By: Jeff Parker (story), Paul Pelletier & Netho Diaz (pencils), Sean Parsons & Ruy Jose (inks), Rod Reis (colors)

The Story: Aquaman proves that size really doesn’t matter.

The Review: Parker didn’t quite establish a clear voice for himself when he took over this series last month, and this issue shows he’s still figuring out which direction to take Aquaman.  While Geoff Johns’ run can be divided into its early superhero period and a later mythic period, Parker tries to blend the two with the Karaqan, whose origins are part of Atlantean lore but whose effects mostly call upon Aquaman’s superhero experience.

Actually, this would be a pretty good way to balance the different elements of Aquaman if only the Karaqan was more interesting as a concept.  Aside from a few observations about the monster’s physiology, we learn nothing more about the Karaqan that wasn’t already alluded to in the last issue: its role as Atlantis’ legendary protector and its supposed loyalty to Atlantis’ king.  In fact, the only reason you can think of for why Parker repeats this information at all is to fill in Arthur, who didn’t get the benefit of Neol’s speculations last time around.

If there’s a long-term storyline to be had from the Karaqan, it’s in the monster’s refusal to heed Arthur’s orders, which I’m sure the Atlanteans will see as a bad omen reflecting on the legitimacy of Arthur’s rule.  Even the relatively loyal Neol is less impressed with Arthur’s single-handed defeat of the monster as he is bothered by it: “We’ll wait inside in case he wishes to defile our legendary defender further.”  This is a big victory for Arthur, but obviously few Atlanteans will see it that way, considering the only beneficiaries are land-dwellers.

Arthur has only one opportunity to use this incident to gain favor with his subjects, and that is to track down the humans who might misuse the Karaqan’s carrion against Atlantis itself.  As it turns out, the government lackey who was scoping out Amnesty Bay last issue is connected to a much bigger operation, whose purpose is to “know more about Atlantis, and if/when they’ll attack again.”  A sensibly defensive goal that sounds like it most likely conceals more aggressive ones.  In any case, the discovery of Triton Base is not likely to improve Atlantean suspicions of the surface world, especially if Arthur doesn’t take action to shut it down.

It’s little wonder that as the Altanteans put more pressure on him by constantly questioning his loyalties, his mind start to wander back towards Amnesty Bay, where even though “[s]ome kinda resent him…he’s still their local boy.”  It doesn’t help when it’s the people on land who are the ones giving him gratitude while the people undersea can barely contain their judgment around him and his wife.  As we saw last issue, playing the superhero with the Atlanteans isn’t winning him favor; what will it take, short of warring with the surface, for Arthur to finally gain their genuine respect?

If you need proof of Pelletier’s limitations as an artist, look at the panel where several fighter jets launch missiles at the Karaqan.  Now, tell me that doesn’t look more like toy planes flitting about an ill-rendered monster.  Action sequences just don’t have much thrill to them under Pelletier’s pen, which is a problem because Parker is clearly an action-oriented writer.  While the shape of Diaz’s figures might look mannequin-ish compared to Pelletier’s, Diaz brings more realism and detail, which, combined with Reis’ lush, shimmering colors, comes closer to the higher-class art Aquaman started out with.

Conclusion: Nothing new to see here, or very little, anyway.  Parker’s execution is fine, but he hasn’t proven himself a source of great ideas yet.

Grade: C+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – I’m a sucker for father-son moments, so that flashback of Arthur’s dad saying the best thing about his job is “[s]pending time with my assistant” was guaranteed to tug at my heartstrings.