From one great story arc to the next, there’s no stopping Jeff Parker and Paul Pelletier it seems. The current arc, Maelstrom, has really done a number on fleshing out Aquaman’s personal history and also that of Atlantis itself. That is indeed something that seems to have carried over from Geoff Johns’ run on the title, and it seems that Jeff Parker is going all-in by showing us more of Atlantis’ past and what really happened to Atlanna, Arthur’s mother, on the night of her assassination. It has been a crazy ride so far and it doesn’t look it is stopping anytime soon.
Last month in Aquaman #37 we saw that Arthur and Mera took a portal from Atlantis to Gorilla City, met up with both Solovar and Grodd, and came to some interesting conclusions. Of course, Grodd is always a treacherous bastard, and he did betray them all at the end of the turn, but that was expected anyway and now we see what happens in the aftermath of that. There are yet more twists in this story, and we see some nice connections with the upcoming Aquaman movie too, a nod to be sure, but still good stuff.
This issue continues Arthur and Mera’s journey to find out the fate of Atlanna, once Queen of Atlantis and mother to both Orm and Arthur. The story of Atlantis’ rulers is long and troubled and it recently became even more so when Arthur discovered that his mother’s tomb was empty, discovered as a result of an investigation into why Atlantis itself was rejecting Arthur on a psycho-genetic level. The story has been pretty damn fascinating up until now, and in this issue we see that everything gets murkier.
From Gorilla City we make our way to somewhere in Polynesia as Arthur, Mera, Dr. Shin, Solovar and David find a working portal that was a part of Atlanna’s escape from Atlantis during the assassination attempt on her. An attempt that, I might add, was orchestrated by her as a means of escape. Kind of messed up that, but also very intriguing on lots of levels. This is the nod I was referring to above that writer Jeff Parker makes with the upcoming Aquaman since the movie’s lead, Jason Momora is an actor of Polynesian descent. Nice touch that one.
But in Polynesia there are only more mysteries and we see Arthur fight against the… Stone-Magma (?) giants as pictured on the cover, who are protecting yet another portal. Kind of a roundabout way to go with this whole thing, but I think that it is pretty significant actually since it shows how far and how thoroughly Atlanna wanted to escape, even though no one at the time knew that she had escaped.
The final few pages of this issue, coming on the heels of some really great action and dialogue and story, really mess with your head. The Atlanteans of old were masters and dabblers of some really exotic sciences and technologies and this issue and indeed the arc entire pay homage to that idea. Arthur and Mera follow the breadcrumbs and what they find in the end, well, it truly shocks them and though I was confused about the whole thing myself (slightly), I was also excited because Jeff Parker had beaten my expectations yet again.
That’s what Jeff Parker’s run on the title in the last year and a half all comes down to really, challenging reader expectations and doing something really incredible with all of it. And we get to learn more about Atlantean history and culture, so that’s a nice fat bonus as well.
Paul is the penciller here with Sean Parsons and Sandra Hope on inks, Rain Beredo on colours, Travis Lanham on the letters and the cover itself by Paul, Sandra and Rain. Maelstrom has been an incredible opportunity for this creative team, doing a lot of things that the title hadn’t done before in its New 52 incarnation, such as the scenes in Gorilla City among others, and they continue on a high in this one as well. Whether it is Arthur and Mera’s big showdown with the stone giants or the final page revealing the possible fate of Atlanna, the art here is pretty damn good from all angles. Sure, there’s a bit of a slip-up here and there but that’s pretty minimal.
Next issue is going to be the final piece of this puzzle I think, but either way we are not far from the end, and I’m damn excited to see how it is all going to shake out.