Underworld, Part 5 (Aquaman #29 Review)

Aquaman 29_standard cover

Mera teams up with Tempest to penetrate the Crown of Thrones imprisoning Atlantis! But Aquaman’s ex-sidekick has renounced the magic he learned from The Silent School’s Magisters who are determined to stop him and Mera. Meanwhile, Dolphin struggles to teach Aquaman a valuable lesson.  Plus, Vulko and Ondine fight phantoms in the Catacombs as they hunt for an artifact of power!


Writer:  Dan Abnett

Artist, Colorist and Cover Artist:  Stjepan Sejic

Publisher:  DC Comics

What You Need to Know:

In Part 5 of the UNDERWORLD arc, Aquaman and Dolphin have defeated crime lord Krush’s enforcers and his evil magician Kadaver.  Now he tries to communicate with his mute companion who badly needs to tell him something.  As they labor to overcome their language barrier, Mera and Tempest combine their powers to break the barrier around Atlantis while Vulko and Ondine have been sent on an urgent mission by Mother Cetea of the Widowhood to find a weapon to defeat King Rath.

What You’ll Find Out:

Aquaman and Dolphin stop to catch their breath after their victory over the sorcerer and thugs sent by Krush. Dolphin seems disappointed and Aquaman starts apologizing to her and explaining why he can’t be the King of Atlantis again.  The next page we cut away to Vulko and his new friend/protector Ondine as they’re attacked by the ghostly guardians of the Catacombs beneath the Royal Treasury.  Vulko tries to ward off the last one by calling him by his true name–except the ghost’s face has rotted away so he can’t recognize him thus it continues to come in for the kill.  And then we cut away again to Mera and Tempest as they’re attacked by the Magisters–leaders of the Silent School where Garth trained in the mystic arts.

This issue moves fast, is easy to follow, grabs your attention and holds it.  All 3 segments are compelling and entertaining in their individual ways.

Loke, leader of the Magisters, blasts Mera and taunts Tempest for spending too much time with Aquaman and the surface world.  Garth fights back with a combination of his fists and the few spells he hasn’t forgotten–as well as condemning them for what they did to someone named Syra and saying he hasn’t forgotten her either.  The usurper of Aquaman’s throne, Corum Rath, watches the conflict on a monitor as he’s told that Mera and Garth are being driven away. To which Rath replies that’s not enough; they have to “annihilate them.”

Segueing back to Aquaman and Dolphin, Abnett’s dialogue and artist Stjepan Sejic’s pictures unite in a lovely, lyrical sequence.  Dolphin uses her bioluminescence to trace images in the water with trails of light: the insignias of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman.  Arthur assumes this means she’s implying that besides being a hero, she also wants him to be king again.  This leads right into a clever interplay between words and symbols as Dolphin tries to clarify what she means.

Aquaman 29_scene w Dolphin-JPEG

This brings us to a smart, subtle scene transition. Abnett ends this sequence with the girl who can’t speak and in the next panel opens on a ghost who suddenly can speak.  For after reciting through seven random names trying to guess which one belongs to their spectral attacker, Vulko guesses right: it’s the ancient elder Null who recognizes his old friend and thus regains his voice.  Ondine asks if they should go on, but Vulko is about to give up and says it’s hopeless.  Then Null asks why they’re here which leads to Vulko explaining they seek an ancient artifact to protect Atlantis from evil.  The two friends reminisce about old times because Null says he is lonely…while conveniently walking them to the treasury where the artifact is found:  Aquaman’s trident.

The dialogue in all those scenes flows naturally.  Every character’s pattern of speech sounds like people you would know in real life relating to each other in normal ways.  It’s a refreshing change from many writers of modern comics who try too hard to be witty and end up writing very stilted and awkward dialogue.

The next scene takes us back to Mera asking Garth who Syra was.  He explains the Magisters pushed him too hard and he cast a spell that accidentally killed the girl he loved.  Mera apologizes for asking him to help her by using magic and coming face-to-face with the Silent School again.  Garth stops her and hands her an amulet he stole off of one of the Magisters.  If you go back and look at the previous sequence, Sejic did indeed show the reader the moment he steals it in battle–nice touch!  He tells Mera it will allow her to pass through the Crown of Thrones around Atlantis.  She kisses him, thanks him and says Arthur would be proud of him.  As they leave the grotto they’re hiding in, he dares the Magisters try and catch the Tempest–a distraction that allows Mera to get through the barrier and into Atlantis.

The last few pages of this captivating tale show Arthur agreeing to help Dolphin as Aquaman and save Atlantis since he can be a hero without being a king.  And lastly, the crime boss of the Atlantean underworld, Krush, shows up at the palace gates to warn King Rath that Aquaman is not dead after all. Who is at the gate and what they do when given this information was a shrewd twist I did not see coming which was a nice surprise and a very rewarding ending.

Rating:  8 / 10

Final Thought:

Aquaman is far and away Dan Abnett’s best written book right now. It’s exciting, inventive and full of thought-provoking twists plus great fight scenes and winning dialogue. His Rebirth run on Aquaman has exceeded his New 52 run on the series by leaps and bounds.  Coupled with Stjepan Sejic’s lush and lovely artwork, this is a book that is always at the top of my pile on Wednesdays–and it should be at the top of yours, too.

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