Dan Abnett has very easily risen to be one of mainstream comics' best writers. Even after his ended partnership with Andy Lanning, the duo being responsible for the excellent Heroes for Hire series, Annihilation, The Thanos Imperative, and War of Kings as well as bringing Nova and the Guardians of the Galaxy back into mainstream appeal before Brian Michael Bendis took over the latter, Dan Abnett has shown himself to be an equally fantastic solo star with the terribly underappreciated recent Hercules book as well as Titans and Aquaman.
Have Aquaman jokes died down? I certainly hope so. I never found them terribly funny, even before Geoff Johns "made Aquaman cool again" with his deservedly popular stint on the book back at the beginning of the New 52.
I've always found Aquaman to be a cool character. He's a king, he's super strong, and his orange-and-green suit shows a preference for the garish that adds unspoken personality traits beneath the surface. That being said, I never completely grasped who Arthur Curry was as a character until Abnett took over this book. He's shown Aquaman to be a stoic optimist with a bit of a sense of humor and a sensitive underside that he really only shows to his longtime love, Mera. Mera is a really cool character too, by the way, and it's great that she has become a regular co-star on this series.
Today's adventure brings the amphibious hero to a new depth, pun completely intended, as he loses his throne to the Atlantean extremist known as Corum Rath. This is a decision made by the Atlantean high council, showing that the people have turned against Aquaman's intentions of bringing Atlantis to the greater world stage as a friend. Now in charge, Rath begins dabbling in old Atlantean magic so that the nation can show itself as a greater world power. He unleashes a vast barrier around the kingdom, aptly called the Crown of Thorns. Aquaman and Mera have to determine their own future and if they will continue to be part of Atlantis' future.
Aquaman has become an endlessly enjoyable political thriller in addition to a fun super hero series under Dan Abnett. This is something only really shared by Ta-Nehisi Coates' Black Panther and, to a lesser degree, Charles Soules' Uncanny Inhumans. This issue shows Aquaman being pushed to the brink, and he unleashes the rage of a challenged king.
Mera goes through some interesting developments too, as she considers telling Arthur to abandon his homeland forever. She believes Aquaman will choose her over Atlantis, but the reader sees that this would likely not be the case.
Murk, the head of the Atlantean guard, shows a new and unwavering side to himself as well, turning on Arthur and standing with the new decisions of the nation.
The art team is particularly vast on this issue, but the many hands on the wheel do not reduce its quality. This is a great-looking book that appears classic and modern at the same time. The figures are large and epic, but the detail appeals more to new sensibilities of depth and expression. Also, prehistoric marine reptiles are awesome.
Dan Abnett is a master of character development both grand and subtle, and he has managed to raise Aquaman past even its quality during the Geoff Johns era. This book comes highly recommended, as it truly is one of DC's best offerings on the shelves right now.
But really, why is an ancient Atlantean weapon named after a Biblical reference?