busiek and drawn by Butch Guice, was another attempt by DC Comics to inject new life into the Aquaman title and this time around it was done by adding more elements of sword and sorcery, almost turning the character’s mythos into more of an Arthurian legend (maybe that’s why they decided to go with Arthur for the replacement’s name).
This is a very atypical DC series and it focuses on a lot of characters, tropes, and storylines that were not developed ever again after Buseik and Guice left the title, which is unfortunate because there is much to like here, and is a very fascinating period of experimentation with the Aquaman mythos, so if you are not a fan of the classic Arthur Curry, then maybe this series could be good for you.
7. Death of A King
Geoff Johns’ time in the Aquaman series during the New 52 was certainly the character’s finest hour. Never before the character enjoyed such high quality writing and art while staying commercially accessible, giving him the kind of positive mainstream attention he has rarely ever gotten in the comics. Definitely a very positive period for the King of Atlantis.
In terms of the Death of A King storyline, this is Johns’ fourth story in the series and it is a bit different than what he did in the previous three where he focused mainly on building up his own version of Aquaman. In this version, however, we get to see a lot of references to different periods of the character’s history, all modernized to make them compelling for this era.
I don’t want to give a lot of spoilers because is the kind of story where if you try to tell a summary, you are still giving too much away. Regardless, it is paced differently than previous Aquaman stories by Johns, with less of a blockbuster feel to it and more of a steady built for a grand finale.
Might take some time to appreciate this one, but definitely one that deserves your time.
There has been a massive earthquake in the city of San Diego and it has become underwater in a very weird and bizarre situation. So who do you call to deal with a situation of this ilk? The Aquaman, of course! Except this was a very weird period in Arthur’s life.
See, during the time this run started, Arthur was exiled from Atlantis and a Aquaman storyline without an underwater city feels weird, so writer Will Pfeifer decided to give our hero a place to work, which is how we got the concept for the Sub-Diego storyline (a bit of a dumb title, though).
It’s a different setting for Aquaman and a different approach to things in the sense that he is not charging head on to a battle, but rather making an investigation first to find out what happened here in San Diego. There is a certain Batman feel in the way that Arthur does his research here, reminiscing of the Dark Knight’s prime when he was the world’s greatest detective. We also get the character of Lorena, a young girl that tags along with Aquaman for the adventure and they eventually develop a platonic friendship.
As I have mentioned before, Aquaman has gone through a lot of different interpretations and Sub-Diego is yet another one, but one that has a lot to like in terms of mysteries, plot development and the action that it has.
5. Death of a Prince.
The 70s were a very difficult period for the character of Aquaman in the sense that the comic book industry was slowly moving towards more mature themes and concepts and the classic take they had with Arthur was simply not doing the trick anymore. The character was losing popularity and wasn’t really being compelling in any significant way, so DC Comics pulled the trigger and decided to go with one of the darkest stories in their entire history.
For people that know a bit of comic books, even if they are not huge fans of Aquaman, they know that one of Arthur’s biggest enemies is Black Manta. Regardless of the version of these characters you are familiar with, you know that these two hate each other’s guts and they have been going one after the other for quite some time now. But in the Death of a Prince storyline, Black Manta decided to win this conflict in a way that was going to remain as an eternal scar.
Arthur had married Mera (one of the first-ever weddings in comics, by the way) and they eventually had a baby, Arthur Jr. Black Manta executed the ultimate act of revenge and killed Arthur’s son by removing the oxygen from him. It’s one of the cruelest and most shocking deaths in the history of comics, signaling a monumental turning point in the character’s history and with his rivalry with Black Manta.
The storyline is made out of several stories in individual issues, but the anger and pain that Arthur feels is palpable and the way he wants to avenge his fallen son is certainly very relatable. Letting Mera know that Arthur Jr. is dead was a very tough moment to read and it certainly played role in their relationship in the coming years.
A very powerful storyline and one that you must read to understand Aquaman on a deeper level.
4. Aquaman Vol. 2.
I would say that comic book creators definitely had an interesting challenge in the post-Crisis landscape of DC Comics to come up with concepts that could put these classic characters back in the industry’s limelight. And while George Perez’s Wonder Woman or John Byrne’s Superman have become the stuff of legends in the medium, Neal Pozner’s Aquaman miniseries of 1986 doesn’t get the same love, which is a shame because is a wonderful read.
This miniseries is mostly known for the iconic Aquaman custom that is meant for camouflage and I personally think that it looks amazing, but apparently it was very hard to draw and the designer, artist Craig Hamilton, was one of the few in the industry that could pull it off. Speaking of Hamilton, he is definitely one of the biggest selling points in this series because every single page here looks amazing and it adds to the epic and memorable feel of the story.
This story, while focused on a conflict with Aquaman’s brother and longtime nemesis, the Ocean Master, was an attempt to redefine the character after a couple of years without a solo series and without a clear direction. The Arthur Curry of the early 80s was unlikeable and had a bad temper, so Pozner was focusing on fixing those issues within the DC continuity instead of simply acting like that didn’t happen and that’s why in this story we see a lot of moments where his temper is challenged and he is held accountable for this.
There is also a lot of clear mythology when it comes to Atlantis and the history behind it, which adds a bit more to the mystical feel that this story has. This is also explored with the character of Ocean Master, who has become a sorcerer and magic-based antagonist for Arthur–if you are wondering where the modern version of Ocean Master began, it was here.
A bit of a forgotten gem in DC Comics, but one you should definitely get.
3. The Trench.
The first storyline in Geoff Johns’ run, this was how the character was reintroduced to the world with the New 52 and while it can be viewed as a standard superhero storyline, it is an amazing standard superhero storyline.
Johns makes a great effort in introducing this version of Aquaman and we see him going through the usual jokes and criticism that we have heard over the years while he is making waves (pun intended) as a hero. We also get to see a lot of good stuff with Mera and how they work together, which is one of the strongest elements of his run.
Ivan Reis also deserves a lot of credit for his work here. His art is some of the strongest in the character’s history and it takes the book to a whole new level. This is the kind of treatment that Aquaman needed and it is refreshing (once again, pun intended) to see him receiving the kind of detail that he deserves.
One of the best starting points if you want to get familiar with the character.
2. The Triton Saga.
Peter David’s time in the Aquaman title in the 90s produced some of the best writing that the character has enjoyed, so I’ll go out of my way and recommend the entire run because is that good and that well-written, but I’ll select the Triton Saga, written in 1995, as the peak of this particular run.
Basically, this entire saga is Aquaman and Triton fighting it out for the title of King of Atlantis. This duel was set by Poseidon many years ago and Arthur has to reclaim his throne from Triton, who is sadistic and self-indulgent, going against everything Aquaman represents. It is a high concept storyline that also explores what makes a king and the motivation that drive Arthur forward.
Peter David’s run on Aquaman deserves a lot more love…
1. Throne of Atlantis.
The most famous Aquaman storyline, the basis for the movie starring Jason Momoa as Arthur, and it also happens to be the best one. Throne of Atlantis is definitely a blockbuster of a comic book event, but one with substance and that celebrates Aquaman at his finest.
Tension has been brewing with Arthur and his half-brother Orm, also known as the Ocean Master. Eventually, a conflict breaks through and Ocean Master, tired of humanity’s treatment of the oceans, decides to go to war to them. He starts sinking most of the major cities in the world and this gets the Justice League involved, but they are slowly taken down by plans made by Arthur himself before he joined the league.
Thrilling, captivating, with a lot of character development and a lot of tension, Throne of Atlantis is one of the best stories that Geoff Johns has written and it gives the character of Aquaman the kind of momentum and epic feel that he rarely ever gets.
Definitely a modern classic.
Wrapping it up…
Aquaman is probably one of the most underrated characters in comics. But don’t forget it: Aquaman is one of the most important members of the Justice League, and is, by own right, one of the most recognizable characters from DC
Hope you give a try to some of the books from our list of the best Aquaman comics. Let Namor drown in his envy, and go enjoy some of these great Aquaman stories!
And as we always say… keep up reading good comics!