Writer: Dan Abnett
Artist(s): Philippe Briones
Colourist: Gabe Eltaeb
Release Date: 20th July 2016
Following an impressive second issue that seemingly put the ongoing rivalry between Aquaman and Black Manta to bed, for the time being at least, this latest chapter of the story sees the fallout from Manta’s shocking assault on Spindrift Station, Arthur’s dry land Atlantean Embassy. From the opening pages it’s clear that tensions are running high, with an aggressive showdown between Murk and the US Soldiers at the site – or former site – of the Station. That theme continues throughout the issue as Arthur travels to Washington to attempt to repair the diplomatic damage, only to wind up in an even worse situation than before.
This ongoing storyline is broken up by a fairly strange sequence which sees Black Manta being introduced to his mysterious captors-slash-rescuers. It seems odd that Abnett is keeping Manta on board after effectively drawing a line under his beef with Arthur at the end of the previous issue, and while this new villainous group has an interesting aesthetic (in an 80s G.I. Joe kinda way) and a cool acronym-based name, their inclusion seems to be muddying the storyline waters just a little at the moment.
My main criticism of this particular issue falls with the artwork, provided here by Philippe Briones. While I can fully appreciate the need to use a rotating team of artists in order to maintain the ambitious fortnightly schedule, Briones’ art unfortunately provides a noticeable dip in quality from the previous work of Brad Walker, Scott Eaton and Wayne Faucher.
While some pages are solid enough, Aquaman himself looks more than a little like a Ken doll at times, a trait which is blindingly obvious during the sequence in Whitehouse where our hero has exactly the same facial expression in every single panel. It’s more than a little jarring, and completely saps all the drama and emotion out of Abnett’s script. The Black Manta action sequence is a little awkward too, featuring some confusing perspectives, and while Briones does draw a fairly expressive Mera, the emotion and flirtation of her exchange with Arthur is once again completely hamstrung by our waxwork-esque hero.
These issues aside, Abnett’s underlying storyline – Arthur trying to advance Atlantis onto the world political stage – has some real legs, so it’s doubly disappointing to see this latest issue derailed by some frankly lacklustre artwork. While it’s certainly not enough to write off a series that has undoubtedly impressed during the early months of DC’s Rebirth, it does however serve as a disappointing stumble for what was shaping up to be an impressive new story.
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