One of the odder things about “Flashpoint,” when you stop to think about it, is that so much of the background of the world is built up over a war that we don’t actually see within “Flashpoint” itself. Aquaman and Wonder Woman’s war is referred to a great deal, but it’s only in the spin-offs that we’re seeing it actually play out, with one of those spin-offs being “Flashpoint: Emperor Aquaman.”
Tony Bedard does a solid job with Aquaman’s story here; we get his slightly tweaked origin (although vast amounts of it remain the same, of course), and learn a little more about how he came to power. And of course, all, the while, the Atlanteans prepare to attack, and we get to see some of Wonder Woman’s forces make their appearance, as well.
It’s all a lead-up to a slightly predictable cliffhanger, with our two characters preparing to finally fight one another, but it still feels like we’ve got some forward movement. Even though we’re catching glimpses of it in these spin-off series, it makes me wish that we’d gotten a stronger focus on the Atlantis/New Themyscira conflict, one detailing their war in much more depth. It’s proving to be a more compelling story thread, even though we’re getting it in small bursts and blips.
Ardian Syaf is off the book this issue (no doubt gearing up for his work on “Batgirl”) but his regular inker Vicente Cifuentes jumps into the pencil position, and the result is a surprisingly seamless transition between the pair. His characters, like Syaf’s, are smooth and full of expression (I love Ocean Master’s sneer on the second page at the thought that his abilities are being doubted), and we’ve got some straightforward and easy to follow storytelling. And maybe it’s just me, but I love the fact that Cifuentes draws baby-Aquaman as pudgy, like so many babies in real life actually look.
“Flashpoint: Emperor Aquaman” ultimately stands out because it’s telling a story that keeps getting hinted at elsewhere, and which feels slightly more interesting than that other book’s main story. I suspect, like so much of “Flashpoint,” it will be primarily forgotten come September. But for now, it’s a pleasant read. That’s enough to have me stick around to the conclusion.