THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
Villain’s Month is over and for Aquaman fans, that should mean finally learning what happened during Arthur Curry’s coma. Instead, readers get a history lesson on the sinking of Atlantis and the origin of the Dead King. While this exposition is necessary, the timing may not have been right. Nonetheless, Geoff Johns’ Aquaman #24 is good, but certainly not his best.
Paul Pelletier proves this month that he can make wonderful art out of the ocean. Pelletier’s ancient Atlantis is filled with beautiful architecture and the people who once inhabited it. We get a look into things like ancient Atlantean fashion, which might be a little generic, but draws satisfying parallels to Aquaman’s costume. Overall, Pelletier continues to provide fantastic illustrations for one of the least-appreciated heroes of the DC canon.
The Dead King’s origin as Atlan, the first king of Atlantis, works. We see him creating a peaceful, multicultural nation only to be usurped by his elitist brother, who wants to see Atlantean blood remain pure. The story continues predictably from here, but ends with a twist – Atlan forges weapons of great power, and uses them to sink the nation that he founded. Unfortunately, we don’t get any insight as to why or how he was able to rise from the dead.
The revelation that Arthur is the descendant of Orin, the usurper, rather than a descendant of the rightful king, Atlan, adds a little bit to the story. The twist doesn’t hit all that hard, as it seems to bring very little to the table story-wise, but technically, if Atlan were alive, he would be the king. This at least gives the villain a rightful claim to the throne, even if he is technically undead.
No explanation is given as to why certain humans survived drowning and became a new species after the sinking of Atlantis. They could have easily just mentioned some kind of magical artifact as the cause of the transformation, but instead, Johns simply neglects to write a proper explanation. Comic books require suspension of disbelief, for sure, but there simply has to be an explanation – without it, the whole thing feels overly contrived.
The issue covers very little when it comes to current events in Aquaman’s life. The major twist last issue was that Arthur was in a coma for six months. Johns makes mention of this, and tells us that the Dead King is now in control of Atlantis, but not much else. This limits the rest of the comic to direct exposition rather than story development.
Unfortunately, this issue really seems to fall at the wrong time. After a rapid-paced Villain’s Month, Aquaman #24 feels very stale. We also get to see very little about Aquaman’s current situation—just a glimpse into his past. However, the issue does illuminate the Dead King’s motives, it shows the sinking of Atlantis, and it brings the revelation that Arthur’s descendants were the cause of the downfall of Atlantis; all important aspects to Aquaman’s overall mythos.