By: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning (writers), Scott Clark (penciller), Dave Beaty (inker), Nei Ruffino (colorist)

The Story: Now, you guys are absolutely positive this isn’t a shotgun wedding?

The Review: Of course, one of the most impacting changes in the Flashpoint world is Wonder Woman and Aquaman’s fierce enmity, which has led to countless deaths and the devastation of an entire continent. Flashpoint: Emperor Aquaman #1 danced around the origins of this intense hatred, noting the near-marriage between the two young royals and the enraging deaths of Queens Hippolyta and Mera, but we’ve still yet to see the nitty-gritty of these past events.

In Flashpoint: Knight of Vengeance #1, I mentioned how the real point of change came more from a subtle alteration in Thomas Wayne’s behavior, which led to drastic changes to the night of his family’s mugging.  In the same way, Diana’s more pronounced impulsiveness leads to her setting sail from Themyscira (prior to the tourney that traditionally marks her departure for the outside world), thus setting the stage for her fateful encounter with Arthur.

DnA deliver the goods with fine form, making the plot so accessible this issue could effectively work as a new series debut.  You don’t actually need much familiarity with the characters or their original conceptions to get engaged with this story. It wastes no time taking us through the major scenes: the first meeting of the Amazonians and Atlanteans, the unexpected announcement to both peoples of their rulers’ coming union, and the eventful day of the union itself.

There’s a clear, flirtatious attraction between Arthur and Diana, but no telling how much deeper these feelings flow.  DnA veils their romance from us; it’s hard to tell if they genuinely look forward to their impending marriage, or if the marriage is completely political, or if the answer lies somewhere in between.  As members of nobility, it’s not out of the question for them to mask their true emotions, even to their own family.

Intriguing questions, needless to say, and all due to DnA’s crafty characterizations.  They do a terrific job playing up our heroes’ nobility; eloquent as the speeches get in this issue, they never push into grandiose, exaggerated territory, and they always speak convincingly of credible political concerns.  At the same time, Arthur and Diana get to show brief moments of appreciable humanity: Diana’s playful curiosity and Arthur’s good-natured charm.

It’s enough to make you dread the loss of their innocence once things go sour, as they must.  DnA don’t really explain the opposition to the wedding except in the vaguest terms (Arthur’s brother, Orm: “It’s not too late to back out of this nonsense…”  Hippolyta’s sister, Penthesilea: “We don’t need men.”).  But considering the kinship of these naysayers to the royal figures in question, their motivations could be anything but scrupulous.

Clark offers a sophisticated, beautiful art that portrays with anthropological detail the ancient opulence of the Atlantean and Themysciran cultures, though the action looks rather stiff.  His polished, realistic style on this issue almost shows you what Wonder Woman and Aquaman would look like in the Marvel universe, and it’s almost a perfect look for these characters.

Conclusion: An enjoyable glimpse into the truth behind the biggest drama in Flashpoint, though it opens more questions than it answers.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen