By: Dan Jurgens (story), Alvaro Martinez (pencils), Raul Fernandez (inks), Chris Sotomayor (colors)

The Story: Arthur builds yet another Isle of Atlantis just in time for it to be sunk again.

The Review: As if Arthur doesn’t already have enough of an image problem, he can never seem to escape the disdain and contempt from both land and sea. The last couple years have seen his surface reputation improve considerably, but not so much where the Atlanteans are concerned. You’d think five years of dedicated kingship would improve matters, but if anything, Arthur’s standing among his people has gotten worse.

This isn’t a simple case of Atlanteans sticking to old grievances and rejecting progress, although there’s that. During the war between Earths, Arthur volunteered Atlantis’ aid and their reward was to have “curtains of fire burning across the oceans,” poisoning the waters, decimating whole populations, leaving them sickly and starving, while the land-dwellers offer help only in exchange for mineral and oil rights. Hell yeah, the Atlanteans have a right to be pissed.

Though it’s easy now to indulge in might-have-beens (“The Parademons might never have found us.”), but Arthur’s also the only one actively working to save his people from extinction. Establishing an island outpost to make Atlantis visible and impossible to ignore by the surface is smart; using it to attract the resources of the more benevolent land-dwellers is even smarter. Of course, the Atlanteans attack it. They resent the ingratitude of the world above, but they can’t stand being charity cases, either.

With that attitude, no wonder they’d be so foolhardy as to [Spoiler alert!] resurrect (again) the Dead King to supplant Arthur, which is easily the most boneheaded thing they can do. When war has left your nation in ruin, your society in disarray, and your people at their weakest, you do not summon the lovechild of Hitler and Stalin—who is a zombie, by the way—to declare even more war is at hand.

But the Atlanteans have always been an easily manipulated lot, and Vulko is unhinged enough that you can readily believe he’d do something so radical (thus backstabbing Arthur yet again). More surprising is Mera buying into all this nonsense. Sort of. She does have reason to resent Arthur, even aside from the destruction of Xebel. It’s not clear whether Arthur started shacking up with Ya’wara before or after things went south between him and Mera, though he says himself, “You’re hurting, Mera. It’s my fault and I’m sorry.” What’s clear is despite her haughty insistence to the contrary, she’s still bitter over the whole affair, which better explains how she stomachs sharing a throne with an undead madman.

With Arthur finally deprived of all Atlantean allies, this is the moment for his friends on land to come through for him. It’s heartening to see that even though Merathur (Arthra?) is no more, the Others* remain steadfast allies. Unfortunately, we don’t get to see how this all plays out, which is exactly as Jurgens planned. What better way to entice you into checking out Futures End, the other series for which he’s architect?

Martinez is no replica of Paul Pelletier, but he has all of Pelletier’s fine qualities: clean lines, clear storytelling, no muss, no fuss. While the shape of his characters’ faces don’t have the same confident consistency as Pelletier’s, I’d say his fine detail and pacing is even better, giving action sequences like a squad of Atlanteans pouncing from the water to attack Aaron and Sky a nice kick. All things taken together, I wouldn’t mind seeing Martinez as regular artist for the series, though he’s still very much entrenched in DC’s house art style.

Conclusion: Successfully gets you to want more, though rather inconclusive for a one-shot.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * Prisoner of War is absent; Sayeh has taken over as the Seer in her late sister’s place; we see no sign of who’s now in Vostok’s spot; and amazingly, the Operative is still alive and kicking.

– “Aaron acquitted himself well today, by the way.” Really? Because what I see is Aaron getting himself strongarmed and watching helplessly as his girlfriend is half-drowned.

– Apparently, Atlanteans use plates and bowls to eat underwater. I suspect this has nothing to do with actual physiological need as it is Jurgens and Martinez’s only way to show that this is a food line.