By: Geoff Johns (writer), Ivan Reis (penciller), Joe Prado & Eber Ferreira (inkers), Rod Reis (colorist)

The Story: Hey, Trench—your mama’s so fat, she cuts herself and calls it rare!  Booyah.

The Review: As relatively civilized beings, we impose some standards of morality upon ourselves, one we in our lily-handed society can easily adhere to.  But when the wheel turns and our survival is at stake, it’s perhaps unsurprising that all those rules and ethics tend to go out the window.  For some people, the sacrifice is a no-brainer; an impure heart is easier to nurse when you’re not dead.  For others, prioritizing life and principle can be a finger-chewing exercise.

Arthur easily falls into the latter category, which makes sense given his royal heritage—you know, “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown” and all that.  As former king of Atlantis, he probably had to make all kinds of decisions which affected scads of lives at a time, and so he does here.  Even though he no longer acts for the Atlanteans, he has another race of people to think of, so it’s inevitable that he had to “seal” the Trench’s fate for good.

Although Aquaman has to do some quick soul-searching to deliberate what his course of action toward the Trench should be, Mera spares no tears.  Johns has really played up her warrior’s gait since he took over the character, and while that’s certainly made her into a very compelling character, it also poses a risk of making her too strident.  Her black-and-white perspective on what to most of us would be debatable issue (“They’re primitive.  Unintelligent.”) may drive a wedge between her and her husband in later, even grayer conflicts.

Besides, her view of the Trench as “mindless creatures” is just patently wrong.  While their behavior definitely lacks subtlety, their needs are simple: preserve themselves at all costs.  Johns does a remarkably good job showing how endangered their species is.  Seeing all those sick, mutated, inbred Trench infants floating dead in a dark cavern actually does fill you with both repulsion and pity.  “Survival of the fittest” may be nature’s mantra, but it’s a cruel one, indeed.

Our hero gets to show off plenty of action in this issue, but his tussle with the Trench and their queen turns out disappointingly brief and unmemorable, despite him igniting an underwater volcano in the process.  More interesting, and perhaps with greater stakes for the future of this title, is his discovery that the Trench made their home in an Atlantean craft.  You can bet at some point Johns will bring that particular mystery back to haunt us.

With all the jokes and abuse Aquaman’s had to endure so far, you knew sooner or later there’d be a moment when a kid would run up to him and proclaim him his favorite hero ever.  As it turns out, the moment comes a lot sooner than even your most generous expectations.  Though well-deserved (he did save all those people), Johns might have let this particular tension stew a bit longer before giving into sappiness.  But anyway, it’s an undeniably heartwarming scene.

Reis and his art is definitely a star on this title on par with Johns’ writing.  I’ve used this term a few times, but it’s absolutely the truth: Reis just makes the series look first class.  The man can sell the heck out of a double-page splash, like that of Aquaman and Mera stumbling upon the Trench’s breeding ground, a ghastly, eerie, and simply memorable sight.  Couple that with lovely, glossy inks from Prado and Ferreira, and cinematic colors from Rod Reis, and the issue drips with rich, eye-catching visuals.

Conclusion: A perfectly enjoyable, functional story, though Johns misses opportunities to really hit home runs with his material.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – It bothers me that the anglerfish can “override” Aquaman’s telepathy, which is about one of the more threatening powers in his arsenal.  It sure loses its sinister quality when you find that some bottom-feeding fish can shrug it off.

– Honestly, Aquaman getting a dog feels pretty pointless, and a craven attempt to inject some sappiness into the title.  But as a dog lover, I don’t care.  I like the idea that Arthur has a permanent tie to the land now, since he has to feed, walk, and play with the mutt regularly.  And while I like “Aquadog,” I’d suggest, “King, Dog of the Seven Seas.”