[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers.]
Aquaman #3. Dan Abnett- Writer, Philippe Briones- Artist, Gabe Eltaeb.
Very often a comic book or comic book based film will appropriate aspects from a different genre to accentuate a certain aspect of a particular character. For the first two issues of this new Aquaman series, it’s been clear that Dan Abnett was going to spend a lot of time on the political aspects of Aquaman and Atlantis’s relationship to the surface world. With Aquaman #3 this has blown into a full political thriller. But it doesn’t end there. There’s long tradition in science fiction in which an author uses a the genre to discuss real contemporary socio-political issues. This is the case here as well. Black Manta’s terrorist attack on the Atlantean Embassy should certainly feel relevant in today’s world. It’s difficult to go a full week without an attack somewhere in the world. Even though Manta’s motives are intended as personal attacks against Aquaman, he attacks both Atlantean and surface innocents. So when we see Atlantis as the misunderstood outsider, it’s not too big a stretch to imagine middle eastern immigrants and refugees. While not a perfect analogue, Abnett is creating world with similar themes and fears.
The U.S. government has closed the Atlantean Embassy at Spindrift Station. Commander Murk is none too happy and Aquaman intervenes and makes a trip to Washington, D.C. He and Mera show up at the White House to the surprise of everyone. He and Mera plead their case, but it is not going anywhere fast. Despite Aquaman’s role with the Justice League, the U.S. government considers the embassy a threat to national security and after the events of last issue, it’s not hard to understand why. As Black Manta learns more about his rescuers, Black Jack and N.E.M.O., things get drastically worse for Aquaman. A U.S. Navy vessel is sunk with all hands on deck with a group of Atlanteans claiming responsibility and acting in the name of Atlantis. To Mera’s dismay, Aquaman is led away in handcuffs and unlike his often hotheaded characterization over the years he tells Mera to do nothing.
The political drama is intriguing and the parallels to today’s world make this issue more than just a comic book. What works so well is that as readers we know that Aquaman is the good guy and that he’s being set up by an extreme sect of Atlanteans. Aquaman holding back and not giving in to his anger is a nice surprise as it shows him as it’s clear he’s thought things out and is prepared to do what is right to be successful in showing the surface world that the Atlanteans are peaceful and not to blame. Black Manta’s reaction to his rescuers is also surprisingly unique. The pacing also stands out as it starts out matter of fact and increases in intensity.
This is a very strong issue. The only drawback is that it may not appeal to those who don’t enjoy political thrillers as this has taken over substance of the issue.
As good as the first 2 issues have been, Aquaman #3 has gotten even better. The choice to develop the political drama has enable the book to go beyond the basic comic and comment on the world in which we live.