Aquaman Vol. 4: Death of a King (The New 52)
Writer: Goeff Johns
Artists: Paul Pelletier, Sean Parsons and Rod Reis.
Collects: Aquaman #17-19 and #21-25
If there’s a way to justify the New 52, it’s Aquaman. DC creative chief and resident god, Geoff Johns injected new life into the character the same way that he did to Green Lantern. This time, he took Aquaman out of the water; proving that the king of the seas can hold his own when out of water.
And after three volumes, Johns put him back in the water.
*sigh* here goes…
A good final volume in an author’s run should tie up all elements of the arc he/she has written. It should remind us of everything that we enjoyed about the previous volumes and hype the intensity up to the max. Death of a King does these things, but a rushed ending leaves Johns’ run feeling like it lost steam.
|Now, where's the Jamaican crab?|
So Aquaman, Arthur Curry is the official king of Atlantis. And it’s everything he thought it would be. The surface world doesn’t trust him, the Atlantians follow him only because they have to, and now Atlantian weapons are popping up all over the surface. In the meantime, the former king of Atlantis has risen and is looking to take back his throne.
The whole story absolutely smacks of Johns trying to write a cross between Game of Thrones and The Little Mermaid. To a certain point, it works. Characters have their own agendas. There’s dissention in the ranks. Love triangles are even a part of the story, and it all results in an underwater world that feels fleshed out. There’s a hint of fantasy/sci-fi to this weird world existing parallel to our own and I can only credit Johns for letting readers figure it out rather than having to have their hands held the whole way through. It’s nice when writers assume you’re smart, and that just what Johns has done with this world.
The book introduces a bunch of new characters. We have the Atlantian version of a US Marine; Murk, Tula; the sister of Orm and Swatt; an Atlantian who can’t breathe underwater and loves surface world stuff. Under a new writer, these guys would feel very hard to get used to and would be a bad choice for a last volume, but Johns writes them in a way that you’re surprised they haven’t been part of the series the whole time.
The art remains as strong as it always has been. I’ve complained before about the DC house style looking too much like Jim Lee’s work, but it does make a change in artist less daunting. And Aquaman is one of those books that kinda needs that Jim Lee, cinematic, ohmygoodnesslookatthatseasmonster kind of impact.
None of that, however, goes to rectify the biggest problem in Death of a King, and that’s that there’s way too much going on. Like John’s end of his Green Lantern run, the final issue in particular feels like a mad dash to the finish line, when a scenic stroll would have been more appropriate. We jump forward six months to when Atlantis is overrun by villains, but never get the full extent of why that’s so bad for the Atlantians, because Johns gives himself too much to do in only a few issues.
Still, it’s a fine end to a great series, so Death of a King gets a four out of five little mermaids.
+ Well-developed world.
+ Some genuinely intriguing characters.
+ Art has plenty of impact.
- Story is rushed toward the end.
Alternate Option: Aquaman: The Trench
Like DC keeps telling you to do, start at the beginning.