Aquaman#24 is an issue full of origin facts and many that will turn the tale of Arthur Curry on its head. Writer Geoff Johns begins by recounting the night in Amnesty Bay when the Queen of Atlantis got her first glimpse of the surface world while rescuing Tom Curry and fell in love. This union establishes Arthur to be the rightful King of Atlantis, or so we thought.
The story jumps to the present where we find Arthur awakening after six months and being watched over by the last person he trusts, Vulko. But what Johns is going to do in this issue is reveal the Secret of the Seven Seas and the truth behind Arthur’s ancestors. To do so, Aquaman must sit atop the Dead King’s throne and let the ice encase him to show the story of the builder and architect of Atlantis, Atlan.
Johns develops this, as he does most of his stellar comics writing, by showcasing what a beautiful home Atlantis was and the efforts of Atlan to bring all the seven realms together in a united, peaceful and mighty kingdom he would rule. But conflict rears its ugly head as Atlan’s brother, Orin, will bring nothing but death and war which is first revealed in a shocking display of violence and horror. Johns has always mastered writing deep family stories ripe with rifts, dissension, fear and dysfunction when it comes to Aquaman, and his telling of the fall of Atlantis between good and evil brothers is no different.
Atlan barely survives Orin’s attack, but while he escapes, his wife and family will fall at the hands of Orin and his soldiers. It tears away at the very fabric of the reader, and you can’t help to understand and sympathize with Atlan’s retaliation and the collapse of the great nation Atlantis had become. Artist Paul Pelletier does some spectacular work here as he is very effective with the sharp contrast between Aquaman’s recovery in the cold Antarctic and the warm golden majesty of Atlantis. The scenes of Orin’s betrayal and attacks are sparing in graphic violence but highly effective by what is illustrated. The full-page spread of the collapse of Atlantis is dramatic and powerful in panel layout and execution. Stunning work.
Among the already revealing answers behind the three kingdoms that survived and evolved after the fall of Atlantis, the real gut punch Johns throws at the reader in the end is a stroke of genius. It’s a shock, but in the scope of the overall story gives Aquaman much greater depth and lays out a very intriguing set of issues and questions that will elevate Arthur even more than Johns has done already since the launch of the New 52. Aquaman continues to be more interesting and more prominent with each story arc and this issue is proof positive.