AQUAMAN #23: Geoff Johns and Paul Pelletier
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS.
To say Arthur Curry has had it rough recently would be putting it lightly. Three men who would have his throne are actively in pursuit. Orm, his half-brother, is about to be rescued by a group of Atlanteans, with the intent of putting him on the Atlantean throne. Scavenger has used his military might to overwhelm the Atlanteans, and currently waits to ambush Aquaman. The Dead King comes with his magic powers and the might of Xebel behind him. Issue #23 ends with a whimper, which really kills the momentum behind this potentially great climax.
The action in the issue is provided by the large sea-monster Topo, which is a fun alternative to the normal punching and stabbing. Topo was teased a few issues back, only to leave very anticlimactically, not willing to do Aquaman’s bidding. This time around, Aquaman uses his telepathy to the farthest extent to push Topo to attack Scavenger and his crew. Aquaman soon pays the price for overriding the mind of Topo, as controlling him caused Aquaman to lose consciousness.
Mera and Aquaman deal with the complications of her Xebel-based lineage, albeit abruptly. Johns decides to once again show the power of the love between Mera and Aquaman rather than simply have Aquaman ignore the recent revelation that Mera was promised to another man.
The art is once again fantastic, and Pelletier benefits from having so many scenes in Atlantis itself. This issue we see subs being ripped in half by a giant sea monster, we see a few fistfights, and the more serene shelves and spires of Atlantis itself. Even the scenes on the surface are reminiscent of the early days of this run with Ivan Reis at the helm, which is high praise indeed.
After all this buildup, all the excitement and the interweaving of three stories coming to a head, it all is cut short by Aquaman entering into a six-month long coma from controlling Topo. While this might be good for character development down the line, it still kills all of the momentum built up so far, and this issue fizzles out. There is not a confrontation other than the sea monster attack, and everything at the point of Arthur’s coma is left up in the air. Surely, there will be a recap in the issues to come, but one can’t help but feel a bit cheated.
It is unbelievable how much momentum was built up before this issue, and how it was all wasted. The story is still interesting, and it’s hard to not be interested in the next issue–but it should have all exploded this issue. It feels like unnecessary stretching of material in order to guarantee another 2.99 next month. As a fan of Johns’ run on Aquaman so far, it is hard to say that this was the issue where he lost me the most, as it was the issue I was most excited about.