Aquaman in dire straits, declares “I want my em-bas-sy.”
Dan Abnett is really rocking it with this series. Previously I had said he’s written the best issues since Geoff Johns left the book. That holds true, with the exception that I now say that this book is on par with Johns’ quality storytelling.
I didn’t review the last issue. I will discuss it briefly now. It was incredible. The entire book was a knockdown, drag-out fight between Aquaman and Black Manta with awesome fight scenes and clever dialogue between the two combatants. Check that one out too if you haven’t read it already.
The main reason I didn’t review that issue was because there were other books that felt they needed a review at the time. Another reason, however, was that it was good in a simple way.
That sounds derogatory, I know, but that’s not the intention. It was a quality, bare-knuckle brawl of a book. The stakes were well-established with Aquaman and Manta having one of the coolest rivalries in DC Comics. The fighting felt cathartic and engaging because you, as a reader, know why these two characters hate each other, and you can even sympathize with Black Manta’s grievances. There wasn’t too much to say other than it was really good.
The reason I’m reviewing this issue is because it’s good in a way that is interesting for super hero comics, and, well, there isn’t as much out this week that feels like it needs reviewing.
This comic is all about foreign relations and political intrigue. Now, the Aquaman series has had these types of things going on for some time, but that part of the plot hasn’t really felt engaging until this issue.
It starts off with Murk and a couple of Atlantean guards staring down a unit of U.S soldiers who have cordoned off the wreckage of Spindrift Station, Atlantis’ embassy in the United States. The property has been seized by the American government due to the attack by Black Manta, which has been declared an act of terrorism and blamed on the Atlanteans. The soldiers won’t allow Murk onto the property. Aquaman manages to diffuse the situation, if barely. He then meets up with Mera at the shore, and the two decide to meet with the U.S government on the embassy matter.
Elsewhere, an organization called N.E.M.O has freed Manta from imprisonment and offers him a proposition, after he lays out some of their men of course. At D.C, Aquaman and Mera are brought in to meet with the president’s chief of staff. He informs Aquaman that the federal government was wary of cooperating with Atlantis at all, after Ocean Master’s invasion (see Throne of Atlantis Justice League/Aquaman crossover). When Arthur tries to explain the situation with Manta, the chief of staff merely writes it off as Aquaman “attracting trouble.”
The story then cuts to a U.S ship in the South Atlantic. It is being attacked by the Deluge, an Atlantean extremist group that is vehemently opposed to Aquaman’s attempts to cooperate with the surface world. They kill the crew and sink the ship.
The chief of staff perceives this as a coordinated effort by Atlantis, and that Aquaman’s meeting with him was only a distraction. The Secret Service arrests Aquaman, whom goes quietly.
I gave the full story here because a description of why this book works so well feels incomplete without the full rundown. However, you still need to read the book to get the entire effect.
The plot and dialogue all work very well here. The tension is palpable, and everyone’s actions and motivations are clear. Given the history of Aquaman and Black Manta and the fact that many foreign delegates were at Spindrift when it was attacked, it’s believable that the government seized the embassy. Given Atlantis’ tumultuous history with the U.S and Aquaman’s bizarre status as both a foreign leader and a super-powered vigilante that often works in America, it’s believable that the chief of staff would react extremely to the situation with the sunken naval ship.
The Deluge is an interesting element in the story. Nationalists that are opposed to open foreign relations is not a new concept in global politics. Given Atlantis’ technological and biological superiority, one could see why many of its people would pride itself in its history of isolationism.
It’s actually kind of heartbreaking watching Aquaman struggle so hard to hold all of this together, only to see everyone around him act rashly and destroy is dream of Atlantis cooperating with the rest of the world. His character here is actually pretty reminiscent of Ned Stark from Game of Thrones.
Mera has always been a really cool part of this series, and she shines through in this story. Her humor and good nature work as some necessary levity in this serious story. You feel for her as well when she has to watch her husband get taken away at the end of the book.
I’m also really glad to see Black Manta stick around in this book. He’s such an interesting villain, and this book is pushing his character in an intriguing direction. What does a person whose life has been centered around revenge do when they realize that their life will be empty after that goal is complete? This was already explored somewhat with the Forever Evil story as well as when he joined the Suicide Squad. However, I’m still happy to see this character expanded upon more.
The art is solid. The characters look distinct and their facial expressions are well-drawn. The colors are strong and bright. The only weird detail is that Arthur’s face looks odd when seen from a distance. That only happens a couple of times, but it was a bit distracting when he first appeared in the book.
This comic is great. Abnett was already doing a really good job, and Rebirth has only seemed to reinvigorate his passion for writing this book. Check it out next time you’re at a comic book store.
Final Score: 9/10