Aquaman #39 // Review
Aquaman #39, written by Dan Abnett, co-plotted by Rob Williams, with pencils by Joe Bennett, inks by Vicente Cifuentes, and colors by Adriano Lucas, is part two of the Sink Atlantis arc, which officially kicks off the “invasion” of Atlantis. Previously, Atlantis rose out of the ocean due to the fallout of the events of Dark Nights: Metal, and now it is sitting off the coast of the good ol’ U.S.A.
On the surface (no pun intended) of this story, you don’t have to have read the first part that took place in last week’s Suicide Squad, but there is an important detail that it does provide: the President of the United States has ordered the military to stand down so he can handle the Atlantis situation diplomatically, but a rogue General has ordered Amanda Waller’s Task Force X to move forward in a very extreme way. Without reading that issue, it just seems like the Suicide Squad is acting on official orders. Now, they have infiltrated Atlantis with a magical nuclear bomb that will surely destroy everything and everyone in the city, and since they didn’t find out that killing civilians (including kids) was their mission until they were inside Atlantis, it causes some turmoil within the team about whether or not they should carry out their orders. Meanwhile, Mera has just finished her coronation as the new Queen, and Aquaman is obsessing over the protection of Atlantis, sure that someone is going to attack them.
Abnett does a spot-on job of the characterization of the Squad in this issue, which was a relief, because, with these types of crossovers, the characters’ voices can tend to change from chapter to chapter, given that two or more writers are handling them. That’s not the case here, as Abnett and Williams work seamlessly together. Most of the issue hinges on the in-fighting between Harley and Deadshot and the rest of the Squad, and whether or not they are going to detonate the bomb that will sink Atlantis, so it was important that they feel the same way they do when Williams was writing them in the previous chapter. Lucky for the readers that they’re dealing with Abnett, who is a veteran of ragtag, quirky teams who don’t always get along.
The relationship between Aquaman and Mera is well-handled in this issue, too. Abnett portrays a Mera who seems to be born to the role of Queen, and Aquaman, who, instead of being bitter about losing the throne, has decided to throw himself fully into the protection of Atlantis and his Queen. Arthur may be subconsciously deciding to use that as an excuse to not deal with his emotions, because he skipped out on Mera’s coronation, but his inability to process those feelings turns out to be an advantage for the kingdom when he discovers the Suicide Squad’s infiltration. Abnett also shows that his two leads are going to need some time to adjust to their new situation. They love each other, but Aquaman is used to being the king, so when he hides behind plausible deniability to explain his lack of communication with Mera, it causes some friction. With the last issue of Aquaman, it seemed like this rising of Atlantis might have been forced onto Abnett, given the way it was shoehorned into the final moments of his arc, but you wouldn’t know it in this issue, because he has woven his characters and story into the situation effortlessly while also working with Williams on a crossover tale.
There’s a new art team this issue, and they had big shoes to fill after Riccardo Federici and Sunny Gho killed it on the last arc. Fortunately, Bennett was more than up for the task, as he brings his strong pencil work to the book. He had a lot to deal with this issue, including a ton of characters (all the main Atlantis crew, plus the Suicide Squad), a good bit of acting in low-key dramatic scenes, and then the action between the Squad’s infighting and Aquaman coming to stop them, but Bennett stepped up to the plate, bigtime. Not only does every panel look amazing, but he delivers a clear, crisp, well laid out story, which is hard to do, considering the amount of characters he’s having to cram onto some of his panels. Cifuentes and Lucas, on inks and colors, also do a wonderful job showing us the difference in Atlantis now that it is sitting on the surface of the ocean. The opening shot alone, of Mera sitting on the throne with the sun behind her, and then transitioning to jets flying over the city in the daylight was impressive. That, in contrast with the darker depths of the Ninth Tride, still underwater, makes for a beautiful book, and it couldn’t have been pulled off without this stellar art team.
All in all, this was an enjoyable book that mixes the fun of a crossover with the epic change that Atlantis is going through in a very organic way, thanks to the storytelling of Abnett and Williams. As stated above, crossovers are hard. Different writing or art styles can wreck the flow of a story, or the whole premise can feel forced just to get certain characters together. There are no such problems here. An Aquaman/Suicide Squad crossover might seem like an odd choice, but it makes perfect sense within the context of the story, and the writers are squeezing every last drop of fun out of the premise while giving readers a huge change in the status quo of Aquaman’s book. It’s a good time to be an Aquaman fan, because Abnett is all about moving the character forward and keeping him on his toes with every arc. If that’s what you like in a story, jump aboard now.