Aquaman is in bad shape. A battle with Shaggy Man has left him looking like Two-Face in scale-mail.
The good that's come out of the situation, though, is that once again the world is recognising that he's not an enemy of the US, but a hero. Which doesn't please Black Manta, whose hostile takeover of global criminal organisation N.E.M.O. has seen him quickly absorb the company handbook.
And he's ready to unleash mayhem in order to make Atlantis the enemy of the surface world.
Writer Dan Abnett's having enormous fun writing the superhero soap that is Aquaman. Take the little touches such as naming a news reporter after the Sea King's creators and the anachronistic 'crikeys' and 'righty-hos' of British navy officer Jo Stubbs. Or the massive metal marvels that turn up towards the end of the issue. There are big moments aplenty, but my favourite pages feature the hospital reunion of Arthur and Mera as she returns from her stay with the Widowhood.
If anyone writes better loving relationships, I need to be reading their comics.
Illustrator Philippe Briones captures every story beat with skill, filling the pages with compelling actors and activity, complementing Abnett's words. He brings the bigness with aplomb but as with the script, it's the smaller moments that impress most, such as this nicely executed angled shot.
Gabe Eltaeb helps the pages pop further, and his gradual darkening of the opening flashback panels is especially effective.
Penciller Brad Walker, inker Andrew Hennessy and Eltaeb give us a good-looking cover image, but it's apparently not been designed with the logo in mind so Black Manta is rather lost. Joshua Middleton's moody variant is stunning, an instant classic.
Eleven issues in and this book shows no sign of losing steam, with one terrific writer and a rotating team of artists, all excellent. It's what a Sea King deserves.