Arthur Curry is a man of two worlds yet he has never truly been a part of either one. He is mistrusted and mocked by the surface world he defends as part of the Justice League. And since being crowned King of Atlantis for a second time, he has faced opposition from his own people in his plans to strengthen relations with the other nations of the world.
Foremost in this opposition is The Deluge – a terrorist group led by the vicious Corum Rath. A staunch traditionalist with a deep hatred of the surface world, Rath objects to Arthur Curry’s rule for many reasons beyond his being half-surface dweller and the bastard son of the former Queen. Rath contends that Aquaman shows little concern for the traditions of Atlantis and more concern for the people of other nations than he does his own. The fact that he has taken Mera – a refugee from the Atlantean penal colony nation of Xebel – as his consort and means to make her his queen is only the final insult.
Unfortunately, in the wake of recent events , Rath’s arguments have found footing among the Council of Elders. Now Rath has been freed from the Royal Dungeons on their orders. More, The Council have called for a contest so that Arthur can prove his worthiness to rule or die trying!
After delving into science-fiction/horror with the H2-0 story arc, Dan Abnett returns Aquaman to the realm of politics with Aquaman #23. Even without one of The Deluge soldiers shouting “Not our king!” in the midst of battle, it would not be difficult to see the political parallels between current events in the United States and the conditions in Aquaman’s kingdom as Crown of Atlantis opens.
While not as overtly political as other DC Rebirth titles (Benjamin Percy’s Green Arrow comes to mind), the earliest issues of Abnett’s Aquaman run did evoke memories of The West Wing in how Arthur Curry had to play politics while facing multiple attacks on many fronts. Here, we see the problems of isolationism discussed and while The High Council may differ in precisely why they want nothing to do with other nations, the attitude is the same as those who object to the United States taking on the role of the world’s policeman or being part of the UN.
The artwork is similarly subtle. Scot Eaton fits a surprising amount of detail into each panel, from the clothing of the various characters to the way that their hair moves, tossed about more as the characters become angrier or more frantic in their movements. Wayne Faucher takes a light touch with the inks, barely outlining the figures and offering little in the way of shading. The colors by Gabe Eltaeb are suitably vibrant and eye-catching.
If you have yet to give this book a try, Aquaman #23 is a perfect entry point to the world of Atlantis. The writing is as complex and action-packed as any political thriller. The artwork flat-out looks amazing. This is one of the best books on the stands and that’s no fish story!