By: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning (writers), Augustin Padilla (penciller), Jose Aviles (inker), Val Staples (colorist)

The Story: Boy, that decision to not sign a pre-nup sure takes on new meaning now, doesn’t it?

The Review: In the thick of war, neither party can claim to be innocent of wrongdoing, which is often the same case when trying to piece out who started it.  But in the Flashpoint world, with the aggressors on either side including characters we normally see as heroic to the core, you have to be a little interested to see what kind of incident can provoke them into all-out ruthlessness.

DnA do a very good job making the war a tragic chain of events beyond either Wonder Woman or Aquaman’s control, making them sympathetic figures even as they commit some fairly unconscionable acts.  On the one hand, you can’t help feeling like Diana gets the truly rough of the stick, losing first her mother, then her best friend and homeland, but knowing what you do about who’s really pulling the strings here, it’s impossible to blame Arthur.

In fact, you’ll have just as much pity for him after seeing his genuine dismay and horror at the damage inflicted upon Diana’s family and home, and his desperate attempt to make things right even his efforts are futile (“Diana!  We’re all being deceived!  Diana!”).  Again, I marvel at the difference in Tony Bedard’s totally hardcore portrayal of Arthur over in Flashpoint: Emperor Aquaman, and DnA’s loving, trusting, and peaceful (at first) version of the character here.

But then, both characters have gotten very subtle, layered treatment from this writing team.  Diana and Arthur both maintain a brisk practicality as royals, but get plenty of opportunity to show some warmth.  It’s a credit to DnA that we have moments where our “heroes” come off both unemotional and sensitive at the same time.  Diana’s statement to Arthur that she “would understand the needs of a king who discreetly took a concubine” shows beneath her warrior queen’s temperament, she’s something of a hopeless romantic at heart.

The “concubine” in question refers to Mera, of course, who gets the least natural depiction among all the cast.  Her decision to violently confront Diana alone seems rather poorly motivated (“You betrayed Arthur!”  Really?  In context of recent, observable events, it seems the other way around, lady.) and thus forced.  That she and Diana were once “like sisters” probably also could have used more fleshing out, instead of a random revelation in the midst of their battle.

Last issue we saw the assassination of Hippolyta was a joint effort between Orm and Penthesilea, but so far the attack on Themyscira and Arthur’s fleet seems purely meditated by Diana’s aunt.  Why either of these royal family members want to go so far to keep their races separate remains a mystery.  Tradition depicts Orm as an ambitious back-stabber, while Pen seems truly motivated by misandrous prejudices, but really, you still don’t have a clear answer.

Padilla’s rudimentary lines and textureless figures hardly does justice to the grandeur of this story.  The sharp, kinetic style might work well with a youthful, action-driven title, but for a drama filled with political intrigue, Padilla’s art just seems misapplied.  Faces lack consistency (at times even looking flat) and expressions convey only a bare minimum of emotion.  Then, too, we have to mourn for the loss of Scott Clark’s lavish details, not only for their realism, but for their thoughtfulness in design—why anyone would wear a cape underwater is beyond me.

Conclusion: Quietly engaging as ever, but the inappropriate art severely blunts the impact of the issue’s subtleties.

Grade: B-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – What is up with these Atlanteans and their need to attempt dangerous tasks alone—and frequently failing, with grisly results?  No wonder they can’t manage to defeat one tiny island nation, despite a whole ocean’s worth of resources and manpower.