By: Jeff Parker (story), Paul Pelletier (pencils), Sean Parsons & Norm Rapmund (inks), Rain Beredo (colors)

The Story: What the Atlanteans really needed were hieroglyphics for “Do Not Enter.”

The Review: I have to admit, when you take the time to count up all the things science has given us over the years—indoor plumbing, refrigeration, penicillin, instant ramen—it’s pretty obvious that intellectual curiosity has paid off for us. Even so, fiction seems obsessed with stories where the pursuit of knowledge unleashes forces that humanity isn’t ready for, from the most recent issue of Letter 44 all the way back to Adam and Eve. I guess we could use the constant reminders of our own fallibility.

You know who could have used that reminder? Dr. Daniel Evans, the archaeologist who burgled Aquaman’s trident. It’s doubtful he would’ve heeded the warning; directly confronted by Arthur, he stammers, “I couldn’t risk that you would refuse to lend…,” which is scientist talk for “I knew you wouldn’t let me do it if I asked so I just went ahead and did it anyway.” Sadly enough, this isn’t the most imprudent decision he makes. His actions involve a whole lot of stupid.

Setting aside his resorting to crime and the fact that he basically unlocks a gateway to hell—more on that in a moment—his plan on the most basic level just seems grossly unscientific. The moment he sets the trident into the ruin, a swirl of unknown heat and energy is released, which should be a red flag for all involved, except they’re too enthralled by the sparkly lights to do anything about it.* It’s Evans’ next line, “If this is a portal that crosses time and space to open to Atlantis, then we would emerge in deep ocean,” that should really cause alarm for all involved, yet somehow doesn’t until it’s way too late. “Is this supposed to happen?!” screams a journalist as a tower of flame erupts from the portal.

“I have no idea—” Evans admits. It’s like a bad bit from a sci-fi parody.

As the plot thickens, there are other points when you wonder if Parker is still in Batman ’66 mode and pulling some kind of prank on us, especially since that’s exactly what the plot boils down to. One of the “Giant-Born” who emerges from the portal crows, “All of us channeled our will for months…so that you would read that one small marking as ‘gate’…instead of ‘hell.'” So basically, these ancient creatures did the ol’ sign switcheroo, like something one of the Pranksters would do on every other episode of The Electric Company.

Parker somewhat justifies this rather silly first act once the Giant-Born reveal one of their fellow captives to be none other than Hercules of ancient Greek fame. There’s always been a natural link between Aquaman and Wonder Woman’s respective mythologies, and this is as good a way as any to explore that relationship in the new DCU. The betrayal of Hercules once again calls attention to Atlantis’ troubled early history, making Aquaman the reluctant but necessary redeemer/reformer. The Atlantean prejudice against the surface has served its purpose, but like the somewhat arbitrary mutant hate over in the Marvel U, it’s time to start retiring that old yarn.

Times like these, I miss Ivan Reis’ art the most. Pelletier’s basic style is just incapable of bringing the impact that the script needs to be taken seriously. Without the aid of CGI-magic, it takes a subtle hand and great vision from the artist to induce the heart-pounding reaction you want a monster to elicit from a reader. Pelletier just can’t manage this. He can emphasize the ugliness of the Giant-Born all he wants, but that’s not the same as being fearsome. It all looks a bit B-movie, to be honest.

 

Conclusion: The plot requires an incredulous deficiency of human intelligence to operate, but at least the results are worth building on.

Grade: C+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Looking forward to a future appearance by Swamp Thing and seeing Alec in underwater form.

– I wonder who bought Mera that Moody’s Diner t-shirt. Whether it’s her or Arthur, the thought of it is pretty amusing.

– Hercules in the DCU, unlike his Marvel counterpart, is usually aligned as a villain. He’s already a bit off the deep end here, having being trapped in Hell for who knows how long, so that’s a good start.

Grade

Conclusion