[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Dan Abnett
Artist: Stjepan Sejic
Down in the Ninth Tride of Atlantis, Dolphin attempts to break through Aquaman’s self doubt and convince him he is the very help that everyone in Atlantis needs.
Meanwhile, underneath the Royal Treasury, Vulko and Ondine flee from a faceless specter that Vulko cannot initially identify. When he finally does, it ends up being an old acquaintance of Vulko’s who helps them find the specific item they’re looking for.
Beyond the confines of the enchanted walls, Mera and Tempest battle Atlantean magicians. Tempest shares with Mera why he gave up magic moments before enacting his plan to breach the barrier.
Krush decides it’s time to reveal to Rath that the true king is still alive.
This arc has had really great moments between Mera and Tempest and this issue keeps up with that pattern well. We see Tempest’s inner battle with magic and quickly understand why he chose to leave magic behind.
From the moment Corum Rath took the throne for himself, there has been really little to show that the man is actually evil. In fact, he ultimately looks like a better leader than Arthur Curry. But this issue finally shows a glimmer of his intolerance of any opposition.
From the moment Geoff Johns reintroduced Aquaman in the New 52, he gave Aquaman more self-doubt than he had ever had previously. It worked, not only to distinguish him from other superheroes, but it also made Aquaman more accessible for audiences who found Aquaman to be a joke. However, I feel this particular arc takes that self doubt a little too far.
Aquaman comes across as an angst-ridden, defeatist and not someone I would ever actually want to rule my country. Self-doubt is natural and plays well in writing, but too much and he seems pointless and almost validates the old jokes about him being useless. I’m not saying he should be Batman or Hal Jordan confident, but he does need to have a more heroic element to him to be believable as a superhero and/or a king that leads an entire nation. Fortunately, any issues I have with the characterization can still be resolved in the next issue.
I have a small issue with the actual characterization of Aquaman himself, but overall this issue and the arc as a whole has been a really interesting take on Atlantis and its politics. I’m really looking forward to the next issue and seeing how Abnett ties it all together.