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

The Story: Arthur wants to shake things up in Atlantis—but not like this!

The Review: Again, sorry for the lateness, but Bar Exam calls. It’s nice to know, however, that no matter what happens with this ridiculous test, I will always have Aquaman. Nice, and a little depressing. But just to make it clear, the depression has nothing to do with the quality of this series itself. While it’s lost some of the epic tang of Geoff Johns’ run, Parker has positioned the series to be a dependable hitter, churning out one action-packed issue after another.

It’s not all underwater chaos, though. This issue in particular is remarkably balanced, splitting time not only between pure superhero hijinks and Atlantean domestic dramas, but also between Arthur’s surface and oceanic connections. They don’t all mesh together, exactly (nor do they need to), but they stand side-by-side in a seamless whole, with Arthur as the appropriate unifying force. You can hardly ask for anything more, except maybe for our hero to get some real studly moments.

I’m sure they’re in the works, but I can hardly wait. It’s been a long time since Arthur’s gotten a clean win with anything. His encounter with Swamp Thing was less of a team-up and more of a repeated exercise in humility, and trapping the maddened Hercules back into the labyrinth was definitely a pyrrhic victory. Probably the last time he managed to pull out a triumph was his destruction of the Karaqan, and that only diminished his standing in the Atlanteans’ eyes, not to mention created an even more insidious threat in the Chimera, who seems designed to school Arthur in every way.

As I said last issue, it seems a bit cruel to create an antagonist who neutralizes Arthur’s single exotic power, the one thing that elevates him from the poor man’s Wonder Woman. Watching him get the same taste of sea creature mauling that he usually inflicts on others is nearly as depressing as it is perilous. Fortunately, before things get too bleak, the Chimera short-circuits once he attempts to mind-meld Arthur the same it does with eels and sharks. A hospital-ridden Dr. Shin provides an interesting theory: that the Chimera is torn between its hatred for its creator, its loyalty to Atlantean royalty, and its gratitude for the man who saved its life.

Speaking of which, I’d wondered if any part of Coombs survived Orson’s mad science, and now it’s certain that some part did. It’s not just that the Chimera can take human form; Coombs’ memories filter through even as it singlemindedly targets Arthur. The only problem is we have no idea what Coombs was like before the sharks got to him, so it’s unclear what difference his psychic existence will make, one way or another.

Meanwhile, back in Atlantis, even though Tula and Mera caught themselves a nice posse of assassins, the underlying troubles to Arthur’s rule remain. For those of us eager to dismiss the dissent as superstitious backseasmen, we get evidence that there may be something to the paranoia about Arthur’s presence after all. His arrival in Atlantis immediately precedes a seaquake, and Vulko—remember him?—sadly murmurs that Arthur’s rightfully to blame. An official kingship ritual Arthur’s failed to fulfill, perhaps? Perhaps a mystical foe trying to undermine his rule?

The art is fine—Buckish if you will. There’s a slightly cheap quality to the horror scenes that occasionally make you feel like you’re watching a monster flick on a B-movie budget, but Pelletier never fails to get across exactly what’s needed without any confusion.

Conclusion: A little bit of everything Aquaman in one issue, solidly rendered.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – I’m a bit confused; can the Chimera change its form at will or does it have to shed one before assuming another first? Because it seems to go both ways in this issue.

– I’m happy to see none of the Amnesty Bay characters died this issue. I’m very much attached to Arthur’s life on land.