The Weapons Dealer
In this issue, Aquaman and the Atlantean army are reclaiming and disposing of all the lost Atantean firearms around the seven seas, the ones that haven't made it to the surface yet to be specific. Knowing that there are air-breathing pirates stealing the Atlantean weaponry and selling them at the highest prices possible to meet their personal satisfactions, Arthur will have to act fast before the firearms fall into the wrong hands. However, the weapons dealer is already distributing them to the wrong kinds of people and thus making the surface world more of a dangerous threat to not only Atlantis and the open seas, but also to themselves. In order to receive direct intel on an idea to whom might the treasure hunting pirates be, Aquaman has been convinced to get advice from Vulko, who practically knows about every activity that goes on in the underwater world having once been a loyal and trustworthy advisor to the throne of Atlantis. Now, it's up to King Arthur and his army to track down the air-breathing pirates before things get a lot worse for the two separated worlds.
Geoff Johns introduces quite a few characters from Atlantis into the New 52 series as well as already established characters in Aquaman mythos (couple in particular that are from the Golden Age of Aquaman.. literally). One of the characters I was very eager to see more of in this series was Tula. Tula is depicted of being Orm's sister and the leader of a militia in the Atlantean army called the Drift; she's also given a whole new cool (and sexy) look in the New 52! Murk also appears in this issue, and still is trying to figure out why Aquaman seems to take interest in the people of the surface world. However, I really liked how Aquaman exemplifies the visa versa perspective of a child in Boston at the time of the Atlantean war, which I think Murk somewhat came to his senses..sort of. Having only surfaced couple times before, Murk's skeptical of the surface world thinking that they are only a dangerous threat to everyone else and should not be treated so lightly. I believe Murk is a great representative that characterizes the "Army values" (honor, loyalty, integrity, courage, etc) that the Altanteans preserve as well as their army's brute force. Although he seems to be doing his best to protect the seven seas, it's not the way Aquaman would want him nor Atlantis to be portrayed as and wishes to act as a respectful (...humane) and civilized nation. Johns also dives further in depth with Scavenger and his whole reason of being seen strapped up in his diving suit roaming around the ocean floor in Aquaman #17. We see more of Peter Mortimer rather than the normal Scavenger in his blue shark diving suit, which in fact is quite intriguing to see. Johns elaborates more on his field of interests and definitely sheds some light on the once-forgotten character who hasn't really been given any attention of being a major Aquaman villain. By bringing about these new and old aquatic characters, I believe it's a great idea to rebuild the foundation of a more underwater perspective so that Johns has room to expand on the Aquaman mythos in New 52. Vulko's trial is also mentioned in this issue as Aquaman is confronted by Urn, the keeper of the prisons who tells Arthur of the time when the missiles were launched towards Atlantis that three of his guards perished and would want to know that the day of judgement is to be forthcoming. In contrary to the underwater world, Mera is seen still trying to live a normal life in Amnesty Bay, but authority doesn't always seem to be in her favor and gets a little life lesson from the words of Officer Watson, one of Arthur's old classmates, about cooperating within the laws to be associated among the rest of the society. There's also something that happens in the very beginning which will pretty much foreshadow the ending page, considerably the one and only intense part of the story (can't spoil it....I won't!).
Now, moving onto the aspect where I thought made this issue so incredible; the artistic POV. The cover is absolutely remarkable. I believe penciler, Paul Pelletier did a phenomenal job drawing out the individual characters as well as the overview of Atlantis, and seems that he's getting very comfortable working on this title. With Pelletier's complex, yet classy sketches, it give's room for Rod Reis to work his magic (no puns intended) and approaches the panels with the MOST rich and deepest coloring on the sheets of material used. I believe both artists did a remarkable job opening up their creative minds, more so Paul Pelletier who established very unique and distinctively new designs for the various characters, which corresponds great to the Atlantean "appearance". They are now coming to their senses as to what they vision the title of being portrayed as and believe it's the right angle to follow. From their armory and clothing to the Atlantean weaponry and city of Atlantis, they're truly depicting a real civilization and believe that they're doing a fantastic work expanding on the culture of Atlantis. The last page of this issue is presented with most intriguing artwork in the entire series so far and is a great cliffhanger (writing and art-wise) leading into the next issue of "Death of a King". The end product of this issue is extraordinarily perfected.
This issue is more storytelling and a filler to the next issue. However, even though there were only a few intense panels, I was absolutely captivated by the artwork Paul Pelletier and Rod Reis had done.
I rated this a 5 star as it is a great introduction to the underwater nation and a wonderful start to the plot (and/or sub-plot) of the story. Although this issue tends to be more conversational and mellow, Johns does a phenomenal work with moving the pace of the story bits-by-bits and extracts as much as he possibly could without getting the pages clustered up; which I believe he did an exceptional job doing. Again, this issue is more of an installment to lead to the main events in this story arc. If you are really intrigued by comic book designs and art, then I highly suggest to pick up this issue! It also seems like this will be an overall great story line. Even though there were hardly any intense scenes (which I love the most), I was truly was amazed by the artwork.