Aqua Leung by Mark Andrew Smith and Paul Maybury

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Aqua Leung
By Mark Andrew Smith and Paul Maybury
Image Comics

Mark Andrew Smith and Paul MayburyYou’re reading along in the first book of Aqua Leung, Mark Andrew Smith and Paul Maybury’s new graphic novel series. The narrator, the all-knowing millennium tortoise—a giant underwater tortoise whose millennia-old wrinkles ripple like waves over his body—is relaying the history of Atlantis and the story of Aqua Leung’s birth. He introduces a few former citizens of Atlantis who once tried to reunite their scattered race, each presented on the page with a headshot: the octopus king Nakchi Shim, the sea ghost, Doctor Atlantis, Ranghast, and Nori the Robot.

The odd names of the characters seem to fit the genre of the story and the serious tone set by the tortoise’s introduction. Then, just below the headshots, as if as an afterthought, there are three more close-ups that don’t even show entire faces, only three intense pairs of eyes and noses. These, the caption tells you, were the octopus advisors—John, Paul, and George.

The sheer ridiculousness of encountering a trio named John, Paul, and George (where’s Ringo?, I couldn’t help but wonder) in the middle of a tale about an ancient prophecy of Atlantis sets the tone for the rest of the novel: This is a story that believes in its own worth enough to draw you in but doesn’t believe in itself to the point of lofty self-importance. Smith and Maybury obviously like to joke around, and whenever they choose to do so within the novel, it comes as a welcome break from the otherwise weighty, occasionally hard-to-follow, story.

The book follows Aqua Leung, a long lost prince of Atlantis, on a journey, during which his adopted land parents are murdered, and he must plunge back into the depths of the sea in order to train as a warlord and reclaim his throne. The tale doesn’t really break any new ground—a bit Star Wars-eque, a coming of age story, and very pointedly, a story that ends only temporarily, leaving the door open for more books in the series. But what the book lacks in plot originality, it makes up for with comedic moments and original twists on the otherwise classic story, as well as fantastic art.

Paul Maybury blows any expectations one might have for a sci-fi Atlantis tale out of the water (no pun intended). The 200 pages of Aqua Leung are an overwhelming pleasure to look at, with deep blues and dull purples giving way to flaming oranges and bright reds, and the occasional fuchsia thrown in. Even the two-page spreads that are exclusively blue and purple encompass such a range of tones and hues that they never feel boring—the opposite, in fact: They feel like depictions of a rich, subtly complex world.

Maybury succeeds especially at creating visual reminders of Aqua’s youth. Panels depicting the protagonist standing next to or on a huge creature (often just a part of the creature, because most of them are too big to fit in one frame) abound, even toward the end of the story when Aqua has already begun to grow up. In these images, Aqua looks miniscule, Maybury using the art to drive home the point that this is a tale about growing up and that Aqua has much more left to do.

A brief flash forward episode at the beginning of the book, though, reveals that one day, Aqua himself will be huge, the size of one of those creatures too big to fit on a page. What remains to be seen is how he will get there and how such growth will effect his character. Smith and Maybury are planning to release the next book in the series in 2009, so we’ll have to wait until next year to find out.

–Jillian Steinhauer

3 Comments to “Aqua Leung by Mark Andrew Smith and Paul Maybury”

  1. Independent Propaganda » Blog Archive » Aqua Leung
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