Corum Rath was a believer in the old ways. Like many in The Ninth Tride of Atlantis, the lowest of the low districts, he resented the efforts of a half-Atlantean king to try and achieve peace with the surface-dwellers that paid no respect to the nation that once ruled the world. That was why Rath formed The Deluge – a group of freedom fighters who would remind the people of the surface what Atlantis was capable of.
His efforts brought him imprisonment, but Rath bore his sentence without shame. He was confident that in time the people would see through the false king and that his way would be seen as right and proper. A group of Atlantean counselors eventually arranged for his freedom, and more, for Corum Rath to become the new King of Atlantis.
Rath has tried to make Atlantis great again, sealing it off to outsiders and driving out those “taint-bloods” unworthy of a place in his shining city. Unfortunately change, even for the better, is not met unopposed and the deposed Aquaman now leads a resistance that has destroyed the barriers that kept Atlantis safe. Thankfully, Rath has learned of a new power that will secure his legacy and bring an end to Aquaman once and for all!
Ignoring the obvious political parallels between current events regarding another paranoid would-be king who is obsessed with destroying the legacy of his predecessor, oppressing a demonized minority and building gigantic walls, Aquaman #34 is a riveting tale of how power corrupts. Granted, the corruption in this case is a literal one caused by Corum Rath’s drawing too heavily off of various magical artifacts, but the metaphor is still a sound one.
Dan Abnett’s script offers a fascinating look inside Rath’s head, as we see that whatever his prejudices, Rath is no fool and is well aware of the manipulations of his supposed servants. This, coupled with a look at Rath’s past as the son of a working-class stone mason, offers new insight into his character, if not sympathy.
At first I was unsure what to make of Kelley Jones’ artwork. Jones is far from a poor artist, having done some fantastic work on series such as The Sandman and Batman: Red Rain. Yet Jones’ style, which is heavily dependent on the use of shadow and heavy inks, seemed to be at odds with the brighter, more realistic artwork we had seen from Riccardo Federici and Stjepan Sejic in earlier issues.
It would spoil too much to explain why Jones proved a perfect choice for this issue. Suffice it to say that Jones’ talents are well-exploited by the issue’s end. More, anyone who enjoys weird horror and a bit of Lovecraftian influence in their stories would do well to check out this issue if only for Jones’ artwork. Suffice it to say that I will continue to watch this series closely and recommend Aquaman #34 to those who have yet to give this series a shot.