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

The Story: Aquaman will need to have a serious talk with Mera once her secret comes out.

The Review: I’ve grown so used to seeing all of DC’s titles released with the same issue number each month that when I saw Aquaman’s #19 amidst all the #20s, I panicked and wondered if I missed yet another comic from last month.  Fortunately, I was reassured that the mix-up was not my fault and for whatever reason, Aquaman #19 shipped out later than its counterparts.  Phew.  It would’ve been pretty embarrassing for me if something like that had slipped by me.

More than just a sting at my pride, missing this issue would have left me quite baffled once the next one* came around.  Even though Johns’ decompressed style of storytelling regularly leaves us with whole issues where the plot doesn’t advance at all, here we get not one, but several major developments that’ll have an impact not only on the story at hand, but on the entire Aquaman mythos going forward.

Since this is Johns we’re talking about, and since this issue ostensibly falls within DC’s “WTF-certified” campaign, it shouldn’t be too surprising that we get one doozy of a cliffhanger here.  We’ve always know that Mera had a colorful past before meeting Aquaman, but to discover that—spoiler alert—she already has a husband who’s still alive and hiding out on Earth* might actually cause you to exclaim, “WTF?”  It’s a very soapy moment, to the point where you half-expect violins to play a musical sting before credits start to run.

I’ll reserve judgment on that particular twist for now, but I can safely say that I approve of a smaller but no less important twist related to Murk’s plan to free Orm.  Who could’ve predicted he’d seek help from the least Atlantean of Atlanteans?  Despite lacking an ability to breathe underwater and an obsession with collecting surface-world objects, Swatt still has his pride as an Atlantean, and Murk plays on that (and hints at a reward of social acceptance) to get his assistance.  Swatt is an intriguing figure, and his particular relationship to Murk (“You keep my secret and I keep yours,” he warns) will be quite interesting to learn.

It just goes to show that I remain enamored with all the new possibilities Johns is bringing to this series, even when they’re as unsubtle as a gargantuan, telepathic sea creature with enough intelligence to have a conversation with Arthur.  But there’s also some solid tension going on in the background of things as well.  Arthur can’t expect to a very high approval rating from his people if he continues to show his concern for humans at the cost of their lives.  Air-breathing villains like the Scavenger can only worsen the situation, as he embodies a gross lack of scruples and a sadistic streak (given the crude surgery he performs on one of Arthur’s men) all at once.

Pelletier seems a lot more comfortable drawing everything and anything besides humans.  His vision of Topo, the kraken-like beast Arthur calls upon for help, is appropriately awesome and eerie, and he can certainly draw the heck out of a ship graveyard at the bottom of the ocean.  But there’s little nuance to the body language and expressions of the characters, which calls attention to the shallowness of Johns’ adventure story.  As flat as Pelletier’s figure-work can look at times, Reis always manages to give it depth and texture, which cuts some of its cartoony aspects.

Conclusion: With all the new material Johns is bringing to the series, there are distinct echoes of the glory days of his Green Lantern revival here.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * Which is due to ship this month, meaning the series won’t be an issue behind for long.

* Or is he?  It’s not totally clear whether Mera fled away from the Triangle or whether she used it to get to her husband.

– Very excited for the return of the Others.  I felt we only barely got to know them when they first appeared, and I’m glad to see them remaining an important part of Arthur’s life.