This issue marks the end of Geoff Johns’ run on the title, and it’s a solid conclusion that positions the character firmly as the King Of Atlantis, whilst at the same times setting up some interesting possibilities for the future, both for Jeff Parker’s tenure, and also for Johns himself in the pages of Justice League.
After last month revealed the truth behind the Dead King and Arthur’s lineage, now it’s time for action, as Aquaman and Vulko swim through the sea in order to find the Dead King’s sceptre, which Aquaman had hidden, and which can be used to control The Trench and turn the tide (gah, I didn’t mean that pun, I swear) of the battle. According to Vulko, all that’s left of the Seven Kingdoms of Atlantis are the current Atlanteans, the Xebels and the Trench, but Aquaman believes the other races might be out there. From the end of this issue, it looks like Johns has a lot planned for these other races, and even though I’m not sure it’s a big enough story for a Justice League ‘event’, it should be cool. Before the big battle, Johns provides a nice character moment between Vulko and Aquaman, with Vulko revealing that the reason he wanted Arthur on the throne so badly was not because of his blood, which makes sense, given that his ancestors were bad guys, but because of his character. I like this, it shows that Aquaman isn’t King just because, but that he deserves it.
It turns out that, in the 6 months Aquaman has been in a coma, the Dead King has been ruling with an iron fist (well, it’s more of an icy fist), locking up those people who disobey him (like Mera) and forcing Nereus and others to hunt for those other Seven Kingdoms, which Nereus says are lost. I think Johns has done a pretty great job at introducing a whole lot of new characters to the world of Aquaman in his run, on the good-guy side you’ve got The Others, and now, both the Dead King and Nereus are formidable foes.
Most of the issue is taken up with Aquaman coming back, leading an army of Trench, and freeing everyone who was on his side, like Mera, Tula etc. The central fight between Aquaman and the Dead King was very cool, it was surprisingly violent in fact. I think this issue featured some of the very best artwork of Paul Pelletier’s work, everything here looked fantastic. It takes a lot to follow up Ivan Reis, but Pelletier has done it. I’m very glad he’s sticking around with Parker. So, in the end, the Dead King is melted away and Aquaman is King of Atlantis again, but even then, it’s not perfect.
He and Mera have a conversation that cuts right to the core of the Aquaman character, should he be on land? Or should he be under the sea? Aquaman wants to stay as King, but Mera believes that, after all the shit that’s happened to him since he took over, he’s best to cut his losses and go back to the surface and just be a superhero. Long-time readers of my reviews will know that I’m not a very big fan of Mera, so I was actually pretty excited by the tease of them possibly splitting up, but it’s only brief, as, after seeing that Aquadog is happy on land, she rejoins her husband, on one condition, that he shave his beard. Which just shows how terrible Mera is, everyone knows bearded Aquaman is the best Aquaman, to think otherwise is, well, outrageous.
So, it looks like it’s all happily ever after for our heroes, but of course, as I mentioned, Johns has a Justice League story to set up, and the epilogue here was very cool indeed. We catch up with Ocean Master, who has shacked up with the woman he saved in his Villain’s Month issue, and seems to have, like his brother, warmed to the surface world. But, given that he’s a wanted terrorist, his happiness can’t last either, and so it is that his wall is busted down, not by the JLA, but by Nereus, who tells him that the other 4 kingdoms are out there, and that they should team up to find them and overthrow Aquaman. I’m certainly excited to see how that plays out next year.
Overall, I think Johns’ run on Aquaman has been a success, at first, he laid on his attempts to defuse the character’s jokey reputation a bit much, but it soon developed into a very strong traditional superhero series, with great art, exciting new characters and cool moments. If nothing else, this run has made Aquaman relevant again, let’s hope the excellent Jeff Parker can keep it up.