By: Tony Bedard (writer), Vicente Cifuentes (artist), Diana Egea (inker), Kyle Ritter (colorist)

The Story: Think Little Mermaid, but with a lot more drama and stabbing.

The Review: In almost every kind of traditional storytelling, a strong narrator is essential to detailing a scene and giving us insight into the characters’ minds.  In a visual medium like comics, since the art pretty much takes over most of the expository duties, narration can actually become cumbersome and redundant, especially with a strong artist on hand.  In this case, the narrative must frame the scene, highlighting details the art and dialogue wouldn’t by themselves.

In this issue, Bedard demonstrates the merit in the old adage, “Less is more,” only he does so by showing what a drag excessive narration can be.  Almost at no point does his voice help the scene; oftentimes, it just tinges everything with melodrama (“History is littered with the corpses of the complacent.”), and it almost always reiterates the facts that are in plain sight to you.  Not to take it personally, but I find that kind of storytelling almost patronizing.

Perhaps Bedard felt pressed for time so he found it easier to just gloss over certain details rather than take the time to show them, but by doing so, he actually undermines the impact of his own story.  If he really wanted to convince us that “Arthur Curry returned to the deep too young to understand the virtues his father had tried to teach: patience, kindness, humility,” then Bedard should’ve given us more scenes of Tom trying to teach his son exactly those things.

But then, Bedard hardly gives credit to his own facts.  Arthur is thirteen when Atlantis comes to “fetch” him.  Are we supposed to believe that having lived and been cherished by his father for that long during his formative years, Arthur got no influence or connection from Tom at all, to the point he basically dismisses his father’s brutal murder?  With that in mind, I’d say the Lord of Atlantis had the right idea after all and Arthur really should’ve been put down.

Besides, his martial upbringing and hatred toward the surface world all fly into the face of DnA’s take on him over in Flashpoint: Wonder Woman and the Furies #1.  There, we see a lighthearted, compassionate Arthur, one who flirts with Diana, who may be from a mythic race of warrior woman but who is still undeniably a surface dweller.  In that context, Arthur’s current bloodlust seems an unfortunate side-effect of war, but here we have to infer he’s always been that way.

Instead of clumsily revising Aquaman’s origins (which winds up mostly the same anyway, save for Atlantis’ inexplicable change of heart on his fitness to rule), Bedard should’ve put more effort in delivering engaging action in the present, because as is, it just comes across silly.  Why send two important members of the royal family alone on such a high-risk mission?  Arthur’s simpleminded response that “If we take no risk…how will we ever avenge my queen?” seems evidence there may be some truth about the dangers of too much inbreeding among the nobility.

Cifuentes offers some incredibly rich, textured, detailed art, which is not only wasted on such an underwhelming script, but is also stepped on at every turn by Bedard’s insistent narration.  Just look at the intricate design work he puts into Penthesilea’s spear-blade—this guy clearly takes his work seriously, and deserves far better support in the text department.

Conclusion: I thought Bedard had managed to turn in a fairly solid showing last time, but weak writing will catch up to you, sooner or later.

Grade: C

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Diana considers the “world’s fiercest females” to be Hawkgirl, Huntress, and Cheetah?  Okay, if you don’t have Lady Shiva or at least Black Canary in there, then that’s just a joke.

– Holy cow, Arthur was one fat baby.  Well, scratch off the myster of why his mom died in childbirth.