“Aquaman” #24 by Geoff Johns, Paul Pelletier and Sean Parsons features the penultimate chapter of the seven-part “Death of a King” ongoing story arc; an arc that’s been one of the strongest within an already-impressive title that has consistently been among the best of DC Comics’ output since the New 52 relaunch. Johns provides a satisfying follow-up to the surprising climax of last issue, and manages to throw in an even bigger surprise this time around; he even finds time to squeeze in the origin of Atlantis.
Johns pulls in the reader well before he gets to the big stuff, though. The leadoff narrative not only grabs the reader, but cleverly sneaks in a brief recap of Aquaman’s origin, making this sixth part of a story nonetheless an ideal first comic for anyone not familiar with the character. Or with comics, for that matter, as Johns goes on to provide an excellent example of comic storytelling by telling more about the mythos of Atlantis and then stirring up the waters with a big reveal that will surprise longtime readers and newbies alike.
There’s also a nice explanation of more recent mysteries embedded in the storyline, rewarding those who have been specifically following the title since its relaunch. Not to mention an interesting subtext that parallels American immigration issues that dances pretty close to an even touchier subject, racial purity. Johns doesn’t appear to be making any kind of statement on these issues, instead using them merely as a device to create dissent in an otherwise idyllic Atlantis from long ago.
Of course, Pelletier and Parsons do their part handling the art chores, giving Johns’ story the kind of grandiose splendor that it needs, and deserves. Ancient Atlantis shimmers in its prime, while its destruction is epically tragic, punctuated in a double-page spread separated into panels resembling shards of broken glass. Another double-pager captures a long-frozen but imposing, impressive, and ghostly array of ancient Atlantean monuments that look every bit the larger-than-life artifacts that they’re shown to be. Even more pedestrian elements like a stormy Atlantic Ocean looks threatening.
With no disrespect intended towards future “Aquaman” writer Jeff Parker, it will be a shame to see Johns leave this series after next issue, as this title was one of the big surprise hits when it was restarted two years ago and has been terrific throughout its run. “Aquaman” #24 is representative of all the things that have made this comic great: terrific storytelling, superb artwork, treating an oft-ridiculed character with respect, and staying true to the character’s nature while still freshening things up.