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

The Story: Heavy is the head that wears the crown—oh, wait.  He doesn’t have a crown.

The Review: Johns has always said he likes working with the B and C-listers of the DCU because they all have the potential for just as interesting a history and world as the top class heroes.  He’s right, of course.  Basically he’s touching upon a point that applies to all fiction writers: every character, even the ones with the smallest roles, deserves to have some kind of life that gives them dimension, and when they do, it makes the story that much richer.

So when Johns explores Aquaman’s Atlantean roots, what he’s really doing is adding a huge piece to the DCU mosaic.  Even if Johns ends up doing little with it himself (which I highly doubt), it’ll always be there, ready for any other writer to pull out or add to when the time comes.  For the moment, however, Atlantis is going through a pretty exciting development period where Johns is reimagining classic parts of its mythos and giving it new flavors as well.

His version of Vulko, though a little radical and perhaps controversial, is a much more complicated and impressive figure than the pot-bellied, buffoonish Vulko of old.  You always sort of imagined the earlier Vulko as being reedy-voiced and prone to fretting.  Not so with Vulko now, who’s either crazily rational or rationally crazed.  Even Tula admits that despite his betrayal, his knowledge and absolute devotion to Arthur may be too useful to shut down forever.

Speaking of Tula, I think any use or development of her character can only be a benefit to her since her previous incarnation got little of either back when she was first alive, and she’s been mostly an undead pawn ever since.  Making her the half-sister of Orm, and thus a kind of relation to Arthur, puts her squarely in a position of far greater importance (beyond being Garth’s girlfriend—if and when he gets reintroduced into continuity).  I’ve always found sibling relationships some of the most interesting in fiction, and this triangle among Orm, Arthur, and Tula, colored by their royal obligations, makes for intriguing reading.

You can see that intrigue almost immediately, as Tula certainly has a stronger emotional tie to Orm than Arthur, and yet her Atlantean heritage dictates that she place her trust in Arthur instead.  Yet it seems that kind of cultural obligation is set to be disturbed, once Murk starts the first whispers of treason: “Atlantean law was written in an age where the surface world was an unlikely danger to us.  It is only a matter of time before the violence they inflict on themselves finds its way to Atlantis.”  We all know, however, that this is merely a nationalist cover for the fact that he doesn’t like Arthur and wants Orm (and his more aggressive leadership style) back.

It seems like Johns can barely keep a lid on his own enthusiasm in writing this series, however, as this issue offers a couple other big plot threads as well.  The lesser of the two is the revival of the Scavenger (one Peter Mortimer), an oldy, moldy Aquaman villain who gets just enough page-time to demonstrate some fairly gutsy lack of scruples.  The more significant development is the appearance of a frozen, armored codger with a big Atlantean staff of his own, claiming “the Seven Seas will be mine again.”  Power plays are always good times, and with Atlantis at stake, it’ll be a good test of Arthur’s kingly skills.

Pelletier clearly doesn’t have the same polished look as Ivan Reis, but with Rod Reis bringing the same lush coloring, Pelletier can impress on his own right.  He has a simpler style of figure, a little cartoonier, a little less detailed, and a little less emotionally convincing, but it still captures most of the same adventurous and somewhat sinister tones we’ve had on this series up till now.

Conclusion: I am liking this expansion of Aquaman’s universe, and I expect you will, too, even if the issue turns out

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – I do like the introduction of Officer Watson as an old childhood acquaintance of Arthur.  If he grew up in Amnesty Bay all that time, he’s bound to have some old friends, right?