This was the best issue of Jeff Parker’s tenure on Aquaman so far, and that’s down to the fact that this issue went somewhere completely unexpected and didn’t just carry on the same kind of things Geoff Johns did. I never thought I would ever see Aquaman attending his High School Reunion, but I have, and it was pretty damn awesome.
The issue begins with the mysterious man who’s been sniffing around Amnesty Bay trying to find out about Aquaman making his way closer to the Lighthouse, but we soon move over to the situation at Triton Base, with Aquaman and his fellow Atlanteans tracking the brain of the Karaqan. Initially shocked by what the humans have built beneath the surface, Aquaman soon gets into hero mode and tries to rescue the guy from the end of last issue who was being attacked by sharks. But, of course, things are never that simple, and the Triton Base fires a missile at him. Eventually, thanks to Dr Shin they realise that Aquaman is here to help, and he’s able to get the man back inside the base, but he’s in a bad way, with his legs all bitten off. Aquaman asks Shin for an explanation, but he doesn’t get one, and instead, with guns pointed at his head, is forced to leave. Shin tells Arthur that he has some leave coming up, and he’ll explain soon, so the Triton plotline looks set to be a lengthy runner.
Back on the surface, Aquaman sends the rest of the Atlanteans back to Atlantis, but he and Mera stay in Amnesty Bay, where they are met by a local cop, who went to High School with Aquaman, and invites him to their reunion. I just loved the way the story turned here, you thought you were going to get some serious action and intrigue, but nope, it’s time for some comedy and character development. One of the most intriguing things about Aquaman is how he struggles to balance his Atlantean side with his human side, and lately, with him becoming King and all, this series has focused way too much on the Atlantean stuff, so it was great to have Aquaman have to go back to be ‘Art Curry’ and be put in a very realistic situation. Arthur initially doesn’t want to go to the reunion, but Mera convinces him otherwise, and, after some initial awkwardness, it was a good decision, as we see him begin to reconnect with his old classmates, and confirm that he had been helping them out in secret when any of them got in trouble in the sea. It even turns out that Aquaman’s tortured memory, where he punched a kid so hard he was in a coma for a month turned out all right anyway, as that guy grew up to be proud that Aquaman hit him! With this issue, Parker is seeming to say that Amnesty Bay is Aquaman’s home and not Atlantis, and I can go along with that, I always like my heroes to be humans first, and with this issue, Arthur Curry’s humanity shines through.
But it’s not all fun and games and drinking on the beach, as more traditional superhero danger is just around the corner. The man who Aquaman saved from the sharks is now in a vegetative state, and given that he has no next of kin and it’s too expensive to keep him alive, the scientists at Triton are going to experiment on him, so that’s a new villain for sure. Also, whilst at the Reunion, the stranger breaks into Aquaman’s lighthouse, steals his trident and uses it to open up a portal with something bad behind it about to return.
Paul Pelletier’s artwork was solid as usual, and I was glad to see him draw some more comedic scenes here, he did well at that kind of material back on She-Hulk. If you haven’t been reading Aquaman, I really think this is a good jumping on point, it’s not what you’d expect from the character, but that’s for the best.