Working Through The Queue: Aquaman: King of Atlantis Season 1 (2021)
What a weird time to be alive.
Aquaman KOA is definitely the type of show that won't appeal to everyone, especially those who complain about 'silly' relaunches of their favorite characters. Considering this is Aquaman we are talking about though, those complaints don't really have any weight for me and I'm just impressed Warner and DC decided to just roll the die on this project. It is produced by James Wan's company Atomic Monster Productions, and much like his most recent film Malignant I get the feeling that Warner just wrote him a check and let him run wild. It's still weird to consider that the creative force behind Saw and the Conjuring series had a hand in this though.
Imagine if you took the core of Silver Age Aquaman mythos and tossed it into a blender with the likes of Spongebob, Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, Duckman, Adventure Time, and Thundercats Roar and then you have a concept of the stylistic tone of the series. It it simultaneously charming and disturbing, and much like Wan's film Malignant, often makes you question the why and the how this was made. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it. But considering half of the humor is based on a balance between silly faces and ugly faces, it's a enticingly unique oddity.
The core premise of the show is that Aquaman has just defeated his half brother Ocean Master and has become ruler of Atlantis, only to be confronted with an apathetic population. Easily distracted, Aquaman and Mera go on a series of adventures over the course of three episodes as Aquaman struggles to gain the respect of his people. Who are essentially just the population of Bikini Bottom from Spongebob.
The supporting cast is pretty great, highlighting Mera as a violence-loving badass who also doesn't believe that outer space exists. Vulko gets a bit of a spotlight which is nice to see, and then the cast of villains is a lot fun.
Ocean Master is depicted as a wildly ineffective king that is still beloved by the people for no good reasons, and he's kind of just an all-around scamp. In what is one of the oddest retcons of a minor villain, episode one introduces an undersea scavenger named Pyotr Mortikov who is based on the Silver Age villain Peter Mortimer. They do a good job of making him amusing, but considering the tonal whiplash of the character's history he is an unusual choice for an all-ages animation. Episode two reimagines the Fisherman and does a great job of making him a genuinely creepy threat, even within the silly nature of show. And even though he doesn't have too much screen time, Flula Borg's (Javelin in Suicide Squad and Comfortable Doug in Centaur World) character Mantis is just a joy to listen to.
As I mentioned, this won't appeal to everyone and you'll know within the first minute if you're going to stick with it or tune out. Its humor didn't always hit for me either but its unique balancing act in different tones always kept my interest throughout, especially as it bounced from sci-fi, to horror, and then back to superhero action. Also, as a plus it actively played up Aquaman's ability to talk to fish as just being awesome and I thought that was a nice touch.
If you just like to see fun experiments with established characters and want to try something a bit different then I recommend giving this a shot. It's silly, it's off-putting at times, and it makes it a point that Aquaman has a great butt because land dwellers use stairs. I can't not like something that makes that a selling point in the Aquaman mythos.