Aquaman #33, by writer Dan Abnett and artist Riccardo Federici, with breakdowns by Rick Leonardi, concludes “The Crown Comes Down” arc. This is mostly an action issue, but it really covers a good bit of ground, storywise, and provides some memorable moments in Aquaman history. Arthur must infiltrate Atlantis and bring down King Rath’s Crown of Thorns, which is a magical barrier over the kingdom. The urgency, which has Aquaman acting borderline savage in this issue, is that Mera is dying from a magical spell that makes her unable to breathe underwater, and she can’t be healed, unless she can make it back to the surface world.
Abnett manages to show a side of Aquaman we rarely get to see in this issue, which is filled with rage, and brutal to the point of being slightly disturbing. Having lost his throne to a usurper, all he has left is his wife-to-be, Mera, and he stands to lose her too, if he doesn’t act fast. Abnett has put Arthur in a position where losing is not an option, and the former king proves he is definitely not just the guy that talks to fish. His eyes even glow with the magic of his trident as he and his small band of warriors invade Atlantis, violently beating back any opposition. Some readers might recoil at the thought of Aquaman being so harsh in his methods, but this is not the regal King Arthur of recent years. Instead, we are dealing with a man that is being forced to fight for everything that he cares about in the world. Seeing the undersea hero in such rare form is worth the price of this book alone.
Abnett has also managed to make an anti-hero out of King Shark in this arc. Plumbing the depths of a character previously known for being a delusional, ultra-violent, killing machine is quite a feat, but in giving King Shark an area of Atlantis (the Ninth Tride) and a group of people to care about, he is finally in a position to grow and become something more. King Shark riding in to help Aquaman in his time of greatest need was definitely one of the more satisfying moments of the issue.
Federici and Leonardi also do a great job with the art in this leg of the storyline. They deliver on what is essentially a full issue of action, with spectacular choreography, and clear storytelling. The ample violence could have been jarring, especially in the context of an Aquaman book, but they managed to show enough carnage without making it gory, giving perfect balance in an issue where it is important to show how far Arthur was willing to go to save the woman he loves. All of this was elevated even more by Sunny Gho on colors. With so much magic flying on both sides of this book’s battle, and Aquaman’s eyes literally glowing with power, the entire issue seemed illuminated, and it really added to the epic scale of the action.
In the end, even though this was mostly an action issue, with very little character work going on, the creative team pulled it off very well. The warrior side of Aquaman was fun to indulge in, even if only for an issue or two, but it also leaves the reader wondering whether this might be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Arthur’s anger. Between that hint at the darker side of Aquaman, and the inevitable showdown between him and King Rath next issue, it’s shaping up to be an extremely exciting time to be a fan of the underwater hero.