Soldier of Ocean
I feel like this cover is too 'scene specific' and it's really pretty close to being a boring 'standard action' image that could simply be a panel, but something about the invisible lines of focus from back where all the animals are coming from, the guns are pointing... there's like a sunburst on the edge, and it kind of works.
As nicely paced as the opening scene is, I have to laugh when Black Manta has to stab a gold rock into a sign that says "Psychiatrischer Krenkenhaus" in for it to say "Psychiatric Hospital." Really dude? You wouldn't have done the research and KNOWN WHAT YOU WERE LOOKING FOR BEFOREHAND? You had to stab it with a rock just for translation so that..... so that you would know you're in the right place? Except the place is in Germany so it would probably have been listed under the original German listing anyways? Was it for the benefit of the readers? We really couldn't figure out that it meant 'Psych Hospital?' The first work its really close to Psychiatric, and there could've been a translation box for us. But nope, Black Manta had to stab a sign with a gold rock for no damn reason.
And the... GOD such an incredible fight scene ensues. Black Manta is a serious threat, and a cold creepy badass. There's a lot of fantastic bits to this fight, and it makes the whole scene really engaging. And then Prisoner of War's powers are DEMONSTRATED instead of awkwardly explained. The two of them going at is an epic scuffle to behold. And there's also a nice bit of psychological exploration of PoW subtle slid in there.
I can't say the same of the following fight scene, the one represented on the cover. That one plays out very standardly, not actually 'bad,' but a weak follow-up to the glory that preceded it.
But then Johns makes up for it in the pages he has left. Dr. Shin's backstory is elaborated, and I feel a bit of sympathy for him. His obsessive dedication to science for the sake of itself isn't inherently evil, though it can easily lead to sadistic madness. (Cave Johnson anyone?)
And then that scene is interjected with the resuming of the fight, and the revelation in the end is masterful. I don't know how much of it was true before, but as someone relatively new to the wider Aquaman mythos (and certainly to true new readers) this issue's final page will leave you wide-eyed and desperate for more.
In Conclusion: 4.8/5
It's not QUITE perfect, but it's the closest this series has gotten. The Black Manta / Prisoner of War fight was AWESOME, and the following revelations set a dark and climactic tone for the rest of this arc, and the next issue. The only REAL problems were the lackluster second fight scene, and the utterly STUPID first page.