Aquaman #40 // Review
Aquaman #40, written by Rob Williams and Dan Abnett, with pencils by Joe Bennett, inks by Vicente Cifuentes, and colors by Adriano Lucas, concludes the unlikely Suicide Squad/Aquaman crossover “Sink Atlantis,” in which the Squad attempts to do just that. Previously, Task Force X was sent to a recently-resurfaced Atlantis by a rogue United States general in order to sink it with a magical nuclear bomb. Lucky for Atlantis, not every member of the team was down for killing a bunch of innocent Atlanteans, including children, so the plan went upside down. Now, with the Squad split and Aquaman looking for the bomb, everybody must work together to stop Lord Satanus and his crew from destroying the city.
Unfortunately, while most of this story arc was tightly woven and well laid out by the writers, the conclusion seemed to be missing any kind of important beat for Aquaman himself. In fact, most of this story really revolves around Task Force X finally finding a line they won’t cross, and the rise of Lord Satanus as a real threat. All of that is handled nicely, but outside of the previous issue of Aquaman, where he struggled with his new role as protector of Atlantis, rather than king, he hasn’t had much to do but fight. Even Mera, now the Queen of Atlantis, manages to outshine the star of the book, taking charge of the diplomatic side of the situation, holding the U.S. responsible for their actions, and even being key in bringing the rogue general behind the assault on her kingdom to justice. This all stems from Aquaman’s recent loss of the throne, it seems, because Abnett is struggling to find Aquaman important things to do as a simple soldier dedicated to protecting Atlantis.
Now, for the real stars of this arc: the Suicide Squad. They shined in every issue, and especially the final one. From Harley and Deadshot deciding mass murder isn’t a line they want to cross, to Lord Satanus proving he is a major player in the world of villainy, to Master Jailer’s (aka Carl) mini-arc on the road to becoming a hero, to Amanda Waller playing dangerous political games behind the scenes, all the hallmarks of a great Suicide Squad story were there. There was even a death, which could be argued is the most quintessential ingredient for a Task Force X adventure. As a Suicide Squad story, this would be rated an A. This isn’t supposed to be just a Suicide Squad story, though. They’re supposed to be sharing top billing with Aquaman, and, while there is plenty of development for Mera and Atlantis, there is zero-to-no development for the man from Atlantis himself.
The pencils of Joe Bennett are an odd fit for this issue. His take on Aquaman is less than stellar, but he shines in other characters, like Mera and Killer Croc. His hands were also tied in certain areas, such as having to have the Squad in underwater suits. In the wide shot panels, it’s hard to tell who is who sometimes because of this. Bennett is a fine penciler, but this is not the book for him. Similarly, Cifuentes seems to struggle with Bennett’s pencils. Cifuentes is normally a good inker, but his style clashes with Bennet’s this issue, and both suffer for it. The colors of Lucas, on the other hand, shine brightly in several scenes, especially when magic is being used, like the fight with Aquaman and Lord Satanus, and when Master Jailer leaps into action.
In the end, this was an enjoyable issue, but by far the weakest of the arc. With a lack of any kind of development for Aquaman, and a focus on action instead of character to wrap up the story, it was a less than satisfying concluding chapter. Yes, everything wraps up neatly, but it still felt like Abnett and Williams were just going through the motions of ending the story, rather than providing a big finish.