THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
Geoff Johns has had a great two year run with Aquaman, ending it with a stellar issue #25. “The Death of a King” finishes up in a satisfying way, and Arthur Curry gets the happy ending and respect he deserves.
Arthur’s mission to reclaim his kingdom isn’t the most original plot in the world, but it works at bringing the story full circle. Aquaman (at least in the New 52) began two years ago with a story about the undersea creatures known as the Trench, soon followed by an arc that put Aquaman on the throne of Atlantis. In this finale to “The Death of a King”, Arthur uses the Trench to invade Atlantis and reclaim his throne.
Johns goes to great lengths to establish just how much pain Arthur will endure for his people, and how the Atlanteans take notice. Murk, Tula, and Swatt all see the King they should have served rather than the half-breed they saw before. “The Death of a King” is meant to show that Arthur may not be the rightful heir to the throne, but he understands his responsibility to the throne and, most importantly, deserves it.
This is an action-packed issue. Too often in comics, the action can feel flat and stale, but the climax of this arc definitely improves the story as a whole. This is a day six months coming, and Aquaman is here for the love of his life, his throne, and a small side order of revenge. This motivation is evident in Aquaman’s determination, and this brings about a few keynote moments that will be remembered by most who read this issue.
Artist Paul Pelletier brings us his beautiful vision of a Frozen Atlantis under the Dead King. Pelletier has always been a good fit for Aquaman, and it’s good to know that even after Johns is done, readers will continue to enjoy Pelletier’s wonderful vision of the sea. In issue #25, Pelletier illustrates the action and softer moments with equal parts of weight and his own unique style.
Aquaman finding the scepter was definitely a bit confusing. The Dead King had been seen multiple times with the scepter prior to this issue, but apparently decided to leave the super-powerful artifact behind for the ambiguously powerful trident. Also, somehow Arthur learned of where the scepter was being hidden. This doesn’t make a lot of sense.
We also never got insight as to how the Dead King survived or was reanimated. The ending implies that the scepter was linked to it somehow, but it wasn’t heavily suggested, and if it was linked to his reanimation, why on earth would the Dead King leave it somewhere?
While there are definitely some hiccups in the plot, this satisfying ending to Johns’ run is enough to earn a perfect score. While not everyone is a Geoff Johns fan, and Aquaman may still be the butt of some jokes, Johns spent two years reminding readers that Arthur Curry is worthy of fandom. While this isn’t news to everyone, Johns’ run was popular enough to sell out at many comic stores and outsell everyone’s expectations, if only to show aqua-doubters how wrong they are. While it is sad to see him go, Johns leaves us with a great issue #25, and a solid two years worth of undersea gold.