By: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning (writers), Agustin Padilla (penciller), Jose Aviles (inker), Andrew Dalhouse (colorist)

The Story: Anything Arthur and Diana do, Orm and Penthesilea can do better.

The Review: Batman may be a man of mystery, but Wonder Woman and Aquaman, for all their fame and stature, are easily the most enigmatic characters in the Justice League.  They have a devoted following, and no one doubts their status as icons, but you don’t really have a handle on who they are or what they really stand for.  You can know everything to know about their origins, ideals, and powers, but you still won’t catch a glimpse into their hearts, minds, or souls.

So it makes perfect sense that even with a major Event whose storyline is half-built around these two characters, it turns out their every action has been strung along by others.  In fact, by the end of this issue, you’ll know way more about Penthesilea and Orm’s goals, and the attitudes that drive them, than you do about their starring kin.

Not that getting an understanding of these Machiavellian schemers poses that much difficulty.  Both only care about preserving the traditions of their respective cultures, mostly by making sure the outside/surface world’s ridiculous ideas of progress (e.g., peace and diplomacy) never catch on.  They offer an interesting, though vastly divergent, parallel to Arthur and Diana.  The passion of their beliefs draws them together; whatever romance they feel for one another seems largely incidental, almost irrelevant.

As a result, Arthur and Diana’s values get called into question.  Because Tony Bedard already settled in Flashpoint: Emperor Aquaman that Arthur grew up in a hardened society, with no use for humanity’s emphasis on love and understanding, only Diana has a path of development left remaining to her.  She must choose, as Pen challenges her, whether to follow the path of a diplomacy or warrior; she decides, “I am an Amazon,” which feels like a cop-out from a true answer, but considering the limits of the title and storyline at large, perhaps that’s fitting.

But the real crippling weakness of the issue lies in Orm and Pen’s incredibly involved flashback narrative, wherein the nature of their partnership gets revealed.  By now, we’ve all grown used to the trope of comic book characters spouting elaborate, amazingly witty bits of dialogue in the middle of life-and-death situations, but it’s gotten out of control here.  Quick repartee between two people during a swordfight is one thing, but recollecting with each other about the history of their relationship while fending off multiple attackers just seems ridiculous by any standard.

Padilla has a habit of skimping on textural details on his characters, which has the effect of flattening or distorting their faces and stilting their expressions.  A back shot of Terra, for example, winds up making her look like a balloon with hair.  He also lacks a secure sense of movement.  Take a good look at that double-splash of Wonder Woman and Aquaman duking it out.  Both look uncomfortably posed in positions that make it seem as if they’re inexplicably running into each other’s outstretched weapons.

Conclusion: With a plot completely subservient to another title altogether, it’s no wonder this series makes an unsatisfying, bland, largely disengaging finish.

Grade: C

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – I find it hilarious that the vast majority of the soldiers in this issue, whether male or female, Amazon or Atlantean, go to battle bare-legged.

– Ah…Arthur and Diana really were the Prince William and Kate Middleton of their day, weren’t they?  Only with more swords.