My favorite sequence takes place in a brief interlude which confirms Black Manta's seriousness as a villain. For all the grief Aquaman has received over how lame a superhero he is, I think Black Manta has gotten worse ribbing from the fandom at large. After all, how lame do you have to be to repeatedly get your butt kicked by Aquaman? In previous issues, Geoff Johns showed how Aquaman's true power has been frequently underestimated. Now, he does the same for Black Manta, showing the lethal ingenuity of a man who - like Batman - must face all manner of threats with nothing but his fierce intellect, raw cunning and the best toys money can buy.
The main thrust of the issue centers upon Aquaman having a meeting with his brother. Well, half-brother technically, but they address one another as brother. One revelation we learn in these sequences is that Aquaman's brother rules Atlantis and Aquaman apparently refused the throne. Those who have been reading Aquaman can't help but wonder how this jibes with the story in Aquaman #0, where it appeared that a young Arthur Curry was preparing to lead a violent revolt in Atlantis. Presumably things came to a more agreeable end?
An early scene in this book holds a point of interest for long-time Aquaman fans as well as fans of the classic Teen Titans. Arthur's brother makes mention of a boy with purple eyes named Garth and a prophecy which says that a boy with purple eyes will bring about the end of Atlantis. This is clearly a nod to the original Aqualad, whose name was Garth and who did indeed have purple eyes. Does this mean that Aquaman and Mera will soon be getting a new sidekick? And if so, will the rest of the original Titans, absent from The New 52 thus far, be appearing soon?
You may have noticed at this point that I continue to refer to Arthur's brother as nothing more than Arthur's brother. There is a reason for that. He is not named once in the entire issue - not by his true name nor by the villainous nom de plume he went by in the old universe - The Ocean Master. The artwork also makes a point of shadowing his face or obscuring it, despite his wearing a full helm that almost completely covers his face. This is especially odd given that appears, unobscured, on the front cover.
The artwork of this issue seems somewhat uneven. I suspect this is the end result of employing two pencilers and five different inkers. None of the artwork is bad but the look between pages is inconsistent. Some pages - such as the above throne room scene - are so heavily inked as to be almost completely black. Others, such as the splash page below, seem overly stylized to the point of being cartoonish. I half-expect the fish surrounding Aquaman to begin singing a jolly calypso number about the joys of living below the ocean.
Despite this, I'd still gladly recommend this comic to any curious parties. If you haven't been reading this book before, now is the perfect time to dive in!