Aquaman #32 is part two of The Crown Comes Down arc, and it has a lot going on to advance the story, but very little excitement. The issue picks up with Aquaman in the slums of Atlantis, also known as the Ninth Tride, as he asks King Shark and his gang for help bringing down King Rath and his magical barrier over Atlantis. King Shark has no great love of Rath, but he doesn’t trust Arthur either, so he is not convinced helping would be in his best interests. This is an enjoyable scene, if only because King Shark is always fun to have around. He’s one of DC’s craziest characters, and a welcome addition to the Aquaman cast, whether he moves forward as an antagonist or supporting character.
Although, this issue is mostly talk, it does have a good bit of drama. In particular, the storyline with Mera, and her sudden inability to breath underwater ratchets up the tension a lot. The whole situation is brought on by Mera having used a damaged magic pendant to pass into Rath’s barrier. When it backfired, she was left gasping for breath. After she is temporarily saved by Arthur and the Widowhood, she is left with a limited time to get back to the surface, or she will die. This provides the entire drive of the issue, as Aquaman is willing to risk everything to save Mera.
When Cetea and the Widowhood suggest that Mera is the only person worthy to rule Atlantis once Rath is dethroned, the tension is wound even tighter, as this would mean Aquaman and the love of his life would have to part ways. Arthur, understandably unhappy about the notion of losing Mera to the throne, decides to get her opinion on the subject. This leads to the most touching scene of the book, as Mera tells Arthur that she would much rather leave Atlantis and grow old with him in their lighthouse. Unfortunately, her sense of duty won’t allow her to do that. This is a such a nice piece of writing for two characters who never can seem to find stability or happiness. Again, they are being ripped apart by circumstances beyond their control. Mera reacts with a sense of calm and poise, and Aquaman reacts with denial and anger. He refuses to accept that he might be losing Mera, and this leads to a stunning final page that will leave you on the edge of your seat.
If you jumped off this title some time after Geoff Johns left, now is the time to come back to it. Dan Abnett is doing a fine job weaving a story of politics, and Arthur being caught between what he wants and what his duty is.
Riccardo Federici (artist) and Rick Leonardi (breakdowns) must be complimented, as well. They did stellar work on this issue, and they have really sold this newest look for Aquaman, which is a sort of compromise between the classic look, and the bearded badass from the 90’s. It’s the best of both worlds, and these two artists pull it off nicely.
All in all, this book was trying to accomplish a lot in a limited amount of space. Essentially, the entire issue is a series of conversations about the fate of Mera and Atlantis. In lesser hands this could have been completely, mind-numbingly boring, but with Abnett it just seems like a slightly slower issue necessary for setup. It could have used at least one big action sequence purely for pacing purposes, but the next issue will probably be heavy on the fighting, so it can be forgiven. The creative team definitely has my interest for the next issue, based on the last page alone.