The last issue ended with the island coming alive and sending itself further out to sea, leaving the heroes and the casino's residents stranded with no way off.
Meanwhile, Maxwell Lord, Ice, the Huntress, and Oberon find themselves in the middle of the ocean, having transported to what they thought were the island's coordinates.
Ice is stung by a jellyfish, but manages to create a life raft made of frozen water, which buys them a little time. But their JL communicators don't work, and sharks are circling...
Meanwhile, on the island, the casino's guests are a wee bit ticked off at Beetle and Booster, while Aquaman is trying to find a way to stop the island from moving further and further out to sea.
Aquaman learns of a volcano nearby, and figures if it can be set off, the island might "anchor" itself to it. But he can't do it himself, so he asks Major Disaster for help.
They head underwater, leading to a nifty, cool-looking sequence of Aquaman in his element:
...I love Major Disaster's oh-so-slightly mocking "finny friends?"
Anyway, the plan works, and the island stops moving and shaking. Major Disaster is treated as a hero to the people on the island, while Beetle and Booster decide what to do next.
Our four ice-stranded heroes are also saved, when Aquaman, astride a shark, finds them and takes them to the island. Martian Manhunter and Guy Gardner also arrive, and Maxwell Lord has the chutzpah to try and ask Aquaman if he'd be interested in signing up. Aquaman gives Lord what's known as a "firm no":
...I thoroughly enjoyed these issues, and even though Beetle and Booster sometimes got way, way goofier, here they retain a charming "what the hell" insouciance that perfectly contrasts with the very serious Sea King.
Hughes' work is, of course, excellent (I have got to get an Aquaman sketch from him some time, costs be damned!)--I love his furrowed brow and he stalks out of the panel, and out of the book.
These issues can be found for a pittance on eBay, so I recommend them to anyone looking for a fun superhero adventure tale, well executed.
Plus Aquaman is way, way cool in it.
Update: I had the chance to ask Aquaman Shrine pal J.M. DeMatteis, co-writer of this story, about this fine two-part adventure:
Aquaman Shrine: How did this story come about? Did you want to write a guest-spot for Aquaman and built this water-based story around it, or as you were writing it you realized, hey, we could work Aquaman into this?
J.M. DeMatteis: You have to understand that the way [Keith] Giffen and I worked back then, I often had no idea what the story was going to be until the plot showed up at my door.
So I didn't know Aquaman was going to be in the story till I read Keith's outline! My job was to take Keith's brilliant basics and flesh them out with jokes, character interplay, and more jokes. I was pretty much free to script the stories any way I wanted to. That was the fun of it.
Keith would surprise me and then I'd take the story, twist things around in the dialogue and bounce it back to him. Then he'd twist it again and toss it back to me.
AMS: Was there any consideration to him joining the team, or was his terse "Don't...even...ask!" response in the story from the beginning?
JMD: I don't recall there ever being any talk about Aquaman joining, although, looking back, he would've been a great straight man for Beetle and Booster.
AMS: One comment element in this story and the ones you wrote for Adventure Comics is a focus on Aquaman's deep bond with the creatures of the sea--even though Aquaman is only guest-starring in these two issues, there's one whole page devoted to that part of his character here. Is that an element you made an effort to highlight whenever you would be writing the character?
JMD: I had to look that sequence over again to refresh my memory: it's been a while!
That said, I'm guessing that I saw elements in Keith's plot that would underscore the "deep bond" aspect of Aquaman's personality, and ran with it. To me that bond with the sea is one of the absolute keys to the character. He has a profound, almost mystical, connection to his "finny friends."
As usual, J.M. was a total blast to talk to, and I thank him for again for taking time to answer my nerdy questions. Thanks J.M.!
P.S.: Dear DC: If/when you bring back Classic Aquaman, any chance you could hire J.M. DeMatteis to write it?