Writer: Rick Veitch
Artists: Yvel Guichet (p), Mark Propst (i)
The book opens with Rodunn, captain of the Atlantean guards, returning to Atlantis to report Aquaman's escape to the surface, but we see he's quickly given a chance to redeem himself, as he's given a suit of armor that will allow him to travel to the surface, and he's also given a mystically altered sea lamprey to command. We then look in on Aquaman who is rather pleased to discover the lighthouse water supply is drawn directly from the ocean, so he has access to the mineral rich waters without having to enter the ocean itself, where he would have to deal with the openly hostile sea life. After we see Aquaman manages to get a helpful bit of knowledge about the various access points that allow him to make return visits to the Secret Sea, we see he is soon given cause to make use of this knowledge, as he is attacked by Rodunn. While the mystical abilities of his new hand allow him to make quick work of Rodunn's armor, we see Aquaman does fall victim to the bloodsucking grip of the massive sea lamprey, which leaves him in a very bad way. However, a visit to the healing waters of the Secret Sea have Aquaman back on his feet for the second round, and we see he is forced to come to Rodunn's rescue when the man is attacked by the sea lamprey.
I must say I'm really growing to dislike the new hand and its ability to provide the ideal solution to whatever threat Aquaman comes up against, but this issue adds another element to the mix that I must confess I dislike even more. This would have to be the various portals into the Secret Sea that Aquaman discovers in this issue, as first the idea introduced in a highly clumsy fashion by a supporting player who conveniently happens to have chosen the subject as her minor at university. What has me disliking the concept is that they provide Aquaman with instant access to super-fast healing waters. So now we have Aquaman with a magic hand that effectively robs this book of its ability to present an entertaining fight, as all Aquaman has to do is lay this hand upon the threat and it is no more, but should this threat actually manage to land the first attack, Aquaman has convenient access to portal that will allow him to instantly recover from whatever damage he may have taken. I don't like story elements that remove elements of excitement from a book, and based on what we've seen thus far that is exactly what these additions have done. Either these new powers have to go, or Rick Veitch needs so stop using them the deliver the easy out.
One thing this issue does manage to address is the idea of Mera, as when this series began I was rather curious as to why Mera had suddenly adopted a let's kill Aquaman policy, but this issue opens with a scene where it would appear Mera may be acting under the influence of another. In fact it would appear that she is under the control of a group of powerful sorcerers, who are basically using Mera as a figurehead to give their orders a level of credibility. This in turn cast Mera into the role of damsel in distress, and since she is being held in the very center of the enemies stronghold, which is surrounded by a ocean of sea life that are all programed to take an aggressive stance toward Aquaman, Rick Veitch does look to have crafted a pretty exciting scenario. The next issue box also nicely hints at a fairly clever solution that will allow Aquaman to at the very least get a look at how the situation stands with Mera, which in turn will act as a motivating factor when he decides to make the rescue attempt. This issue also manages to show us that these sorcerers do have the means to strike at Aquaman on the land, and with their ability to mutate sea life, I can see how they would be able to lash out at the surface world, to get at Aquaman.
Yvel Guichet has a fairly exciting style that lends itself quite nicely to the more energetic segments of the issue. However, which there is a nice sense of energy to the work, the art does have some problems with it comes to expressing what is happening on the page. I mean there's a shot where Aquaman looks to have avoided an attack, but the next panel shows us he had been nailed, and in a key moment of this issue, we see the massive sea lamprey that was created to attack Aquaman suddenly decides to attack it's own rider, but the creatures' attack method is different from what it had been earlier in the book. Still the art does have its moments, such as the opening sequence which conveys a nice sense of evil, as we see Mera caught in the thrall of a spell, that seems to leave her little more than a puppet. The initial attack of the sea lamprey upon Aquaman is also quite impressive, as the panel of its arrival on page twelve is a great looking shot. I also enjoy Aquaman's trip into the Secret Sea, as it has a nice surreal quality to it, and while I don't like the healing aspect of the idea, it is a visually engaging concept. I also should make mention of Aquaman's new look, as while I miss the beard, he doesn't look that bad on the final page of this issue.
I want to like this book as I've been a fan of Aquaman since I was a wee little fanboy, and it's great to see DC giving the character another shot at a monthly series. However, Rick Veitch has added elements to the character that I truly can't get excited about, as the additions that he's made largely serve to leech away any excitement this book is able to generate. I mean it's difficult to get excited about a fight, when Aquaman is able to take out his opponent simply by touching them with his new "ideal solution for any problem" magic hand. Now there's some mildly amusing moments in this issue, as Aquaman attempts to reveal his true identity to a member of his supporting cast, and one has to smile at the final request that he makes of Rodunn. However, there's also a rather awkward comedic miscue when Aquaman shows off his haircut. There's also a very clumsy bit of writing as Rick Veitch lays the groundwork for the portals into the Secret Sea, using a supporting cast member.
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