The New 52 Aquaman 4: Death of a King collects issues #18-25 of the ongoing series. Geoff Johns creates the story, and Paul Pelletier brings it to life with his artwork. And while the two do an excellent job of coaxing this tale to life, it is still missing some ingredient to actual make it a real page turner.
The adventure itself begins with a bang as Arthur Curry (aka Aquaman) is the unsettled King of Atlantis after the events in the previous story arcs. He is determined to clean up the mess made by Atlantis’ attack on the surface world and has sent his forces around the globe to recovery Atlantean weapons and artifacts taken by the Scavenger. However, even while Arthur is attempting to live up to his responsibility to protect the seas and its denizens, many of his new subjects do not view it as such but rather as a sign of his weakness and desire to side with the surface dwellers rather than his own watery subjects. Not only that but there are even rumblings that Arthur is the right man to be king, and that Atlantis’ previous ruler should return from his imprisonment in America and take back his rightful place upon the throne. Add to this sad state of affairs the fact that Mera herself is reluctance to return with him to the ocean, and one can understand Arthur’s fragile mental state as the book begins.
Naturally, Aquaman gets no chance to come to grips with his problems, however, because immediately a new threat emerges. An ancient denizen of the watery depths is inadvertently reawakened by Arthur himself, and his resurrection from the shadowy past spells trouble for our aquatic hero. For this enemy has power unprecedented, and he is determined to unseat this false Atlantean king. In order to fend this threat off, Arthur finds that he must uncover a horrific truth about Atlantis’ past and his own forefathers while dealing with potential traitors from within.
From this setup, Geoff Johns does his best to throw every curve ball in his repertoire at a reader. There are fights galore, personal musings, relationship issues, ancient knowledge, and unexpected twists. We even have side stories involving other characters. Each of these individual dramas drawn in stunning style by Paul Pelletier and the art team. Indeed, for most of the graphic novel, the art is spectacular, expertly capturing the aquatic underworld of Aquaman and hiding any stumbles in the tale itself. But at the end of the day, pretty pictures only go so far to make a story interesting.
And there lies the problem with this collection. It starts off very strong and ends strong, but - in my opinion - much of the in-between of Death of a King is rather ho-hum reading. Sure, it is somewhat interesting and adds some layers to the Atlantean and Aquaman mythos, but it never gripped me and made me want to turn the pages as quickly as possible. While I realize that every story arch is not going to be an epic masterpiece, this one left me rather "meh" at best.
In summation, Aquaman Volume 4: Death of a King is an "okay" read, more than worthy to waste a few hours, but after finishing this one, I do not believe it will end up on your "favorite" list. Even with that being said, I still enjoyed the updated version of Arthur Curry/Aquaman and will look forward to reading more about him in the future.
I received this ARC from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank the publisher for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.