Aquaman Vol. 5 #26-49 (November 1996 – October 1998)
Written by Peter David (#26-46), Dan Abnett (#47-49), Andy Lanning (#47-49)
Co-Plotted by Jim Calafiore (#42)
Co-Scripted by Bill Mumy (#44)
Pencils by Jim Calafiore (#26, 28, 30, 32-49), Martin Egeland (#27, 29-30), Roger Robinson (#31), Vince Giarrano (#40), Chris Renaud (#47)
Inks by Peter Palmiotti (#26, 28, 30, 32-40, 42-48), Phyllis Novin (#26), Howard Shum (#27, 29-30), Ken Branch (#31), Mark McKenna (#32, 38, 41, 45-46, 48-49), Vince Giarrano (#40), Andy Lanning (#47)
Coloured by Tom McCraw
Spoilers (from twenty to twenty-two years ago)
It’s weird how Peter David is so much better known for his Marvel work on X-Factor, Hulk, Spider-Man 2099 than he is his DC work on Aquaman or Supergirl. I remember this as being a good run, although I did have some gaps I had to fill in before I started this column.
Let’s look at who turned up in the title:
- The Demon Gate (Kimon; #27-28)
- Black Manta (#29-30)
- The Shark (#31)
- Cron (a shark; #31)
- Toxin (#32)
- Kordax (#33)
- Triton (#34, 42-46)
- Poseidon (#34-35, 42, 46)
- Gamesman (#35)
- Parademons (#37)
- Topkick (Parademon leader; #37)
- Rhombus (#38-39)
- Doctor Polaris (#40-41)
- Sea Wolf (#42)
- Cerne (Millennium Giant; #43)
- Nuliajuk (#43, 45)
- Timmorn (sea monster; #44)
- The Maritorn (#47-48)
- Lord Nemo (of the Maritorn; #47-48)
- Martian Manhunter (#28)
- Nickey (Sea Devils; #28-30)
- Biff (Sea Devils; #28-30)
- Judy (Sea Devils; #28-31)
- Dane (Sea Devils; #28-31)
- Swamp Thing (#32-33)
- Tsunami (#34, 38-41)
- Maxine Baker (#35)
- Animal Man (Buddy Baker; #35)
- Parademon 3g4 (#37)
- Neptune Perkins (former Young All-Star; #39)
- Maxima (#40-41)
- Power Girl (#41)
- Superman Red (#43)
- Joan Garrick (#44)
- Molly Scott (#44)
- Sentinel (Alan Scott; #44)
- Flash (Jay Garrick; #44)
- Hades (#46)
- Naiad (Oceanid version; #48)
- Nuada Silverarm (#26, 34, 43, 45)
- Koryak (Aquaman’s son; #26-27, 36-43, 45-47, 49)
- Dolphin (#26-31, 34, 36-43, 45-47, 49)
- Porm (a dolphin; #26, 36)
- Ramona (the ship under Poseidonis; #26, 28, 31, 41)
- Nemek (a whale; #27-28, 32, 34-36)
- Vulko (#27, 36-43, 45-47, 49)
- Deep Blue (#28-30, 34, 36, 38-41, 43)
- Atlan (Aquaman’s father; #33-34, 45)
- Orin (historical king of Poseidonis; #33)
- Bazil (historical soldier in Poseidonis; #33)
- Cora (historical queen of Poseidonis; #33)
- Iqula (King of Tritonis; #36)
- S’ona (Iqula’s wife; #36)
- Tempest (Garth, formerly Aqualad; #36-38, 40-43, 45-47, 49)
- Dardan (religious leader of the Shalakites; #39-40, 42-43, 45-46)
- Spought (#43)
- Arthur Jr. (#46-48)
- Mera (#47-49)
Let’s take a look at what happened in these books, with some commentary as we go:
- Between issue twenty-five and the start of twenty-six, the Final Night event began, plunging the Earth into cold and darkness as something tries to destroy the sun. Aquaman is not with the other heroes, who are trying to fix things, but is instead in Poseidonis talking with Nuada Silverarm about what’s going on. We learn that Spought is staying with her, and that all of their other allies have dispersed, save Dolphin and Koryak, who are with Orin. We also see, as this conversation happens, that the dolphins are having a hard time getting oxygen as the world’s oceans freeze, and that someone with metallic yellow boots is stalking them. Koryak is crying because of what Kordax did to him (tears stream down his face, despite the fact that he and Dolphin are submerged), and Dolphin tries to console him. Orin notices how cold it’s getting inside the dome of his flying city, and then realizes that the dolphins would be struggling to breathe. He gathers his friends and then telepathically checks in on Porm, the dolphin who raised him. Porm surfaces through a hole she cracked in the ice, and sees that the metal yellow person is aiming a gun/arm thing at her. Orin can’t get Ramona, his sub, to answer his commands, so he goes to the centre of the ship beneath Poseidonis to confront the AI there. They speak on the mindscape, and it shows him visions of Mera, and makes its case that they should be together. Feeling rejected, Ramona expels Orin, and Poseidonis begins to shake again. Orin and his friends flee the city, dropping to the ice below. Later, as they swim to help Porm, Orin is surrounded by frightened sealife. He presses on, and finds that Porm has been killed, branded with a lightning bolt symbol, and that the Japanese word for “vengeance” has been written on the ice with her blood. Holding his adopted mother, Orin swears that if the world doesn’t end that night, he’d seek his revenge.
- In Tokyo, at Raiden Industries, a scientist named Tanaka (a familiar name from early issues of this run) scolds an armored guy named Kimon, who we recognize as Porm’s killer, for his actions. Orin, Dolphin, and Koryak accompany a number of dolphins as they take Porm’s body to their sacred resting space, reserved only for the most honoured dolphins. On their way, they talk about how dolphins believe that their best are reborn as whales, while their worst are reborn as humans, which explains why they feel sympathy for us. A large whale named Nemek prevents Koryak from following, which also makes it clear to Orin and Dolphin that they will not get to see where this sacred space is. Orin goes on to Tritonis, where he addresses the Poseidonians who are squatting there, having displaced the Tritonians. He is greeted as a King, and lets his displeasure be known. He orders his people to rebuild the city they helped destroy, and then to stay there and serve the Tritonians for as long as Iqula wishes it before he will allow them back to Poseidonis (not mentioning that Poseidonis has been taken over by Ramona). Koryak decides to stay with the Poseidonians, to make up for his actions, and he and Orin embrace. Later, Aquaman and Dolphin visit the American consulate in Japan, and learn that the lightning symbol branded on Porm’s body matches that of Raiden Industries. Orin insists on being taken there, where he meets with Tanaka, who denies any knowledge of or culpability in Porm’s death. They are interrupted by Kimon, the Demon Gate, who is the fisherman that Aquaman left for dead back in issue four. His brother saved him and outfitted him with cybernetics, which he has used to try to gain revenge on Aquaman. They begin to fight, which carries on throughout the Raiden building, and for a number of pages, before Dolphin knocks Demon Gate out a broken window. The police arrive, and a guy from the consulate’s office manages to keep Aquaman from being arrested. Later, Aquaman insists, in a meeting with the Japanese Ministry (which ministry, though?) that he doesn’t differentiate between human races easily, as he was introduced to humans late in life and can’t really tell them apart. He also insists that Demon Gate be given to him for Atlantean justice, but since Japan doesn’t share an extradition treaty with Atlantis, and doesn’t see the killing of dolphins as a crime, they refuse. Aquaman forbids Japan the use of oceans or seas, and tells them that if he doesn’t have Demon Gate in his custody in twenty-four hours, they will be at war, before storming out. Later, a squid destroys a Japanese fishing vessel at Aquaman’s command. He tells Dolphin that in order to fight his war, he needs to regain control of Poseidonis.
- Aquaman and Dolphin hold an unnecessarily clandestine meeting with the Martian Manhunter to get his help, although J’onn is not willing to support Aquaman’s new war with the nation of Japan. Demon Gate refuses to help the Japanese government in resolving the situation. Aquaman has J’onn fly him and Dolphin back to Poseidonis, but hasn’t told him that Ramona, the alien AI that runs the city, is angry with him. They bust their way into the city, and Orin fights Ramona on the psychic plane, which gives J’onn the opportunity to use his telepathy to monitor the situation. Orin forces Ramona into submission, giving him control over the city again. Deep Blue leads the Sea Devils to the corpse of a massive dead dinosaur or dragon, which she believes has only been dead about a week. Aquaman pilots Poseidonis over Tokyo, beating back Japan’s air defenses. Aquaman commands that Demon Gate be brought to him, and while he is addressing the city, Dolphin fears that something is changing in him (as expressed through his face, which we don’t see). Someone in power in Japan makes a telephone call, and Demon Gate’s brother disables his cybernetics, leaving him helpless. Aquaman comes to get him. On the shore of a remote island, a gathering of whales, dolphins, and other sea life occurs. They are there to serve as jury for Demon Gate’s trial, but Nemek, the whale from last issue, chastises Orin for not honouring Porm’s spirit. Instead of killing him, Orin decides to leave Demon Gate on the island, which has no food sources, so that sea creatures can bring him enough food each day to survive.
- Deep Blue and the Sea Devils have brought Orin and Dolphin to examine the dinosaur-like creature they found lying on the sea floor next to a deep crevice. It’s so deep that it appears to absorb light. As they talk, a large creature shows up, and despite the heroes’ efforts, they are not able to stop it from dragging Deep Blue down. Everyone convenes in the Sea Devils’ vessel, as Orin and Dolphin get ready to go after their friend. Somewhere below, Deep Blue has been tied up by someone mostly unseen. As Orin and Dolphin descend, it becomes clear that Dolphin can’t handle the water pressure, and has to stay behind. Orin comes across a very changed Black Manta, who now has been somehow changed into a manta/man hybrid. He tells Orin where Deep Blue is, and they fight a bit before a bunch of monstrous creatures come up from deeper in the crevice. Orin’s telepathy has no effect, and he gets grabbed by a large creature. He fires his hook through its head, killing it, but is dragged deeper into the crevice. He hooks Black Manta with his line, and drags him down with him.
- The Sea Devils and Dolphin stand vigil at the top, and the mid-way point, of the crevice, waiting for word from Aquaman. He continues his descent, stuck in the jaws of the dead creature, dragging Black Manta with him. They continue to argue and fight as they drop, until they are hit with waves of telepathy from somewhere below, showing them images of a pregnant creature. They find themselves on land, and get stomped by a gigantic creature, but this is just in their minds. Deep Blue manages to free herself using her powers. Orin and Manta reach the bottom of the crevice, where the pressure on them is immense. They begin to fight again, and Orin is just about to stab Manta through the head with his harpoon when they both receive mental commands. Judy, of the Sea Devils, gets annoyed with the others. Orin and Manta discover a very ancient creature that stayed in the oceans when others moved to land. It’s dead, but still inside its body. It wants the newcomers to stay with it. Manta tries to control it, and is attacked by parasites that live on it. Orin tries to convince the creature that it is dead, and uses his telepathy on a larger scale than is usual to escape from it (it seems like he leaves Manta behind). Deep Blue finds him on his ascent, and has a reaction to his appearance, but we are left wondering what’s happened.
- In the Sea of Japan, a shark that has been mutated to take on a human form, who we recognize as Cron One-Eye, accompanies the villain The Shark to a meeting with a Japanese minister on a boat. The minister is there to tell him where Poseidonis is. On the Sea Devils’ vessel, Orin, who has begun to take on a scaly, greenish skin tone, is annoyed and unwilling to allow the Sea Devils to examine him. He commands Dolphin to accompany him, but not liking that he is ordering her around, she stays put. The Shark uses his telepathy to get in touch with Ramona, the AI that runs Poseidonis. He makes a deal with her that if she lets him into the city, he will free her from Aquaman. He lowers Poseidonis to the ocean’s surface and enters it with his shark-people followers. Aquaman talks to himself about the changes he is undergoing, and rejects the idea that Kordax is inside him or something. He finds that fish are a little afraid of him now. On a beach in California, a lifeguard finds a dead body that falls apart when she tries to grab it. Orin returns to Poseidonis, and is surprised to find it full of mutated sharks. He discovers The Shark sitting on his throne, with familiar sharks like Cron around him. The Shark, and the sharks, attack. Orin cuts Grifid, a shark he’s known for his whole life, and many of the others attack him in a feeding frenzy. This leaves him with just The Shark to fight, which happens mostly telepathically. Orin, reluctant to use his mental powers least he become more reptilian, has no choice, and somehow de-mutates The Shark and the other sharks back to their shark forms. The consequence of this is that Orin’s skin has become completely green and scaly, making him look just like Kordax.
- Issue thirty-two might be a low point for Peter David’s run. Orin examines a corpse in the water off the California coast, but is surprised when Swamp Thing inhabits the seaweed around the corpse, causing it to move. They fight briefly before ST stops Orin, and they explain that they each thought the other a monster. The Mayor of the town where these bodies have been found explains that he received a ransom note from someone named Toxin, asking for three million dollars. The note came with some vegetation that was found in the corpse’s system – it seems that Toxin is poisoning the plant life. As they talk, one of the city councillors, who is eating a salad, is choked when the salad comes to life in his throat. Orin finds dead fish, and thinks about how the whale Nemek came to speak to him, and explained that all sea life is afraid of him now, since he became green, scaly, and very angry. Swamp Thing returns to Orin and explains that the city council is going to pay off Toxin. The Mayor goes to deliver the money, and Orin launches Swamp Thing’s hand at his car, so they can follow him. Swamp Thing compares Orin and his troubles to a homeless alcoholic man who is lying close to them. The Mayor tosses a briefcase in a bag into the ocean, and the lifeguard who first discovered the body retrieves it. She is piloting one of those submersible jet ski things from a James Bond movie, and when Aquaman confronts her, we learn that it is equipped with explosive spears that can track him, and mines. What we don’t learn is how a lifeguard hoping to split a three million dollar payday with a small town mayor can acquire such gear and training. Swamp Thing confronts the Mayor, who has some power over the green, which allows him to get Swamp Thing on his knees. After learning that the lifeguard’s rig has laser cannons too (because of course it does), he gets mad and throws it out of the ocean, where it lands on the Mayor’s car. He hooks the Mayor and throws him into the water, and is shot in the back by the lifeguard. Swamp Thing drowns the Mayor (at least that’s how it looks), and Orin almost kills the lifeguard. Weirdly, his telepathic powers cause her to keep repeating his words, and Swamp Thing points out how out of control he is. Swamp Thing sends tendrils all over Orin’s face, and explains that his problems lie at his roots – his lineage. The issue ends with Orin asking for help.
- Issue thirty-three opens with Orin walking through a desert, leaving a crashed Atlantean vessel, but it’s not clear if this is happening in a real desert, or in his mind, as when we last saw him, Swamp Thing was helping him deal with his problems on a psychic level. He has a vision of Mera but rejects her, and remembers Swamp Thing telling him that he has to confront his fears, whether they are of living, dying, or himself. He is almost run over by a group of Medieval horsemen, and then is visited by Atlan, who explains that it was Richard the Lionhearted they just saw. Atlan transports Orin to ancient Atlantis, where he is mistaken for Kordax and attacked by some soldiers. Orin, the historic king, stops the attack, and instead talks to our Orin. They discuss that he is from the future, and Old Orin is happy to learn that Poseidonis survives the coming war with Tritonis. He watches a battle, and discusses Old Orin’s qualities with Atlan. Later, he watches as Cora, Orin’s daughter and Queen, punishes Kordax by banishing him and cutting off his arm (it’s worth pointing out that Kordax is her son). Orin later talks to Kordax, and then sits around wondering what kind of king and leader he is. Atlan speaks to him of kings (this issue might appeal to the Game of Thrones crowd), and encourages Orin to just be a good man. He finds himself back in the desert, and that his skin has returned to its usual colour, although his hand is still webbed, and that the coral he was holding on to in the past has come to the present with him. He starts walking out of the desert (so, I guess, this didn’t happen in his mind).
- Issue thirty-four used an interesting approach to storytelling. Almost every page of the issue is a splash page or double splash page showing Aquaman fighting the god Triton, while around the sides of the page, we see the events that lead up to the fight. It makes it hard to explain, so I’ll summarize it in a linear fashion. Basically, Orin has summoned all the creatures of the sea to speak to them about how he’s acted of late, and one fish has gone to Poseidon, the god of the sea, to let him know about it, because the fish are now as afraid of Orin as they were once Poseidon. Poseidon decides to go to Orin’s meeting. Nemek gives Orin moral support. Orin apologizes to all the sea creatures, but is interrupted by Poseidon, who is still bitter that Orin took his power away from him, as the sea creatures stopped worshipping him. Poseidon wants Orin to fight his son, Triton. At this point, we catch up to the fight that has been happening, where Orin is not doing all that well. As the fight continues, we check in on Atlan, who thinks Orin a fool for trying to reclaim his status in the oceans. Dolphin and Deep Blue, hanging out on the wreck of the Titanic, can sense the fight happening, as can Nuada Silverarm and Tsunami. Orin manages to get the upper hand on Triton, impaling him on his own trident. The various fish and other creatures cheer for Orin, which angers Poseidon even more. Conceding the loss, Poseidon grants Orin the powers of a god, which have the effect of blinding him.
- Maxine Baker is trapped in a diving bell at the bottom of the ocean, and when she reaches out to her father, Animal Man, in the Red, she also picks up on Aquaman. Orin, meanwhile, is trying to figure out his situation with regards to his blindness. Poseidon taunts him and leaves him to flounder in darkness. On the ocean’s surface, Buddy Baker (in his long white hair phase, after the conclusion of his Vertigo series) searches for his daughter, while he is being hunted from above by someone who blows up his boat. Orin tries to navigate the depths, and comes across Topo, a massive octopus, who points out that he is managing to avoid some hazards. Buddy comes upon them, and asks for help. The villain, called Gamesman, is basically a 90s armor-suited version of Kraven the Hunter, who collects trophy heads (including, apparently, that of Bwana Beast) from heroes he’s killed, and then he talks to them. Buddy explains that he’s searching for Maxine through the red, and he points out that Orin has some senses that help him navigate, much like Daredevil. They hear Maxine in the Red, and Orin begins to follow her path, but comes across Gamesman. They all begin to fight, and after Orin drills into Gamesman’s faceplate and Buddy cracks it, he concedes defeat. Nemek the whale arrives with Maxine’s capsule. A little later, Maxine is fine as they all sit on Nemek’s back on the surface. Buddy goes after Gamesman’s flying vessel, but the villain tells him that he’s won for the day, and leaves, promising to come back and kill him another day.
- In Tritonis, the people of Poseidonis continue to work as slaves in order to pay back the people they wronged (while under Kordax’s control), but it is breaking their spirits. Koryak and Vulko decide it is time to do something about this, and go to King Iqula to petition for their release. As Iqula is about to challenge Koryak to a fight, Tempest (the former Aqualad, Garth) shows up and says that he would rather be the champion for the Poseidonians, as they once took him in when no one would. He also refuses to fight, banking on Iqula’s mercy. Angrily, Iqula frees the Poseidonians, but Garth doesn’t want to stay with them, leaving their return to Koryak and Vulko. Orin explores “the clear”, the space he learned about from Animal Man, and comes across Porm’s spirit. She tries to convince him to turn away from force as the solution to all problems. His conversation with her is interrupted by Nemek’s arrival, and they head to Poseidonis together. Garth arrives at the sunken vessel where Dolphin has been staying, and they talk about the changes in Orin, and how he has started to frighten Dolphin. They also talk about how Garth has become more mature, and how Dolphin needs freedom of choice in life. They move close to one another. Deep Blue finds the Poseidonians on their (walking) migration home, and introduces herself to Koryak. She lets them know that they are headed in the wrong direction, and Vulko acts like a real misogynist, while Koryak is a little smitten. Orin thinks about how empty the city is, just as Deep Blue leads his people home. He has the people bow before him before he allows them in, and explains that he’s going to leave the city floating at the ocean’s surface. Koryak acts a little butthurt, and Deep Blue tells Orin where Dolphin is. He goes to her, but finds her embracing Garth. He gets angry, and the two men fight, with Orin overpowering his former sidekick. Taking a pause, Orin says that he hopes Garth makes Dolphin happy, and he leaves. In Poseidonis, Vulko talks to Koryak about how he’s upset that people are treating Orin with reverence, and tells him that he’s had a vision (this man of science), and that he sees Koryak being a part of the city’s future. He encourages him to sit on the throne.
- I have no memory of the Genesis event, but it seems like it has something to do with Darkseid’s forces attacking every DC character with their own book for a month or two. Issue thirty-seven ties into this event, without really explaining it. It opens with scenes of how the basically mindless Parademons are trained and prepared for battle by Topkick, a brutal drill sergeant. Garth goes to see Vulko when he can’t find Orin (who they all call Arthur still), and Vulko is upset that Orin is not listening to him anymore. Garth and Dolphin talk about Orin, and it’s only then that Garth realizes that she and Orin were lovers. A ton of Parademons boom tube to Earth, right in the path of a jumbo jet. One Parademon, 3g4, is hit by the plane, and lands on a small coral reef. Aquaman comes to him, and offers him help. 3g4 is confused, as he recognizes him as his target, but feels kindness from him. Orin leaves to follow the other Parademons, who are approaching Poseidonis. Garth and Dolphin are still talking when they see the Parademons approach. 3g4 is catching up to Orin when he receives the signal to attack, and does just that. They fight briefly, and 3g4 asks, “Why?” Orin leaves him to return to his city, where Tempest and Koryak are trying to hold back the Parademons hordes. Topkick almost kills Vulko, but he is saved by Dolphin. Garth and Koryak continue to work together, but when a Parademon almost gets Garth from behind, Koryak hesitates. A hammerhead shark saves Garth, signalling Aquaman’s arrival. He saves Dolphin from Topkick, and they begin to fight. It looks like Topkick is going to win, but 3g4 shows up and attacks his former master. Topkick punches right through him, but with the rest of the Parademons defeated and everyone coming for him, Topkick boom tubes away. Orin goes to the dying 3g4 and asks him why, to which he replies, “Why not?”
- Issue thirty-eight opens with a meteor from space striking a guy in his car as he complains about how difficult and unhappy his life is. In Poseidonis, a trio of businesspeople meet with Orin and his advisors. They are there to discuss opening the domed city up for tourism as a way of kickstarting its economy. Weirdly, they are in the throne room, and since they are surface dwellers, the water must have been drained away, but Vulko is shown breathing air as easily as Orin and Dolphin (or, the suits are amphibious, which seems unlikely). At the funeral for the man who was killed, his coffin begins to glow. Back in Poseidonis, and clearly underwater, Orin and his people debate the business proposal. Vulko is against it, but after Deep Blue (who just arrived) declares the idea ‘kewl’, Orin decides to look into it. When Vulko complains, he kicks everyone out so they can talk alone. Vulko is unhappy with how Orin is doing things, and with his diminished role in the city. When Vulko suggests that Orin might not remain king, things get testy, and Vulko refuses to call him Arthur and leaves. Some time later, a figure climbs out of the guys coffin, with glowing hands and rocky face. He is yelling for someone named Linda, saying he’s going to kill her and his daughter, Debbie. On Tsunami’s yacht, she wakes up with the knowledge that Rhombus is back (and we figure out who this guy is yelling about). Poseidonis is open to tourism, with the top of the dome filled with oxygen, allowing people to stay there and then dive down to interact with the residents of the city. Aquaman and Koryak are mobbed by tourists, and when Orin tells him to “take over” talking to them, he ominously states that taking over is a good idea. Orin and Dolphin talk about how she could never see herself being a queen. Rhombus shows up at the dead guy’s ex-wife’s place and kills her and her boyfriend. Some of the Poseidonians are hanging out with the tourists in the air-filled parts of the city, without needing any kind of apparatus, which doesn’t make any sense (admittedly, I don’t know all that much about Atlantean history in the DC Universe, but am sure that they can’t breathe air, since that’s how Arthur was supposed to have been killed as a baby). Neither Vulko nor Garth are happy with the changes they see. Orin is swimming and chatting with Deep Blue when Rhombus attacks. She recognizes him, and insists that he is not her father. She uses an enlarged jellyfish to blind him and punches him out, thinking that she has taken care of him. He blasts her, and she looks dead.
- Senator Neptune Perkins is on a cruise ship headed towards Poseidonis when he sees Tsunami rushing past on a wave and decides to follow her. Rhombus tells Aquaman that the badly injured Deep Blue is his daughter. Orin has squids envelop him in their ink, and sends Deep Blue with some dolphins to Poseidonis. He then engages the villain in a fight. In Poseidonis, Vulko and Koryak talk to tourists when Koryak sees what happened to Deep Blue and swears vengeance. Aquaman and Rhombus continue to fight, a battle that ends up on an aircraft carrier for a bit, which gets engulfed in flames. Rhombus reflects on his past, and we learn that he did make love to Tsunami once, got into a fight with Neptune Perkins, and was banished to space by Atlan. He realizes that Aquaman looks like Atlan, which makes him happy. A water spout catches him and drops him back into the water. In Poseidonis, Vulko goes to see Dardan, the leader of the Shalakites religious order, to talk about Orin’s rule, and suggests that Koryak might be a better leader, despite his past failings. Vulko thinks he’s being spied on, and sees another tourist. He doesn’t see that Dolphin has been listening to his conversation. Tsunami puts out the fire on the aircraft carrier and finds Orin. Together they see a battle happening in the water between Rhombus and Neptune Perkins. Rhombus traps Perkin underwater under some rocks (apparently he can’t stay submerged forever). Tsunami reveals herself to him, and when he interprets her arrival as loving, she decks him. Orin helps Perkins, and Rhombus comes at all of them, ranting. Suddenly his head explodes, and we see Koryak behind him. He blasts his body next, leaving his glowing purple rhombus on the ocean floor. Later, Deep Blue, recovering from her injuries, talks to her parents, and Tsunami’s reaction to something Perkins says makes it clear that Rhombus probably really is Deep Blue’s father. At the same time, Orin asks Koryak how he knew that Rhombus wasn’t really alive, and Koryak shows surprise at learning that.
- Issue forty is full of Atlanteans wandering around the tourist areas of Poseidonis, which now looks like it is mostly filled with air, and only has water in the lower levels, more or less below what was the ocean floor before the city was revealed to be on top of a large spaceship. According to the DC Database, Poseidonians are able to stay out of the water for up to an hour, but it doesn’t make sense that all of the prime real estate in the city would have been drained. Anyway, a grumpy and creepy guy tries to enter the city through customs, and when a retina scan is required, the computer it’s attached to gets fried by weird energy. He is allowed into the city, where he immediately uses magnetic powers to propel Aquaman’s harpoon towards the ceiling of the dome, and then hurls him at some of his people. Even with Tempest and Dolphin’s help, he is not able to regain control, but then the guy just lets go. A red-haired woman goes to the offices of the PR firm in charge of Poseidonis’s experiment with tourism. She tells the people there that she will be travelling to the city and expects a good reception. She tells them she is Aquaman’s queen, leading us to believe she is Mera. Aquaman takes off his harpoon hand and puts on his fake human one, and blows off Dardan when he comes to speak to him. Koryak instead volunteers to speak to the religious leader. The Poseidonians spread rumors about Aquaman, Garth, and Dolphin. The latter two are questioned by some people, who don’t like the scandal. Garth admits to having said something to Deep Blue. They go to see her in her hospital bed, where she admits she didn’t know their relationship was a secret, and that she only told Koryak. Koryak later admits to telling many people. The grumpy tourist approaches Aquaman and says that he is going to make the city his home. It turns out he is Doctor Polaris, and he intends to flood the whole world. Dardan and Vulko scheme some more, and talk about positioning Koryak as Orin’s replacement. They learn that there is a fight, and that Koryak is heading towards it. Orin and his son fight Polaris, aided by Tempest and Dolphin. Orin gets ahold of Polaris’s mind, and begins to get in touch with Polaris’s better side when Dolphin jumps in and punches him, allowing him to slip from Aquaman’s grasp. He uses his powers to tilt the entire city, draining all the water and people out through the main gate, holding on to Aquaman and Tempest with his powers. The people yell at Dolphin, just as Maxima shows up, more or less declaring her interest in becoming queen.
- Tsunami and Deep Blue, who feels recovered enough to get out of bed, are surprised to feel the city tilting. Koryak comes to get them as Doctor Polaris attacks the building they are in. They begin to mount an attack on him. Maxima is outside the city, and announces to the gathered Poseidonians and Dolphin her intention to marry Aquaman and have children with him, which doesn’t go over well with Dolphin. Vulko tells Maxima that Aquaman has been attacked. Just then, Deep Blue falls out of the floating city, and starts to choke on the air around her. In the city, Polaris has all its powered defenders in his magnetic bonds, which tighten when Aquaman tries to attack him telepathically. As Deep Blue falls, she is luckily rescued by Power Girl, who was just flying by. PG is surprised to see Maxima there, but she grabs Dolphin and the three women head into the city. Maxima distracts Polaris, but he is able to still stop Power Girl’s attack, although Aquaman and Tempest are able to free themselves. There is general fighting, and it is Dolphin who lands the best blow, although that sends Poseidonis plummeting, until Orin can order the city to stop falling. Maxima uses her telepathy to freeze Polaris in an internal battle between his two personalities. Maxima then declares her intention to make Orin her husband. He’s not all that happy about this, and she flies off with him. Power Girl, Dolphin, and Tsunami go after them, and the four women begin to fight, which the citizens of the town interpret at them fighting over Orin. He also begins to fight against Maxima, as does Deep Blue, who throws starfish at her. For real. After Power Girl punches her into the dome, Maxima decides that she is not welcome, and flies off telling the people that they will all regret rejecting her. Aquaman thinks things are fine, but the Poseidonians around him don’t look happy.
- A man named Munson is killed on a boat on the ocean, his body dumped over the side, by a being calling itself the Sea Wolf, also claiming to be a guy named Lawrence Huff who has been dead for twenty-seven years. Some dolphins find Munson’s body and decide to tell Aquaman about it. Triton is bragging to some sea nymphs about how he decided to give up his title to Aquaman. Poseidon calls him out, and they argue. Aquaman is in his court when he gets the call from the dolphins to investigate the murder. Vulko tells him the people want a new king, but when Orin asks some random subjects, they don’t agree. Orin accuses Vulko of treason, tells him the punishment is death, and scares him by cutting off part of his beard. He also makes it clear that when he is in the city, he is the king, and makes a point of saying that to Garth before departing. Sea Wolf monologues a bit, and cals his employer to announce that his hit is done. He turns down the offer of another job, claiming he’s not hungry. Orin finds the body, and swears vengeance. We see Munson’s body, weirdly animated, on the boat where he was killed. It knocks Sea Wolf overboard, where Aquaman grabs him. Weirdly, the guy turns into a werewolf-like creature, and begins to thrash around. We learn that Topo the squid was controlling Munson’s body when Sea Wolf attacks him. As Aquaman and Sea Wolf fight, Orin sees that there are souls held inside the creature’s empty eye socket. Aquaman figures if the creature is already dead, he can rip it apart, which allows all the souls to go free. In Poseidonis, Garth and Dolphin talk about what Orin said, and Garth reveals that he’s going to run for high councillor of the city. Back on the boat where Munson died, we learn that the Sea Wolf spirit now resides in his body. While Poseidon continues to berate Triton, the son grabs a trident and slays his father, thereby absorbing his power. He vows to kill Aquaman.
- Issue forty-three is part of the Millennium Giants crossover event that was mostly held across the Superman line. Because this is 1998, Superman is actually two beings – Superman Red and Superman Blue, in one of the weirder and more unfortunate eras of that character’s long history. In Thierna Na Oge, Nuada Silverarm and her people can sense a danger coming. She contacts Aquaman, who is already there with Tempest. The danger is a massive horned giant with snakes on his arms. Aquaman figures that his only hope of stopping the creature is with the use of Poseidonis, so he telepathically orders all of the citizens out of the city, which helps strengthen Vulko’s argument that Koryak should try to be elected leader. Orin’s attempt to communicate telepathically with the giant, who is named Cerne, is ignored. Superman Red shows up, boasts a bit, and is swatted away. The giant kicks up waves that almost destroy a nearby resort island, except that Garth is able to freeze the tsunami. Superman Red and Aquaman prepare to attack, when Orin senses that Cerne has grabbed a handful of whales. He commands him to put them down, which he does. Poseidonis arrives, so Orin has the skull ship attack, blasting it and firing missiles. Superman Red joins in, as do the various magical beings of Thierna Na Oge, who have just arrived. Somewhere, Nuliajuk, the “mother of monsters” last seen in the Time & Tide mini, cowers in fear because of the arrival of the giants. Triton shows up and says he will protect her so long as she helps him. The fight with the giant continues, and they knock him down. This time, Superman Red protects the island from the wave that causes, and everyone is excited until they realize that the giant is now headed towards Thierna Na Oge, where Spought stands transfixed as his foot descends towards him. Orin rescues him, but the city is crushed, releasing a massive amount of magical energy. At that, the giant looks at Aquaman, and then turns and walks away. Superman Red wants Orin to come with him, but he stays to talk to Nuada, who is devastated by the loss of her city. She also explains that without the city, their magic is also gone, although Spought shows them he can still access it.
- Joan Garrick and Molly Scott, the wives of the Golden Age Flash, and Sentinel, the Golden Age Green Lantern respectively, watch as their husbands try to deal with a strange sea monster who is threatening the hotel where they are staying. As they try to stop the creature, Aquaman arrives and interferes. The older heroes don’t recognize Orin at first, because of the beard and harpoon. Orin insists on speaking to the creature, who is a childhood friend of his named Timmorn. As it turns out, Timmorn was at the centre of Orin’s first argument with Porm, when he defended his friend. He convinces the monster, which has the relative intelligence of a shark, to leave the land and not return. The heroes chat for a bit, and we learn that they are at the resort to celebrate the Garricks’ fiftieth anniversary. Orin has some dolphins bring some gold treasure to help pay for the damages, and they depart. The Scotts and Garricks hang out together, and the book doesn’t feel like it’s still Aquaman’s, until Timmorn returns. Again, the older heroes try to fight back the creature, and again Aquaman returns. They are able to get the creature down, and Sentinel points out that someone in the resort died during its attack, and that he expects Orin to act like a king and manage the situation. When he takes Timmorn into the ocean, the creature doesn’t remember its actions, and then claims that he was just having fun, playing with the people. Orin has no choice but to kill his old friend. He brings its heart to the other heroes as proof that it is dead. We see that Timmorn had a child, which Triton finds and takes with him, promising it revenge on Aquaman.
- Triton appears to kill Atlan, while ranting about how the new millennium will belong to him. Garth explains to a collection of Poseidonians that Orin is creating an office of High Councillor, an elected position, to help run things during his absences. Garth announces his intention to run for that role, but Vulko is opposed to the idea. Garth collapses, recognizing that something has happened to Atlan. Orin is with Nuada, overseeing the reconstruction of Thierna Na Oge when he gets the same sensation, and then communicates with Garth through the Clear. They believe that a threat is headed to Poseidonis, and Orin says he will come right away. Triton is with Nuliajuk. He’s brought the child of the monster Timmorn, which she transforms into a massive and fearsome creature. Vulko meets with Dardan, Koryak, and some other guy, to discuss their response to Garth’s announcement. Koryak muses that something could happen to Garth, when he shows up to warn them of the coming attack, just as it happens. Triton is outside riding a huge wave. Poseidonis’s army comes out (weird that we haven’t seen them involved in fighting the other threats of late), and Tempest tries to freeze the wave under him. Garth is injured, and Dolphin calls for Aquaman. A pair of fish attend to the bleeding Atlan, pulling his magic bag around him before they all disappear into it. The Poseidonians continue to fight the mad god, when Aquaman arrives riding a giant whale. He commands the city to fly away to safety, but Triton’s new monster shows up and blasts the spaceship under the city, sending it falling into the ocean. Dolphin grabs Triton’s trident, while Orin summons a massive amount of sea creatures to fight the god. The monster starts eating the ones that Triton doesn’t destroy. The city falls to the ocean floor, landing on its side, which one resident suggests will destroy tourism. Triton gains the upper hand in the fight with Aquaman, boasting all the while. Orin calls him a coward, and Triton runs him through with his trident. Orin calls out Mera’s name, while everyone looks on in shock.
- Aquaman finds himself in dark water, and when he surfaces, realizes that he’s swimming in the River Styx. He refuses to pay Charon for passage, instead knocking him into the river and rousing a group of spirits that have spent millennia on the shores of the river, unable to pay for passage as well. He leads them down the river. Outside Poseidonis, Triton uses his powers to right the city, and declare himself its new ruler. Vulko keeps Koryak from reacting, and when Dardan introduces himself as minister of faith, Triton kills him. Orin reaches the gates of Hades, and finds himself standing on the gigantic dog Cerebus. He pulls off its middle head, sending the dog running away, and uses it to knock down the door to the kingdom of the dead. In Poseidonis, Triton has Tempest and Dolphin prisoner; he goads Dolphin into screaming. Koryak wants to fight back, and is willing to die. Orin reaches Hades, the god, who has Poseidon writhing in flames. Orin points out that him rescuing the god that hates him is better torture than pain, and Hades lets them leave, although Orin owes him a favor now. Orin accompanies the god back to the river. Triton is about to kill Garth when Orin stops him. Poseidon recovers all of his stolen power, and then Triton and Aquaman fight. Using his trident, Orin stabs at Triton, but Poseidon stops him from killing him. Instead, Poseidon kills his son himself, and leaving the trident to Aquaman, leaves. Orin talks to Dolphin and Garth, explaining how it had been his plan to rescue Poseidon all along. Their conversation is interrupted by the appearance of a younger, traditionally-dressed Aquaman, asking where Mera is. Somehow, the fact that this is Peter David’s last issue is not mentioned anywhere in issue forty-six.
- With no explanation in the letter pages, Peter David is gone, and Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning have taken over the book. Calafiore only draws a few pages, with the rest of the book going to Chris Renaud, making me wonder if most of this issue was still following David’s original plot, and that parts needed to be redrawn. Anyway, the issue opens with younger Aquaman demanding that our Orin is an imposter, and that he leave. They spar, surprising Vulko and Koryak, and confusing some of the citizens of Poseidonis. As they fight, the new Aquaman struggles to remember where he’s been for so long. Orin uses his telepathy on him, which causes his mind to crumble. It turns out he’s Arthur Jr., and that the destruction of the spell that clouded his thinking has also stripped away his protection from the things that make him sick in that dimension. He tells Orin that he was sent by the Oceanids, the people in the dimension he lives in (which, I guess, is no longer the netherworld we last saw him in) have sent him because their world, and Mera, are in trouble. Orin takes Arthur Jr. through his portal, leaving Garth in charge of Poseidonis. They cross through the dimensional gate, with A.J. aging to the point where he too now has long hair and a beard. On the water world Arthur Jr. is from, large alien ships run by someone named Lord Nemo begin to vacuum up massive amounts of water, although there is some evidence of local resistance. It turns out that Orin and A.J. have arrived inside one of the alien ships, and they break their way out through the crystal holding tanks, landing in the ocean. The aliens, called the Maritorn, fly towards them with Mera strapped to the front of their vehicle.
- There is still no explanation as to what happened to Peter David, as Aquaman engages in a huge fight with the Maritorn, and manages to free Mera. The Maritorn pursue the Aqua-family as they dive, but some Oceanid rebels arrive to help them escape. We learn that the Maritorn have come to Oceanid to steal all of their water, which is having a deleterious effect on that dimension’s version of Naiad, the water elemental. She increases Aquaman’s and Mera’s powers so that they can lead an attack on the invaders. Orin leads a bunch of Oceanids into the Maritorn ships through their teleportation systems, while Mera attacks their vessels with hard waterspouts. Orin and A.J. are able to reverse the teleportation systems, returning the water and sea life to the planet, and Orin ends up fighting Nemo for a couple of pages. Nemo’s ship explodes. Later, the people gather as Orin prepares to return home through a portal Naiad has opened. He asks Mera to come with him, but she refuses, wanting to stay with A.J. He pushes her through the portal though, and wishes his father well.
- Orin dreams that a woman, an indeterminate one of his former lovers, tries to kill him, and when he wakes, he wonders about the state of his relationship with Mera. Vulko prepares for a coronation ceremony, but can’t decide how to act. Koryak dreams that the people of Poseidonis laugh at his attempts to rule. Mera dreams of fighting the Maritorn, and discovering that their leader is Orin. Upon waking, she asks for Atlantean law books to read. Koryak schemes with Vulko. Garth dreams of vanquishing danger to Poseidonis, and wakes holding the trident Orin left him with, questioning his sanity. Dolphin tries to talk with Orin about her concerns for Garth. As the coronation ceremony begins, Vulko recognizes how much the people love Orin. Mera arrives, and Vulko begins the oaths of monarchy. They are interrupted by the appearance of Garth, insists he remain king. He attacks Orin, and everyone tries to figure out what’s going on. Koryak jumps in, as does Mera, but it is Orin who figures out that Poseidon’s trident is driving his friend mad. He punches him, and after dropping the trident, Garth recovers his senses. Orin points out that the trident was too powerful for him, but that he resisted it well. Koryak picks up the trident and moves to strike Orin, but is overwhelmed by its power. Orin takes the trident, proving his fitness to be king. He banishes Koryak for life, and the ceremony continues. Orin is crowned king, but when Vulko moves to crown Mera, she declares that she and Orin are not married.
This is where I’m stopping. The next issue was part of the DC 1,000,000 arc, and after that, Eric Larsen took over the title (presumably managing this marriage issue). I don’t have any of those issues, and didn’t read Aquaman again until John Arcudi and Patrick Gleason worked on the title, and even then, I read it only briefly. The next time I read his adventures was during that weird Kurt Busiek/Butch Guice era, where a new Aquaman turned up and the comic became underwater Conan.
Anyway, the second half of Peter David’s run definitely lacked the sense of urgency and meticulously planned plotting of his first half. After the storyline involving alien invasion, the book kind of drifted along on its own tides, without a whole lot of direction. Yes, the ongoing plot about Koryak and Vulko’s displeasure with Orin’s rule was present throughout, but it was left to a hasty and unsatisfying resolution, after David had left the book.
The stuff with Poseidon and Triton was interesting, as it helped bring into question Orin’s commitment to being a ruler, but again, it felt a little rushed. I’m not sure how this book was selling, compared to other titles at the time, but the steady stream of guest stars got a little annoying. The Animal Man and Superman issues were fine, but the Sentinel and GA Flash issue felt very tacked on and unnecessary. I feel like, had David left after issue twenty-five, there wouldn’t have been a lot more to learn about Orin or his large supporting cast.
Orin goes through a lot of changes, both physically (his webbed hand and temporarily green skin) and mentally, but I’m still not sure I know who he is by the end of David’s forty-six issues. His treatment of Ramona, the AI in the ship below Poseidonis is unexpected, and then just disappears as a plotline.
I’m still a little surprised by how callous Orin is towards Koryak (and, briefly, Arthur Jr., whose parentage is never even confirmed). I would have thought that he would have shown more interest in his children, especially after having lost his first (known) son. Koryak is around a lot, but we never see any effort made by either man to get to know one another.
Likewise, for a king, Orin shows very little concern for his people and their constantly-shifting status quo in Poseidonis. The city itself goes through a remarkable number of circumstances (tourist haven, attack ship, sideways on the ocean floor), but seems to be still functioning. Where does the city’s food supply come from? What is the economy like? I don’t expect a comic from the 90s to answer questions like this, but they were on my mind frequently during this run.
I’m not sure how I feel about Dolphin being portrayed as basically property, shifting from being Orin’s girl to Garth’s. That’s a touch creepy, given the closeness between the two men, and also a little unlikely, without a little more delving into her personality.
I did like the concept of the Clear, a kind of amplified psychic plane that presumably exists between oceanic life alone. I can see how the Clear was positioned to be like the Red and Green, (in Animal Man and Swamp Thing, respectively), but also different. It did help clarify the strength of Orin’s mental abilities, which are a lot cooler here than just being able to speak to fish. Is this still around? I feel like it’s long gone.
Art-wise, Calafiore continues to be impressive on this series, although the inconsistency in portraying underwater scenes continued to annoy me to no end. The colouring (Tom McCraw coloured every one of the first forty-nine issues of this series) did a better job of making clear when the story was submerged, which was good to see, especially when the storytelling of the art did not make that clear.
In all, I’ve enjoyed this journey through Aquaman’s adventures, and am curious to reread Grant Morrison’s JLA to see how its portrayal of Orin fits with the way David wrote him, but that’s not something I’m going to be doing soon. As much as it’s easy to criticize a lot about this book, it’s important to remember just how bad a lot of comics were during this era.
Next time, I think I’m going to be exploring a team book about a non-team, to the extent that I ever understood that appellation.
If you’d like to see the archives of all of my retro review columns, click here.
If you’d like to read any of the stories I talk about here, you are going to have to dig through some longboxes, as it doesn’t look like they’ve been collected anywhere yet.
Tags: Aquaman, DC Comics, Retro Reviews