By: Geoff Johns (story), Ivan Reis (art), Joe Prado (inks), Rod Reis (colors)

The Story: It’d be a good idea to get the old gang back together while there’s still a gang.

The Review: Like a lot of his fellow Justice Leaguers, Aquaman has always struggled with figuring out who he is and where he belongs, torn in his loyalties between two peoples and cultures.  The interesting part is that unlike many of his peers, he does have a legitimate human origin, though only half of one.  But humans, we know, don’t take too kindly to those who seem different, so it’s not so cut and dry that Aquaman would pledge himself to them.

In fact, this issue shows us that for a while, he did anything but, declaring his outright rejection of the whole human race before diving into the sea.  In his defense, there was quite a bit of trauma motivating this decision, as it took place on the day of his father’s funeral.  If you want to know just how emotionally wrecked Arthur is, Johns shows him nursing his grief over a mixture of family photos and newspapers, one headline blaring, “The Aquaman’s Father Killed.”

In typically irritating fashion, Johns keeps the circumstances of this tragedy obscure, though Shin’s remorseful presence at Arthur’s departure (and the bloody bandage on his neck) tells us the scientist was involved somehow.  Shin seems to be linked to a lot of shady business, as in the present, Ya’wara accuses him of sending Manta after the Others.  Certainly you have to question how Shin got to know so much of the intimate details about this oddball team after Arthur abandoned him the first time around.

As for the Others, we don’t actually learn much about how they got together (other than to, as Shin says, “locate the Relics of Atlantis and to keep them from falling into the wrong hands), nor do we see them together long enough to get a clear sense of their group dynamic.  But from their comfortable interaction, you can tell their relationship is more than just about taking down Manta, but also about a band of misfits from society who look to each other for companionship, even comfort, if Kahina the Seer’s prophecy to Arthur proves anything.

It’s clear, though, that even with these comrades, Arthur refused to get as close to them as they perhaps did with each other.  During the mission, he splits away from the rest of the group, voicing his extreme displeasure that they choose to save a village of innocents from an avalanche while letting the cause of the disaster, Manta, get way.  Whether this led to their disbandment or not, we don’t know, but it’s clear Arthur left them on chilly terms, an action he views with regret, particularly as he looks on Kahina’s lifeless body: “I never thanked her.  Not really… I owe each of them…more than I can ever…”

Of all the many artists in the DC roster who specialize in pure superhero tales, Reis stands atop almost all of them.  He has the perfect balance of substance and deftness, giving his figures credible mass and weight while making their movements appear smooth and natural.  He has a great eye for fine detail, portraying the subtle changes of age on the characters so well that you can see the difference even when Arthur is only one year older.  He makes big moments even bigger, and lends the quietest scenes a focused tension.  Rod Reis’ colors bring every beautiful panel to larger-than-life; his sense of lighting is one of the most natural I’ve seen in a straight superhero comic.

Conclusion: Though a bit slow and stingy on details, the issue has a strong emotional pulse which quickens when the action gets going, and you can’t deny Johns introduces a number of interesting plot elements here.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – I’m glad to see that despite her unhappiness at Arthur’s heretofore unrevealed connection to a mostly naked jungle babe, Mera assures him, “I’ll always trust you.”  It’d be pretty hypocritical of her to do otherwise, considering some of the biggie secrets of her own.