"The Drowning" by Dan Abnett, Scot Eaton, Oscar Jimenez, Mark Morales, and Gabe Eltaeb.
This long-awaited "rebirth" starts with an unknown narrator explaining the vastness of the planet's oceans and how one person, compared to that, seems insignificant. Unless, of course, that one person is the King of the Seven Seas, Aquaman!
In the Western Atlantic, Aquaman is on the trail of rogue group of Atlantean terrorists known as The Deluge. The leader of this xenophobic group of undersea fundamentalists accuses Aquaman of caring more for the Surface World than Atlantis, so when the Aquatic Ace demands Corum Rath, the leader, stand down, his only response is to have his men attack. Meanwhile, Mera is back at Spindrift Station, monitoring the fight:
We see just what the Surface World thinks of Aquaman, and of course it's a mixed bag--some regard him as a hero like his fellow Justice Leaguers, while others only remember the events of a few months(?) ago, when Arthur's brother Orm attacked a number of American cities, almost wiping them off the face of the planet.
Back at the battle, Aquaman takes another route, trying to talk to the giant sea beast that Rath has enslaved into service. The fight spills onto a nearby beach, which Rath is perfectly happy to blow up instead of his original target, Boston. Having now turned the fight into a one-on-one scrap, Aquaman makes quick work of his foe, then asks Mera to send reinforcements to round up the group.
Later, Aquaman stops for a bite at a nearby restaurant, where Mera joins him.
We then find out who our narrator is, and how his plan to take down Aquaman starts with Mera. His belief is you destroy her, you destroy Aquaman, and that's the only thing on the mind of...Black Manta!
Writer Dan Abnett (who we interviewed here) has put a lot of things in motion with this Rebirth special, building upon some of the things he established over the last few issues of Aquaman's New 52 solo series. There's the basic plot elements of The Deluge attacking and Black Manta, back for another round, but also of course larger themes about, just how does Aquaman fit into this world?
Over the many decades of comic book adventures, the Sea King was often his own worst enemy, lashing out and refusing to explain why he was doing just what he was doing. Of course, we as readers understood how hard it was for our hero to balance all the various forces pulling at him, but often as not an Aquaman comic would end with some version of him telling some Surface Dweller to kiss off, and diving back into the water.
Geoff Johns walked a lot of that back in the New 52, to almost universal praise from Aqua-Fans. Abnett is taking those elements and putting them front and center again, just in time for the new series. For any potential new readers, this truly is a good "jumping on" point, since it explains quickly and deftly just who Aquaman is, who Mera is, why they're so connected, and setting up the tough world they live in.
The art in this issue varied in look and style from section to section, most of which I liked quite a bit. The opening, er, splash page is a truly great shot, again recalling the beginning of the New 52, when the all-star team of Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, and Rod Reis were handling the visuals. I very much enjoyed Gabe Elteab's colors, with Aquaman's bright green and oranges popping off the pages.
Short version: we're off to a good start. Join us in a few weeks for Aquaman #1!