Wonder Woman and Aquaman, a match made in mythology. The heirs to fabled kingdoms, willing to undertake a marriage of state to strengthen their realms in the eyes of a world they're rejoining after thousands of years apart. She the finest of the Amazons, he the greatest son of Atlantis.
But when the leaders of two isolationist lands decide to come into the sun, there are bound to be dissenters. And so it is that on the day Diana and Arthur are to exchange vows, Queen Hippolyta of Themiscyra is murdered by the tossed trident of an unseen assassin.
Garth, Aquaman's ward, is framed and killed, as the murderer is revealed to the reader as the Amazon Artemis, at the behest of Diana's aunt, Penthesilea. But the latter isn't working alone, she's hand in hand with Aquaman's brother, Lord Orm. And Hippolyta wasn't the target, it was Diana.
What a tangled web writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning weave in this first of a three-part Flashpoint tie-in series. The machinations of state have rarely seemed as fascinating in comics as they do here, with the arranged marriage making perfect sense; Diana and Arthur don't profess love, but it's obvious that they're open to the possibility (click to enlarge image).
They're fascinated by one another the moment they meet, as the young Aquaman helps the future Wonder Woman fight off a 'baby' sea monster. As written by DnA and, especially, as illustrated by Scott Clark and David Beaty, the characters produce a chemistry that would dazzle the world. This charismatic couple could win round the doubting outsiders who see a marriage of state as merely a marriage of convenience, a negative. Sadly, they aren't allowed the opportunity.
Diana has an appeal here she's not displayed in her comic for quite a while. She's the young adventurer who doesn't need the excuse of a good-looking man to prompt exploration of the outside world. In her tiny boat, seeing a jet and an an ocean liner for the first time, does she quake with fear and talk of clockwork birds and whales? Does she heck – she laughs, excited at the wonders to be discovered. And Arthur has an open heart and a wisdom beyond his years. Hippolyta, Orm, Artemis, Garth and Penthesilea, in their brief scenes, are similarly believable, perfectly filling their roles.
And as drawn by Clark and Beaty, they all look magnificent. The royals and warriors on either side appear stately and martial, rather than sexy slave girls and Disney mer-folk. The Atlanteans in particular benefit from Clark's design sense – the last time they looked this good was in the Neal Pozner/Craig Hamilton Aquaman mini of decades ago. While I'm less keen on the occasional Photoshopped-in temples and transport – they look off against the hand-drawn artwork – if that shortcut is what gave Clark time to draw such beautiful figures, I can live with it.
It's good to see what really happened on the aborted wedding day after hearing a skewed view of events in last week's Emperor Aquaman #1. The Themiscyra/Atlantis war isn't the first to be based on a lie, and I'm dying to see what the real story is behind the Amazons' supposed slaughter of millions of UK citizens.
Abnett, Lanning, Clark and the entire creative team do such an excellent job with this issue, it's a shame they never got a crack at a regular Wonder Woman or Aquaman series. They conjure up appealing characters and send them out to play in a fascinating world, something they could have done in the regular DC Universe. The starting point would have been different – Diana and Arthur are long past being young enough for a dynastic pairing – but I don't doubt a memorable run would have ensued. Still, Editorial can't know which creative teams gel with which characters until they test them. Having seen this issue, I trust DC will bear them in mind for future Wonder Woman and Aquaman stories.
Meanwhile, there's more of the world of Flashpoint to explore …