Writer: Rick Veitch
Artists: Yvel Guichet (p), Mark Propst (i)
Publisher: D.C. Comics
As strange occurrences begin playing out upon the planet's oceans, we see Aquaman and his ally the Black Manta race to the site of the final river goddess that the Thirst will target. However while they arrive in time to stop this final attack, a surprise betrayal by the Black Manta tips the fight back into the Thirst's favor, and when an enraged Aquaman lashes out as his old enemy, he falls under the Thirst's evil spell.
A fairly engaging issue that suffers a bit from the general sense that it's using pretty much the same framework that we've seen on the previous three issues. Now, this issue does offer up a betrayal by the Black Manta, but the impact of this surprise twist is largely dependent on how convinced you were by the material leading up to this betrayal. Speaking for myself, I can't say I was overly surprised to see the character revert to his villainous form, as the book was trying a little too hard to convince us that he was cured. Still, this turn of events does result in the story taking a rather unexpected turn as Aquaman lashes out in anger, and this in turn allows the Thirst to take possession of Aquaman. I also have to make mention of the opening scene as it's good to see the JLA have taken notice of the events that are playing out in the pages of this comic, and I rather hope they make an appearance before the arc wraps up, as I rather miss the idea that Aquaman is a member of the big seven. As for the Thirst I'm still a bit unconvinced that he's all that impressive an addition to Aquaman's rogues gallery, as most of his success does seem to be the result of Aquaman's attention being drawn away from the fight, rather than the character putting on an impressive display of power. As for the situation back in Atlantis, it's good to see this situation does look to be reaching critical mass, as the whole disposed king with his kingdom being controlled by evil villains premise has been done to death both in this book, and over in Namor's monthly titles over at Marvel.
As for the art, Yvel Guichet certainly knows how to deliver the big action sequences, as the credit page shot of the city in flames is a very powerful piece of art, as is the one-page shot later in the issue where Aquaman falls victim to the Black Manta's betrayal. The art also offers up a fairly solid shot of the possessed Aquaman as there's very little doubt that he's gone over to the side of evil, with the harsh edges, and generally menacing new look. The art also deserves credit for clearly detailing the action, as there's some fairly complex ideas at play in this issue, and they are all well presented, with the sequence where the Thirst dries up the four rivers being particularly well done. My only concern is that the final page could have done a better job of showcasing the super menace that our villains have created, as that last panel it's not really clear what we're looking at.
I can't say that I was overly surprised when the Black Manta revealed that he was still a villainous bastard, and truth be told I'm rather glad as Aquaman's paltry rogues gallery can't afford to have any of them reform. However, other than this welcome return to form by the Black Manta, this issue is guilty of following the exact same formula that we've been getting for pretty much this entire arc, as we see Aquaman races to prevent the Thirst from absorbing yet another river goddess, and after a brief exchange where it looks like Aquaman might emerge victorious, the situation turns against our hero, and the Thirst adds yet another river goddess to his chalice. Now the next chapter is the big finish so the final moments of the encounter do add another twist as Aquaman is joined with the Thirst, and with Garth busy with the situation back in Atlantis, I'm guessing it will fall upon the JLA to set right this situation. As for the action that is playing out in Atlantis, I have to say that I'm a little concerned that Rick Veitch might have difficulty resolving this rather large scale crisis with only one more issue to go in his run, especially since he would also seemingly have to resolve the Aquaman/Thirst situation.
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