This issue is a prologue to the Throne of Atlantis storyline, which will be crossing over into Justice League. In a lot of ways, this issue is like the calm before the storm and it also serves to foreshadow events that I can’t help but feel transcend this particular upcoming arc. Namely, the part Black Manta will play in things. Writer Geoff Johns introduces us to Aquaman’s brother, Orm, as he suspects Orm may be behind the recent attacks on the surface world. Johns delivers another fascinating character in Orm, depicting the complex relationship between Arthur and his brother. One gets the sense that things haven’t been perfect between them, as Arthur has chosen a life on land, outside his kingdom, while Orm has had to shoulder the burden of ruling Atlantis in his stead.
Despite the misleading cover, this isn’t the Ocean Master version of Orm that we’re already familiar with from the original DC continuity. Not yet, anyway. However, Johns does hint at the villain he may yet become. Instead, we are given a more subtle version of him here, which serves to merely show the reader that Orm holds a way of looking at things which is in contrast to Arthur’s. Orm isn’t the mad Atlantean with a bone to pick that we’re more accustomed to. Here, he’s simply the weary ruler of Atlantis, who is only looking out for the best interests of his kingdom. While this is certainly subject to change in upcoming stories, Johns expertly manages to put their brotherly relationship in perspective in just one issue, to create a more intricate character in Orm. Something similar was done with Aquaman and his relationship to Black Manta, who is apparently up for membership in Amanda Waller’s Suicide Squad, as we discover in this issue.
This story also serves as a great tying together of various plot threads that have been running throughout this series since its inception, all the way from the #0 prequel issue to The Others storyline. We are even shown some of the history of Atlantis, dating all the way back to 1820. This one is a simple, straightforward story, but it’s told in such a manner that it pays off for fans of this series. Johns effortlessly guides the reader through these many plot points, but he never loses sight of the characterizations or the personal touches he’s known for. His run continues to add a richness to the Aquaman myth and the legend of Atlantis in a way we’ve never quite seen before.
New artists Pere Perez and Pete Woods handle the pencilling duties this issue as guest artists, before Paul Pelletier comes on board next month. Perez does a great job in the flashback scenes, while Woods’ renderings of the present day are a real treat. I’ve been a fan of Woods since his Superman days and his style has only improved and matured since then. I really have to praise his detailed facial expressions, particularly from Aquaman, while Orm is depicted more mysteriously, with his face mostly in the shadows. My only complaint is that something looks a bit off with the inking in some panels… which is curious, since five inkers are credited! (Perhaps that’s the problem.) This is only a minor complaint, though.
All in all, this was a great prelude issue, as well as serving as a template for upcoming arcs. I’m very much looking forward to seeing Orm again, as well as more members of Aquaman’s supporting cast, which is hinted at in this story. I do miss Ivan Reis’ art on this title, but I’m fine with him taking over Justice League. I have to admit, I’m not familiar with Paul Pelletier’s work, but I’m certainly willing to give him a chance. I trust Geoff Johns on this title and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. This issue gets a hearty 8.5/10 from me.