Aquaman #38 // Review
Aquaman #38, written by Dan Abnett, with art by Riccardo Federici, and colors by Sunny Gho, concludes the Kingslayer arc, and boy has it been a long one. Previously, Aquaman was ousted as King of Atlantis and replaced by the power-mad Corum Rath. Through a series of events in which Arthur tried to raise an army to take Rath down, it was decided that Mera would take over as Queen instead of Aquaman returning to the throne once Rath was removed. But Rath had other plans, and managed to use dark magic to turn himself into a powerful, monstrous creature that even Arthur couldn’t manage to hurt. With his trident broken by Rath in the final pages of the last issue, all seemed lost.
This issue provides a solid conclusion to the Kingslayer arc, but, unless you’ve been reading Mera’s limited series and Dark Nights: Metal, there are some things that come seemingly out of left field and have big impacts on the story. Mera’s intervening in the fight with Rath, and the significant way she does so, is barely explained, outside of a footnote telling you to read her miniseries. Likewise, a huge event concludes the issue, which is a callback to Aquaman’s role in Metal, but if that series took place before this arc, then it has been a long while since Arthur set it in motion. It smacks of editorial interference in Abnett’s story, which is sad, because the final pages seem very much wedged into his story.
Rath, who started out as a pretty bland villain that could have easily been replaced by Ocean Master, evolved into something truly horrific and powerful. And, although he doesn’t come out of this story unscathed, he certainly seems to still be in play. Hopefully, Abnett or another writer down the line will make use of him again, because he could make a great addition to Aquaman’s somewhat weak rogues gallery. Abnett does conclude his story rather oddly, though, as Arthur just seems to let him wander off, instead of taking the extremely dangerous former King into custody. It’s hard to imagine a scenario--even the one provided--where anyone would think that was okay, especially considering Aquaman isn’t the King anymore and has no authority to deal with the punishment, or lack thereof, of criminals.
As mentioned above, even though it was awkwardly introduced, the final pages of this arc push a radically different status quo for Aquaman and Atlantis into place. That status quo itself seems like it could be an exciting new direction for the book, and it will already bring Arthur into direct conflict with the Suicide Squad next issue, so it seems like there is a lot to look forward to in the immediate future of this title.
Federici’s art on the final chapter of this arc was a spectacular as it has been on his entire run on this book. He is the perfect artist for all of the underwater action and magic this title provides, which is why it’s unfortunate that he doesn’t seem to be on art duties for the next issue. Even though the book seems to be taking a new direction, it would be sad to see him go. Hopefully, he’ll either be back soon, or find an even better home on another book. Gho’s colors have also shined in this story, as he is great at making even murky, underwater scenes look luminescent. With all of the magic that has been flying around in this story, he has really stepped up to make the visuals something special.
In the end, Abnett delivered a satisfying ending to what has been an epic story of Aquaman losing his kingdom and fighting to regain it, even if it means he can’t be king anymore. This arc, right down to its mind blowing final pages, has literally changed everything about Aquaman’s current status in the DCU. If Abnett isn’t remembered for being one of the best Aquaman writers of all time, there is no justice.