By: Geoff Johns (story), Paul Pelletier (pencils), Sean Parsons (inks), Rod Reis (colors)

The Story: Needless to say, these whale-hunters engage in some serious overkill here.

The Review: As an English geek, I always find it interesting when comics declare an issue as an epilogue to some arc, because in reality, they very rarely serve as one.  Traditionally, an epilogue tidies up the last bits of plot left lying around after the bulk of the action is over, giving the final sense of closure and resolution needed for a truly satisfactory ending.  In serial fiction, devoting a whole issue/episode to an epilogue makes for a pretty dull chapter, which explains their rarity.

What you almost always end up getting is something of a hybrid epilogue/prologue, perhaps wrapping up a few loose ends from the last arc, but mostly setting the stage for the next one.  This issue has more of the prologue in its genetics, as it shows Aquaman well along his new reign as king of Atlantis, and it jumpstarts a few new conflicts, one involving Mera and another involving what looks to be a rival for the title of “King of the Seven Seas”—who is not Orm.

It’s funny; back in the old JLA days (particularly during Grant Morrison’s run), Aquaman was the king of Atlantis 24-7, but quite handily managed a second career as a bona fide superhero to the surface world.  But within the continuity of the new DCU, kingship now seems more like an obstacle in his life, a duty he’d rather not have, given the exasperations that come along with it, like resentful subordinates.  While Murk, “leader of the Men-of-War: frontline army of the great nation of Atlantis,” is the only one to express his disgust for the new king, it’s guaranteed that he’s not the only who feels this way.

Murk’s presence in the issue signals the next evolution of the Aquaman mythos, one that centers on his connections to Atlantis.  Expanding the cast of Atlanteans beyond Vulko and Orm is a good start; I expect Murk is only the first of many deep-sea figures to come (hopefully Garth and Tula will appear down the line).  Murk’s challenging behavior also shows that the Atlanteans, for better or worse, are starting to move away from their formerly rigid traditions, like unquestioning obedience to royalty.*  It’ll be interesting to see if Arthur can take advantage of these changes to shape their culture closer to his own dearly held principles.

Where the issue really acts as an epilogue is in making it clear that no one will be forgetting the Atlantean attack for a long time, particularly since their scavenged weaponry will be making the rounds upon the surface in the months to come.  Amanda Waller unsurprisingly delivers the most candid and bleakest assessment of surface-Atlantis relations to Arthur, in the process asking the most pointed—and important—questions: “The surface world doesn’t trust you and Atlantis will never accept you.  Who are you fighting for?”

As a fan of DC’s more old-school properties (e.g. the Blackhawks, Sgt. Rock, the Losers, the Challengers of the Unknown, etc.), I was pretty excited to see the Sea Devils arrive on the scene, though I would’ve appreciated a more exciting re-imagination of them beyond the banal “eco-terrorists.”  It would’ve been nice, too, if Johns had put them to better use than standing targets.  Here’s hoping to seeing more of them here, since this is the most appropriate venue for them.

More and more, I’m seeing Pelletier as a cross between the lush, hyper-detail and texture of Ivan Reis and the dependable, straightforward look of Alan Davis.  If you look at the scene of Arthur and Amanda on a snowy bridge, you can see where Pelletier is a little lacking compared to Reis.  The flutters of snow and the characters’ misty breaths look patently cartoony, whereas you know Reis would have put love and care into making the ice and vapor look as dynamic as possible.  Rod Reis’s rich colors makeup for a lot of the depth inherently missing from Pelletier’s figures, but it can’t do everything.  That said, Pelletier definitely stands a step above Davis if that spectacular double-splash of Aquaman communing with ocean creatures means anything.

Conclusion: A solid start to a new arc, with our hero set for some interesting new challenges, both on a political level and on an adventure level.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * If my understanding of current Aquaman continuity is correct, this marks the second time he’s dethroned his brother, and therefore the fourth ruler the Atlanteans have had in the last decade of the new DCU timeline.  No wonder they’re beginning to get surly about their leadership.

– I do like that Mera has become such a fixture in Arthur’s hometown (the name of which is Amnesty Bay, which is pretty cool) that she’s on a first-name basis with Jennifer, local grocery store employee.