With “Throne of Atlantis” wrapped and Aquaman holding court for his deposed half-brother, Orm, Geoff Johns uses “Aquaman” #17 as a both a recap and a primer for both readers and recently new artist on the title, Paul Pelletier. The artist came on board just as “Throne of Atlantis” launched and “Aquaman” became more an auxiliary “Justice League” book than the title featuring one lone character.
That said, Pelletier isn’t limited to just drawing Aquaman in this issue, but there’s no question that Aquaman is the critical figure in this month’s drama. Johns, who has worked toward building Aquaman’s world since issue #1 continues to do so, adding characters and circumstances that are more relevant to the recently crowned King of Atlantis. This issue introduces Murk, the leader of the Men of War for Atlantis. Pelletier plays up the Atlantean and pirate tropes to the fullest, with a weapon replacing a hand, a missing eye and barnacles growing on Murk’s shoulders. The artist also presents the first appearance in the relaunched DC Universe of Dane Dorrance and Judy and Nick Walton — the Sea Devils — who have a personal beef to pick with Aquaman.
The crown jewel of “Aquaman” #17 is a double-page spread where Aquaman makes his vow to his subjects, which completely exposes the soul of the titular character and illuminates a driving force for this title. It also provides a stunning piece of art that showcases Pelletier’s skills quite nicely in what is certain to become one of the most recent additions to the wallpaper thread on the CBR forums. The art doesn’t stop with Pelletier or even Sean Parsons’ rich inking. Rod Reis is as integral to the visual magnificence of “Aquaman” as he was with the previous art team. He adds stunning sparkles on Aquaman’s uniform and Mera’s, and fills the depths with ghostly tones and shadows. The art team has accepted the challenge from Ivan Reis and Joe Prado and rises to the occasion. This is still one of the prettiest books DC publishes every month.
With the wrap-up and the set-up that Johns pours into “Aquaman”#17, this feels much more like a zero issue, and both sets the table and preps adventures to come while addressing all aspects of the character. Johns provides glimpses into the bureaucracy that Aquaman is faced with now that he has assumed the role of Atlantis’ leader. We also see the character’s dedication to fighting for what is right, regardless of others’ perceptions. Aquaman takes a call from Cyborg, illustrating the Justice League connections and addresses the Atlantean army and their desire for a strong leader. The crux of this issue, however, is how Aquaman addresses Amanda Waller’s question, “Who are you fighting for?” That answer defines this Aquaman. I’m excited to see where Johns takes the King of the Seven Seas from here.