When film historians look back on the 2010s, they will undoubtedly deem it the decade of superheroes. Marvel ushered in this era in 2008, producing its first film “Iron Man,” and fully established the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2012 with the release of “The Avengers.” Ever since, Marvel has dominated the box office; Six of their films from that ten-year span earned spots in the top 20 highest-grossing films of all time. More importantly, they set the trends that every major entertainment outlet has been forced to follow in one way or another. With DC creating a cinematic universe of its own and other superhero-centered programs emerging such as “The Boys,” “The Umbrella Academy” and “South Park: The Fractured But Whole,” Marvel has made its mark on popular culture.
Hot off the heels of the superhero boom, and in tandem with the rise of streaming, is “Aquaman: King of Atlantis,” an animated kids’ miniseries that would have a hard time getting produced at any other point in television history.
The show stars Cooper Andrews (“The Walking Dead”) as Aquaman, the newly anointed King of Atlantis. The internal conflict in the series surfaces right away when the citizens of Atlantis don’t applaud Aquaman, making him feel insecure. Suddenly, Ocean Master (Dana Snyder, “Lego Star Wars Terrifying Tales”), Aquaman’s half brother and infamous former king, returns to challenge Aquaman, only to be swiftly defeated with one wack to the head from Aquaman’s trident. This bit is emblematic of the show’s goofy and erratic sense of humor, which is comparable to that of “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”
In order to gain the trust and admiration of his subjects, Aquaman and his girlfriend, the compassionate yet aggressive Mera (Gillan Jacobs, “Invincible”), set out to locate the residents of Outpost 4, which has been off the grid for seven years. On the way, they encounter several silly obstacles that pop up at random, in a way that is so blatantly self-aware that it prevents any would-be detractor from criticizing the apparent lack of plot coherence. The episode ends on a compelling cliff-hanger related to a distortion of time, which is always a fun plot device to explore.
The most noteworthy aspect of this series is its beautiful and hand-drawn animation style and character design. Every character, no matter how minor, has a unique personality and look. No character looks exactly the same in one shot as they do in another. The colorful art onscreen is complemented by competent voice-acting performances all around, crisp sound effects and whimsical music that is never too overbearing, allowing for the focus to remain on the animation and humor. These elements combine with a simple plot to make “Aquaman” a solid viewing choice for kids, and even adults who want easy-on-the-eyes content that they can use to decompress without exerting too much brainpower.
The show is not without its faults. The 45-minute run-time could be cut down by about 10 minutes, with the plot stalling in certain areas. Additionally, some of the high-energy voice-acting can get a bit annoying.
Hyper enthusiasm aside, the achievement of standing out in today’s entertainment landscape cannot be overstated. There are streaming services abound, and within each platform exists a mountain of content that leaves the viewer overwhelmed and without a clue what to watch. Even for strictly superhero fans, there are limitless avenues to choose from when selecting the next series to binge or movie to watch. In such a saturated market, not all good work will not attain the recognition it deserves.
Therefore, any piece of entertainment must differentiate itself if it wants a fighting chance at becoming a hit. Ultimately, the numbers will determine if “Aquaman: King of Atlantis” is a success. However, even if it does not reach a wide audience, the miniseries’s team should be proud of the work they put in to ensure that their product is not just another indistinguishable fish in a sea of superhero content.
Daily Arts Writer Aidan Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.