By: Tony Bedard (writer), Vicente Cifuentes (artist), Diana Egea (inker), Kyle Ritter (colorist)
The Story: I know I killed your wife, but do you have to act like such a jerk?
The Review: We’ve known for a while now that Prince Orm of Atlantis and Penthesilea of the Amazons have worked together since day one (see Flashpoint: Wonder Woman and the Furies #1) to raise Cain between their peoples. Even though it’s never been explicitly stated, you can pretty much deduce, especially given Orm’s character history, that power-lust motivates their partnership to some degree, but how they came to work together still remains a mystery.
Well, hold on to your britches, because here comes a spoiler that will blow your mind. As Diana reveals to Arthur, “…[Orm’s] not dead! It’s worse…I walked in on your brother and my aunt Penthesilea kissing!” Bedard’s love for melodrama defeats whatever impact this “revelation” can have (which is slim to begin with), but worse, it just makes the characters look silly. Their overblown disbelief (Arthur: “That’s…no…that’s just not—”) makes them sound like kids who can’t believe their parents made out because it’s just plain icky.
Once you get over your violent spasm of eye-rolling, you’ll also have to take issue with the execution of this scene. It feels very soapy with its fraught fact drop and lack of substantiation. Surely this merits a flashback of some kind, especially since it changes the entire flow of the story now that the real villains stand revealed. Possibly we’ll get to see Orm and Penthesilea’s lip-locking in the next issue of F:WWATF, but that just seems like poor editorial planning.
In fact, we can’t hold Bedard entirely responsible for this, quite frankly, ridiculous plot wrinkle. No doubt it all works within Geoff Johns’ master plan, but it begs the question: how could this possibly work? We all know Orm and Pen just want their king and queen out of the way so they can take over, but how does decimating each other’s races through war factor into the plan? Seems rather counterproductive to me. In terms of complexity, Macbeth this ain’t.
And then we have to sit through a slogging reiteration of events we’re all too familiar with: Arthur belaboring Diana for beheading his wife and how mad he is about it; the slippery slope of betraying Geo-Force to use him as a weapon; the treachery of Orm and Pen. Every issue of both Aquaman and Wonder Woman’s Flashpoint series has covered this ground exhaustively, so these facts have all the effect of white noise. Unfortunately, they make the majority of the issue.
They also make the story that much more predictable. It’s an endless repetition of Arthur and Diana calling on their better natures to trust each other again, only for it to fall apart thanks to their undermining relatives. You might have felt bad for them the first time around, but we’ve seen it happen so often now, the dramatic irony makes us wonder how thick they have to be to not see the pattern.
The best thing to come out of this series is Cifuentes’ art, about the only thing that makes you take this title seriously—before you start reading the words. He gives beautiful, tasteful shape to all the characters; the men look fit and powerful, but not steroid-induced, and the women have strong, healthy figures, but not campy. His level of detail is a joy to behold, from the characters’ arms and armor to the construction and furnishing of their settings. No awards for stylishness, but this is the kind of solid, artistic storytelling that should become standard at DC.
Conclusion: Gorgeous art can’t mask underwhelming story, I’ve always said, and this issue is good evidence of that.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – “Hull breach on decks five through eleven!” If the Amazons can only attack from above the surface, how the heck can they strike the lower decks of a ship that far underwater? Vulco may not be the scientific genius Arthur gives him credit for.