Aquaman #14

"Aquaman" over the past six months has slipped from a book I've read eagerly to one that had me wondering if the book would kick back into high gear. With "Aquaman" #14, I feel like Geoff Johns, Pete Woods and Pere Perez thankfully give readers just that.

Billed as a prologue to "Throne of Atlantis" (a crossover starting next month between "Justice League" and "Aquaman"), Johns finally begins to answer questions about the status of Atlantis in the re-launched DC Universe. After a little over a year of coy hints and sly nods, what he presents is not what a lot of readers probably were predicting. It's a pleasant change; suddenly we've got a lot of story possibilities open, and we're quickly seeing that everything we thought we knew about Aquaman and his relationship to Atlantis these days is barely the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

For a book where the only physical conflict doesn't involve the main character at all, there's a surprisingly high amount of tension this month. Johns re-introduces to the New 52 some old "Aquaman" characters, and also brings back an earlier threat from within the current series. The book ends up feeling back on track; portions of story that before had felt truncated now are shown to be building up to this later saga, and just about every piece turns out to have a significant place within the greater puzzle.

Even a brief side story over in Belle Reve Prison feels significant. It does more than just wrap up (for now) Black Manta's story from last month's issue, but in some ways it makes him feel like more of a menace than he did in his introduction. It's a reminder that Black Manta is more than just a guy in a slightly strange looking suit of armor; he's a menace and one to be reckoned with. Cynically it could look like an attempt to include a fight scene in "Aquaman" #14, but regardless it still works well.

Woods and Perez provide the pencils this month (with a large pool of inkers), and the two play off each other rather well. Both draw in clean, open styles, and it helps that they appear to be tackling difference scenes instead of merely jumping in to each hit random pages. The art is at its best when Aquaman and a new face meet next to the wreckage of a ship sunk two centuries earlier. It's a suitably dramatic half-page spread, and it sets the scene for the confrontation as well as wrapping up the opening historical interlude.

It's nice to have "Aquaman" fun again; "Aquaman" #14 reminded me why Johns and Ivan Reis launching the series last year caused so much excitement. If you fell to the wayside recently, "Aquaman" #14 feels like a strong jumping-on point to help give it another try.

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