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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Aquaman (Vol.8) #25 - Jan. 2014

"Death of A King Chapter Seven: Baptism of Fire" by Geoff Johns, Paul Pelltier, Sean Parsons, and Rod Reis.

Aquaman and Vulko, off the coast of Spain:
Buried beneath billions of dollars of underwater loot is an even greater treasure: the Scepter that once belonged to the Dead King. With it, Aquaman launches his plan, which involves commanding the lost sect of Atlanteans now known as The Trench!

Meanwhile, in Atlantis, Nereus chafes under total, unquestioned allegiance demanded by the Dead King. Nereus' would-be wife, Mera, is stuck in a prison cell, kept from all water, lest she use it to kill her jailers and escape (something she has repeatedly tried over the last six months). Nereus comes to talk to her, and together they heard a far away rumble:

Aquaman quickly makes peace with Tula and Swat, and acknowledges that he has not been the best leader. He attacks the Dead King by himself, causing the King to see that the people of Atlantis have turned on him.

Realizing he has lost this battle, he decides to destroy everything by using the magic scepter to crack the ground Atlantis rests on open, but this time Aquaman is there to stop him:
Aquaman and the Dead King's battle rages, causing a mass conflagration. There's so much smoke and fire that Mera can't tell if Arthur has survived, but of course he has. He emerges, the heat have reduced the Dead King to ashes, reclaims his trident, and stands before his people once again, with Mera at his side.

A short time later, Aquaman and Mera discuss their plans. Aquaman says he is going to re-take the throne, and finally be the king Atlantis deserves and needs. Mera is convinced this is a mistake, and tells Arthur she can't join him. Later, in Amnesty Bay, she picks up Salty from her friend Jenny (seen back in Aquaman #6), who offers her dogsitting services if Mera needs to leave town again.

Cut to Aquaman on the throne, joined by his queen:

She takes Aquaman's hand, and only makes one request "Just shave the beard":
...The Adventure Continues!

There's a brief post script, showing that the now-loose Orm has been staying with the woman he rescued in his Villains Month solo shot. Nereus shows up at their front door, ready to pledge allegiance, and he has a plan for rule. To be continued!

Of course, the big event surrounding this issue is that it is Geoff Johns' last as regular series writer. While I haven't always been thrilled at the turns the book took in the last year or so, there is simply no arguing that Johns' run at stewarding the King of the Seven Seas is one of the most influential in the characters' 70-year history. Sure, others have done just as legendary, enduring work--Steve Skeates, Jim Aparo, Nick Cardy, Peter David, to name a few--but I can't think of anyone who did more with Aquaman than Geoff Johns, in terms of where he found the character, and where he left him when his time was done. Even if you weren't a particular fan of Johns' work on Aquaman, you can't argue about the results.

Looking towards the future, I for one would be perfectly happy if, on page one of Aquaman #26, new writer Jeff Parker has Aquaman say, "You know what? I changed my mind about this whole Atlantis thing, let's go back to Amnesty Bay Mera" and they leave the troubled continent behind for good. I feel like Johns (and the art team of Reis/Prado/Reis, of course) were operating on full thrusters in the first year or so of the book, so I'm still a little puzzled as to why he felt the need to drag him back into Atlantean politics. But this issue ended with what I wanted more than anything else--Aquaman and Mera, reunited and happy. Let's hope they get a few months to enjoy it!

Art-wise, I feel like this is Paul Pelletier and Sean Parsons' best issue on the title yet; they delivered a couple of real ka-pow moments which helped punctuate the action at just the right times. And am I crazy, or is Pelletier consciously channeling Aquaman's New 52 debut in Justice League #4 on page 13 of this issue?

In any case, they (and colorist Rod Reis, of course) delivered the goods with this issue, rising to the historic occasion. I can't wait to see what they do with incoming Jeff Parker!

Back when the Shrine was first launched in 2006, Aquaman was in about as bad a place as he could have been, DCU-wise. The classic character we knew and loved had been replaced, with that version just a few months away from cancellation. Arthur Curry would be considered dead, his body literally scattered across the seven seas. It took someone of Geoff Johns' fanboy enthusiasm and industry clout to grab this character and show DC just how much potential was there in Aquaman. And, as we all knew, there was a lot.



James said...

I am glad that Johns is saving his last story for JUSTICE LEAGUE next year once FOREVER EVIL wraps.

THRONE OF ATLANTIS was my favorite arc from the run and is tied with THE OBSIDIAN AGE as my favorite League story (ironically, both feature Arthur and Atlantis heavily).

So, it's going to be fun to see Arthur's world collide once again with his super friends. :)

David J. Cutler said...

Trying to think of nice things to say about this issue I could come up with very little. I think Johns had too much story for one issue, but he wanted to leave so he put the thing on fast forward. I found the action very hard to follow, and seeing the Big Bad of the last 5 issues defeated so quickly was underwhelming to say the least. The Atlantean traitors coming back into the fold was given all of, what, one panel? Sigh.

And I couldn't be less pleased with where things are left for Jeff Parker to pick up. I loved Amnesty Bay and Aquaman's adventures on the land in the earlier issues. I've never ever cared for Atlantis and its politics, and I'll be surprised if Parker can turn me around on that.

I think post-Throne of Atlantis the title lost its way a little but I'm still sad to see Johns's mostly very good run end. The finale was my least favorite issue of the bunch but it was still a great ride.