Retro-Reviews: Aquaman Vol. 5 #0-25 By David, Egeland, Calafiore & Others For DC Comics

Aquaman Vol. 5 #0, 1-25, Annual #1(August 1994 – October 1996)

Written by Peter David

Pencils by Martin Egeland (#0-4, 6-8, 11-14, 16, 18-20, 22-23, 25, Annual #1), Gene Gonzales (#3), Jim Calafiore (#5, 10, 15, 17, 21, 24, Annual #1), Casey Jones (#8, Annual #1), Joe St. Pierre (#9), Alan Caldwell (#20), Derec Aucoin (#23), Jake Jacobsen (Annual #1), Phil Jimenez (Annual #1)

Inks by Brad Vancata (#0-2); Howard Shum (#0, 3-9, 11-14, 16, 18-20, 22-25, Annual #1), Craig Gilmore (#8, Annual #1), Rodney Ramos (#9), Peter Palmiotti (#10, 17, 21, 24), Mark McKenna (15, Annual #1), Charles Barnett (#15), John Stokes (Annual #1)

Coloured by Tom McCraw

Spoilers (from twenty-two to twenty-four 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:


  • Charybdis (#1-2)
  • Admiral Strom (#3-4, 15, 17-21, 24)
  • Jaffar (Deep Six; #6-7)
  • Gole (Deep Six; #6-8)
  • Slig (Deep Six; #6-8)
  • Trok (Deep Six; #6-8)
  • Shaligo (Deep Six; #6-7)
  • Pyron (Deep Six; #6-8)
  • Deadline (#9)
  • King Thesily (#9-10)
  • Thanatos (#12-14)
  • The Others (#13-14)
  • Major Disaster (#14)
  • Tiamat (#15, 24-25)
  • Kordax (#15-16, 20-25)
  • Guardian of Hy-Brasil (#17)
  • Ocean Master (#18-20)
  • Bres (#21)
  • The Hunters (#21-25)
  • Shaxak (Hunter; #22-25)
  • Ahk-Orrd (Hunters’ leader; #24-25)
  • Triton (Annual #1)
  • Eros (Annual #1)
  • Eyrx (Annual #1)
  • Poseidon (Annual #1)

Guest Stars

  • Superboy (Conner Kent; #3)
  • Lobo (#4)
  • Gaea (#7)
  • Naiad (#8)
  • Donna Troy (#10)
  • Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner; #10)
  • Wonder Woman (#16, Annual #1)
  • Martian Manhunter (#16-17)
  • Ice Maiden (#16)
  • Warrior (Guy Gardner; #16)
  • Fire (#16)
  • Obsidian (#16)
  • Neptune Perkins (former Young All-Star; #23-25)
  • Arion (#23-25)
  • Nickey (Sea Devils; #23-25)
  • Biff (Sea Devils; #23-25)
  • Judy (Sea Devils; #23-25)
  • Dane (Sea Devils; #23-25)
  • Tsunami (#23-25)
  • Power Girl (#23-25)
  • Deep Blue (#23-25)
  • President Bill Clinton (#25)
  • Hippolyta (Annual #1)
  • Aquagirl (Tula; Annual #1)
  • Superman (Annual #1)

Supporting Characters

  • Aqualad (Garth; #0-9, 19-25, Annual #1)
  • Dolphin (#0-9, 11-25)
  • Vulko (#0, 3, 5, 7-9, 11-16, 23-24, Annual #1)
  • Porm (a dolphin; #3-4)
  • Koryak (Aquaman’s son; #5-16, 20-25)
  • Kako (#5-7), as Corona (#7-8)
  • Letifos (#2, 6-9)
  • Dr. Sorel (#8)
  • Qeej (a dolphin; #10-11)
  • Cron (a shark; #10, 21)
  • Mera (#11-15, Annual #1)
  • Iqula (King of Tritonis; #12-13, 23-25)
  • S’ona (Iqula’s wife; #12, 23-25)
  • Arthur Jr. (#12-15)
  • Atlan (Aquaman’s father; #15, 18-25)
  • Queen of Hy-Brasil (#17-18)
  • Nuada Silverarm (#21, 23-25)
  • Spought (Guardian of Basilia; #22-25)
  • New Guardian of Hy-Brasil; (#23-25)

Let’s take a look at what happened in these books, with some commentary as we go:

  • Aquaman finds himself being sucked into a vortex with a creature at the bottom, but believes he might be dreaming.  A figure appears to him, who we are led to believe is his father, and he offers no help. As Aquaman is sucked into a giant mouth, he wakes up screaming.  A fast moving object zooms past a pair of jet skiers. Someone is poking around a sunken submarine that has the bodies of its crew floating in it. Aqualad, who was the fast moving object, turns up at Aquaman’s cave looking for him.  He finds him bearded and brooding, and they begin to argue about Arthur’s withdrawal from the world. They fight briefly before Arthur reasserts his dominance over Garth, and we learn he’s there to get his help with something involving radiation suits.  They go rendezvous with a military helicopter, and we learn that they have been asked to help investigate a downed nuclear sub that is leaking. Aquaman points out that there’s not much they can do in that situation, but they go ahead. As they look around the sub, they find the dead crew.  One of those supposed bodies is still alive, and attacks them with knives. They fight this guy, who had set up the whole situation, threatening the military that if they tipped off our heroes, he would destroy many nuclear subs. This guy, who calls himself Charybdis, knocks out Garth quickly and also takes out Aquaman.  Later, Aquaman wakes up and finds himself trussed up to some harness that appears to be draining his blood. We see that Dolphin is lying in a corner with tubes coming out of her, and when he asks, Charybdis tells him that Aqualad was of no use to him – we see him floating and bleeding, with sharks surrounding him.
  • Aquaman and Dophin, still attached to various intravenous lines, are set up to have dinner with Charybdis and his wife, Scylla.  We learn that he is draining them of their powers. Aqualad, injured, is frightened by some sharks, and after hitting his head on some choral, thinks he sees Tula (Aquagirl).  In Charybdis’s undersea lair, we learn that he and Scylla are terrorists for hire, although apparently Scylla died in a bombing accident, and the woman here is someone he hired to portray her, who he then shoots and kills.  The vision of Tula tells Aqualad where Aquaman is, and that Cron One-Eye, the shark from the Time and Tide mini, would lead him there. Charybdis, eager to test Aquaman’s mental abilities, puts a mouse in a tank of piranha he got from a nearby river.  The piranha kill the mouse, angering Charybdis, prompting Aquaman to explain how his powers work. Aqualad manages to convince some dolphins to help him get into the lair. Charybdis, thinking he can force Aquaman to cooperate, holds Dolphin’s face over the piranha tank, but is distracted when Aqualad leads a whale to ram his lair.  Aquaman frees himself, and when Charybdis runs to his armory to get a weapon, is surprised to see Garth already there. He fires and misses him, setting off some of the other weapons in the armory. By this point, the compound is pretty much filled with water, and Garth finds Aquaman and Dolphin; they get out before the building collapses.  Charybdis has made it to shore, where he talks to his dead wife. Aquaman confronts him, having been told where he went by dolphins. They fight, and Charybdis holds Arthur’s left hand in the river full of piranha. As Charybdis gloats, Dolphin shoots him in the chest, and Arthur tosses him into the river, where he becomes piranha food. Dolphin goes to Arthur and we see that all that remains of his left hand is his skeleton.
  • In the zero issue that was mandated as part of Zero Hour, Dolphin gets some dolphins to help her take the injured Aquaman and Aqualad back to Atlantis.  The dolphins make comments about how Aquaman and Dolphin are going to mate, and we are told how hard it is to get a read on Dolphin. She meets guards who help her take the two men inside.  Later, Aquaman dreams that he and Dolphin are cuddling in bed together when she attacks him. In reality, Dolphin and Vulko watch over Arthur as he recovers from his injuries. Garth offers to give Dolphin a tour of the city, while Arthur dreams that he is with Mera and Manta, and that they attack him.  A small child tells Dolphin about the time that he bumped into Aquaman, which should have been a death sentence, but that Aquaman commuted it; Dolphin is not impressed with Vulko’s role in this story. Arthur dreams again, this time about his mother, the sea spirit Nuliajuk, and his father, the sorcerer Atlan.  He rejects them all, and in reality, a swarm of fish swim around his hospital bed. The vortex they create carries him away, and he is followed to the Aquacave by Dolphin and Garth. In the cave, Arthur tells them that he needs to be a symbol of both the surface world and the undersea world, and so he’s tied the harpoon that killed his dolphin-brother back in the Time and Tide series, to his arm in place of his left hand.
  • Aquaman convinces Vulko to do some work on his new harpoon hand, making it sharper and invulnerable, although Vulko takes some convincing.  What really gets him to agree is hearing Dolphin accuse Aquaman of being afraid, and him agreeing. Porm is swimming with some aquamarine dolphins, talking about Aquaman, when they are trapped in a net by some Japanese fishermen.  One of the aquamarine dolphins is speared when it tries to get away, and the other flies off into the sky. Aquaman tests out his new prosthesis in a fight with some royal guards, and then tells his friends that he wants to travel to Hawaii to see Admiral Strom, the guy who helped Charybdis capture him.  Garth and Dolphin decide to come along. I guess they swim from somewhere in the Atlantic to Hawaii, which seems kind of unlikely. When they arrive at Pearl Harbour, they are turned away, and out of nowhere, Superboy (Conner Kent with the bad 90’s sunglasses Superboy) attacks Aquaman. They fight, and Superboy is able to get him down.  Our heroes leave. Hours later, Superboy, who was summoned to the base by someone, and some guards wait around, and see a massive tsunami, pushed by blue whales, headed their way. Superboy tries to attack, but this time is dispatched by Aquaman, who punches him so hard he goes flying. Just as Aquaman and friends reach the door to Admiral Strom’s office, Superboy returns, but the door opens and someone inside tells Superboy to leave.  Aquaman enters and Admiral Strom tells Aquaman, calling him both Orin and Arthur, that Porm has been captured, and offers to be his ally.
  • Aquaman threatens Admiral Strom, who again offers to tell him where Porm is (without revealing how he knows this, or so much about Aquaman).  In space, a tour bus vessel is buzzed by Lobo, on his way to kill some dolphin killers, and ends up flying into a star. We see that Porm and other dolphins are the captives of a Doctor Shinobi, at the Shinobi Institute in Japan, who wishes they would talk to him.  Captain Tanaka, the man who captured them and the space dolphin demands more money from Shinobi, who claims, after dissecting it, that the dead space dolphin was normal. Tanaka storms off after Shinobi slaps him for saying that dolphins are dumb. Aquaman, Dolphin, and Aqualad chat with some dolphins who tell them about the flying space dolphin and where Porm is.  Lobo brutalizes some fishermen trying to figure out who killed the space dolphin. Aquaman and friends cut through a net around the Shinobi Institute, making it possible for some captive sharks to leave, but they are too dumb to realize this. Our heroes make their way through the tunnels in the Institute, and find Porm, who is worried about Shinobi. Tanaka returns with men and guns, and as they argue with Shinobi, Lobo arrives and starts fighting them.  Aquaman sends Dolphin and Garth to look after the dolphins while he heads towards the action, getting there just as Lobo burns Shinobi badly. Lobo and Aquaman fight until Lobo learns that Aquaman is a friend to dolphins. Aquaman comforts Shinobi as he dies, and Lobo flies after the fleeing Tanaka. Tanaka claims that he and Lobo are the same – hunters, and that he should be allowed to follow his nature. Lobo agrees but drops a grenade on his boat, causing it to blow up.  Tanaka is the only survivor, and he appeals to Aquaman that as a hunter, he should be allowed to follow his nature, and Aquaman agrees, leaving him to the gathering sharks (who finally found their way out of the net). Porm and the other dolphins carry Shinobi’s body into the deep, claiming that he was one of them in a former life.
  • A young shirtless man stands on an iceflow off the Alaskan coast yelling at and challenging someone, when large tentacles grab him and drag him under the water.  Aquaman and his friends return to Pearl Harbour, where they find Admiral Strom gone, replaced by Admiral Jory, who denies all knowledge of Strom, and the flooding that Aquaman caused a few days before (weirdly, there’s no damage).  Aquaman storms off, and later the friends, resting on the back of a whale, talk about what to do next. Dolphin asks about the use of the name Orin, and Aquaman decides it’s time to look for his father, Atlan. The young man returns home, and we learn that his name is Koryak, and he is the son of Kako, the girl that Aquaman lived with and lay with in Time and Tide.  We see that he cut off one of the tentacles, and that something is tormenting their village. They hear screaming and Koryak runs to the docks. Dolphin visits Aquaman in his cave and he talks about how much he has to do. They kiss, and he cuts her with his hook by mistake. Aqualad chats with Vulko about a historical Atlantean offshoot called the Sher’hedeen who perhaps could raise the dead.  This convinces Garth that it was Tula he’d seen, and decides to go seek them out. Aquaman tells Dolphin that he needs to get some new clothes, and that he needs to put in an appearance at a Justice League funeral. In Alaska, Koryak tries to fight off some more tentacles, but is too late to save two villagers who are dragged below. Aquaman explains to Dolphin and Garth that he’s headed to Alaska, the last place Atlan was seen, but doesn’t want to explain that Ocean Master is his brother.  Garth gets annoyed and says he’s heading off on his own mission, and is upset when Dolphin decides to stay with Aquaman. Koryak emerges from the ocean with the bodies of the two villagers, and is blamed by the others as the cause of their problems. Dolphin and Aquaman travel north in an Atlantean vehicle. Garth suits up in a new outfit that covers his legs and doesn’t look so stupid, and takes an energy weapon from the armory. Aquaman, in his new 90s look, surfaces next to an Inupiat fishing vessel and asks about Kako.  He and Dolphin head to her village and turn up at her door, where they meet Koryak. When he realizes who Aquaman is, he attacks him, and they trade blows until Kako shows up and stops them. When Aquaman asks “Who is this little bastard?” she laughs and reveals that he is their son.
  • Koryak and Aquaman are both fighting another tentacled creature, and Koryak uses a combination of telepathy and hard water powers to damage the beast.  As they fight the creature, they also argue with each other, and head to explore an undersea cave. In a flashback, we see Aquaman reconnecting with Kako, and learning about the attacks on the village.  We also see that Koryak is interested in Dolphin. In the cave, Aquaman and his son continue to squabble, and just as Aquaman gains insight into Koryak’s feelings by comparing them to his own anger towards Atlan, Koryak is grabbed by some green helmeted guy.  Aqualad continues his own exploration, using a helmet that makes it easier for him to see in the depths. He comes across a small whirlpool that reminds him of the Cave of Death, where Tula once rescued a child. At Kako’s, she and Dolphin talk a bit when another green-skinned creature, calling itself Jaffar, busts through the boarded-up window.  He identifies himself as part of the Deep Six, and claims to be looking for Koryak. Aquaman tries to rescue Koryak, and they begin fighting this guy named Gole. He stops him, but then two more of the Deep Six, Slig and Trok show up and offer a truce. At the village, the last two Deep Six members, Shaligo and Pyron, rip apart and burn everything.  Dolphin continues to fight Jaffar. Down in the cave, one of the Deep Six feels the need to spawn, and heads to a special chamber. Another explains to Aquaman and his son that they are servants of Darkseid, and that they are there to prepare the way for his conquest of Earth. The “pregnant” one ejects a smaller version of himself into a tank – this is how they reproduce.  Their leader talks about how there will soon be a new water elemental born on Earth, and they hope to capture it to advance their ends. As Dolphin keeps fighting Jaffar, he punches Kako into a burning building. Jaffar does something to Dolphin’s face, while Kako, on fire, runs towards the sea. Koryak senses that something has happened, and he and Aquaman head back. Aqualad comes across the being he thinks is Tula, and she claims not to be.  She tells him to leave, and when he gets a good look at her face, he expresses surprise. At the same time, Aquaman picks up Dolphin and sees that her facial features are gone – her face is just smooth skin. Koryak looks for his mother.
  • Aquaman rushes Dolphin to the water while Koryak worries about his mother.  Getting her into the water allows Dolphin to breathe through her gills, saving her life.  Koryak despairs when he can’t find his mother. We see that Kako, badly burned, is lying somewhere where she is met by Gaea (although the name is spelled Geia), who, when Kako asks for the “heat in [her] eyes”, embraces her in flame, which excites one of the Deep Six.  Koryak comes to Aquaman and they decide to go after Deep Six and show them no mercy. Aqualad is surprised to learn that the woman he thought was Tula is actually a mermaid named Letifos, although he still believes she is Tula. Others, mermen, attack Aqualad. The Deep Six are happy that they have Kako, who is in a chrysalis state, and they send their spawn to fill her with their darkness.  Outside, two of the Deep Six stand guard, and are met by Aquaman and Koryak. Jaffar takes credit for the damage done to Dolphin’s face, and they all start fighting. Vulko is researching some kind of prophecy when an earthquake affects his city (Poseidonis? Atlantis? It’s not yet been named in this series), and we see that the entire domed city has been raised on a pillar of rock. Aquaman cuts off Jaffar’s hand, while Koryak kills Shaligo, alerting the others.  Aquaman forces Jaffar to fix Dolphin in exchange for his life, but then Koryak kills him anyway. Koryak rushes into Deep Six’s cave (which is filled with air, making it impossible for him to use his hard water powers). Aquaman and Dolphin crash their vehicle into the cave. Aqualad has been tied up by the merpeople, who don’t believe him when he says he’ll leave peacefully. They call one of those death cyclone things towards him. Aquaman frees Kako from the tank the Deep Six have her in, and she stands up transformed into a creature of flame (she looks like Galactus’s former herald Nova mixed with Volcana).
  • Kako, in her new form as Corona, drags one of the Deep Six up to the surface and kills him.  She is angry when some of the locals thank her and recognize her as their champion, as she never felt welcomed by them.  The remaining three members of Deep Six are upset with Aquaman (we see their spawn in the background, but don’t see them again).  Koryak recognizes that Corona is no longer his mother. Corona returns. The “flesh-eating water” approaches Aqualad, and just as he breaks free from the merpeople’s ropes, he is surrounded by this water.  Corona kills Pyron, and when some of the other members of Deep Six ask for Aquaman’s help, their leader is angry. Corona’s anger knows no bounds, and after the last two members of Deep Six escape through a Boom Tube, she turns her anger on Arthur.  Back in Poseidonis, Vulko and Dr. Sorel examine the rock growth that has risen the city. Vulko thinks there is something in that rock trying to get out. Aquaman and Corona fight, with her destroying his hook, and Koryak joins on his side. Naiad, the water elemental appears and explains that Corona was tainted by Deep Six’s plans, and that she’s there to kill her.  Our heroes don’t want that to happen, and end up fighting against Naiad too. Arthur offers to let Corona kill him so that she can resolve her anger towards him. She recognizes that this wouldn’t solve anything, and the two elementals decide to leave together, and try to figure out how to live and fulfill their roles.
  • Someone hires the assassin Deadline to kill Aquaman, suggesting he wait until he is on dry land to act.  Aquaman, Dolphin, and Koryak return to Poseidonis (this is the first time in ten issues that the city is named), and are surprised to see it raised and on a bit of an angle.  They have an audience with King Thesily, who is much more welcoming to Aquaman than he was when we saw him in the McLaughlin series. Vulko has been restored to his place on the council.  Aquaman tells them that he is going to be seeing STAR Labs for a replacement hook, and asks about Aqualad. We see Letifos mourning over Aqualad’s skeleton. At STAR, Aquaman is given a new hook, which is connected to him cybernetically, allowing him to retract and manipulate it with his thoughts.  Deadline shows up and fires gas at Aquaman, hoping to make him easier to kill. Koryak demonstrates his water spear powers for Vulko and the King, which does freak out a lot of the Poseidonians. Deadline and Aquaman fight, and Deadline decides that flying Aquaman high over the city and dropping him is the best way to kill him.  Vulko talks to Koryak about the natural paranoia of the Poseidonians, and when another seaquake happens, the young man saves some kids from falling debris (although, really, stuff doesn’t fall that quickly underwater). Falling, Aquaman fires his harpoon attachment, catching Deadline’s flying disk. Their fight continues, and they fall into an open sewer grate.  Aquaman is replenished by the water (which is gross, really), but Deadline has taken off. Elsewhere/when, we see Aqualad washed up and at the feet of someone. Thesily watches the people of Poseidonis flock around Koryak, and his usual jealousy is displayed. We learn that it was he who hired Deadline to kill Aquaman, and he muses that he will have to kill Koryak and Dolphin too so the people will like him.
  • Some fish pass on a message to the “Sea King” that the “old one” is dying.  Two divers approach some sharks, and one gets mauled. Aquaman dreams that he is standing on top of the dome surrounding Poseidonis after it has surfaced in the middle of the ocean.  He sees someone behind him who looks just like him, warning that he must keep the place and the people together. He is awakened by Qeej, a dolphin, who tells him that his dreams are echoes of future events, and that the old one is dying.  Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner) and Donna Troy (what superhero identity did she use in ‘95? Was she a Darkstar then?) see a news story about the shark mauling in Crescent Shore and Kyle decides to go solve a simple problem for a change. King Thesily continues to complain to himself about how the people love Aquaman, and now Koryak, more than they do him.  He decides that he will kill Koryak. Green Lantern arrives at Crescent Shore, where the people are hunting the shark, and is told by the mayor that moving the shark is not enough; it has to die. Aquaman arrives to stop GL from harpooning the shark. Thesily talks with Koryak alone, holding a knife behind his back, when a new tremor hits the city. Aquaman and Green Lantern argue, and of course, begin to fight (it seems this is the first that Arthur’s met Kyle).  GL traps Aquaman, but is himself grabbed in the jaws of the Old One. Koryak realizes that Thesily means him harm, and they fight just as a piece of debris breaks off the ceiling of the room they are in, and pins Thesily to the ground (J. Calafiore draws the Poseidonis scenes as if they are on dry land). Aquaman breaks free, and manages to snag Kyle’s ring with his harpoon hand. Kyle, unprotected from the water, continues to fight, earning Arthur’s respect. Aquaman gets through to Kyle by invoking what happened to Hal Jordan when he lost his compassion.  The Old One tries to warn Aquaman of something, but forgets what it is. Later, Green Lantern emerges and tells the mayor that the Old One is dead, and that Cron is eating him. The mayor is upset at not having a trophy, and Kyle buttons up his mouth and flies away. Thesily begs Koryak for help, but he refuses to provide it. Instead, he decides to wait until Thesily is dead, so the people won’t have to learn that Thesily tried to kill him. He ominously suggests that Thesily just made him king…
  • The first Aquaman Annual slots well here.  In 1995 DC pushed a line-wide “Year One” approach to the annual, and so we get four stories from Aquaman’s early days, with a framing sequence involving some deep-sea raiders reading his contributions to the Atlantis Chronicles, hoping to find their way to some treasure.  In the first story, the god Triton travels to Themyscira, hoping to make the young Wonder Woman his bride. Aquaman has followed him, and tries to stop him from pushing himself on her, and the two heroes meet for the first time. In the second chapter, Aquaman has just met Mera, and under the influence of the god Eros, decides to ask her out.  She is also under the god’s influence, and acts more freely than she usually would, and they end up making love. In the third chapter, Poseidon is angry with Aquaman and is pursuing him in the form of a storm. When he tries to seek refuge on a Pacific island, he meets up with Superman for the first time, and while they don’t exactly get along, they do help each other, and then decide to hang out in a desert until Poseidon calms down.  In the last chapter, Mera is giving birth to Aquaman’s son, and he is kicked out of the delivery room, since she is suffering from complications. While waiting in his throne room he is visited by Poseidon, who does not like that he uses the phrase King of the Seas to describe himself. Poseidon lets him know that Pakuul, the whale that helped save him from Triton in the first chapter, is being chased and dying, but Aquaman knows that going to help him would cause him to betray the promise he made to Mera that he would stay by her until their son is born.  He chooses his wife, and the whale dies. His son is born and healthy, but Poseidon drops off the dead whale and the ship that killed him, after striking it with lightning and sinking it, outside the dome of Poseidonis as an omen. Aquaman finds the scavengers in his cave at the end of the issue.
  • Qeej accompanies Arthur as they return to Poseidonis, telling him it’s a bad time to return.  Arthur arrives in time for Thesily’s funeral procession and burial in a deep chasm. Later, the Council and citizens of Poseidonis meet to discuss succession, and the conversation turns into a brief brawl before Koryak addresses everyone, praising the city and its heritage, and offering to help lead the people to a new, safer place away from whatever seismic disturbances are endangering them all.  Aquaman investigates the pillar of rock beneath the city, and discovers it to be hollow and cold. Going to tell people, he sees the city beginning to empty out, and asks Dolphin if she is going too. She asks if she has reason to stay, and he swims off. We see a hand emerge deep in the chasm that Thesily’s coffin continues to fall into. Aquaman talks to Vulko, who is also leaving the city, and we learn that Vulko is upset with our hero.  Aquaman speaks to other prominent Atlanteans, trying to get them to stay, and then learns that it is Koryak they are following. He sees this as a family issue, but it’s Vulko whose comments cause him to give up hope, letting the people leave. That hand reaches the top of the chasm. Aquaman walks (everyone is walking in this issue – if the whole city is leaving, why aren’t they using their vehicles to travel? Why aren’t they swimming?) the city, thinking about the different visions he’s had – of the city on the surface of the ocean, of his son and Garth trussed up dead before him.  He ends up sitting on the throne, remembering his coronation and how things have been so bad for him, and how lonely he is. Dolphin comes up behind him, saying she wants to stay with him. They make love between panels, and have their bedroom conversation interrupted by the sudden appearance of Mera.
  • If I hadn’t recently read Shaun McLaughlin’s run, I don’t think I would have understood anything about this issue.  It opens somewhere dark where Thanatos (who is never named in the issue) is looking for Mera and beating on her son (Arthur Jr.?), who tells him that she went out.  The kid stands up to him, and he storms off. Back in Poseidonis, where Mera has just walked in on Arthur and Dolphin, Dolphin immediately attacks her. They fight and trade insults for pages before Arthur is able to separate them.  He sends Dolphin away so they can talk. We learn that the Poseidonians have all gone to Tritonis, but there is tension between the merpeople and their two-legged guests. Iqula, now the King, tells Vulko and Koryak that they are going to need to leave after a few days.  More arguments break out outside the palace, and Vulko sees it as all prejudice (and not the strain of doubling the population of a city in one swoop). Dolphin, getting dressed, decides to wear one of Arthur’s shirts as a provocation. Mera is confused, not knowing that she’s been gone for months, and after Dolphin returns, their conversation moves towards them taking shots at each other again.  Suddenly Mera is contacted by Thanatos, and swims off in a hurry. Arthur goes after her, followed by Dolphin. Vulko tells Iqula and S’ona (his wife) that he wants him to open up some sacred and sealed tunnels that apparently connect Tritonis and Poseidonis, as well as many other places. Iqula sees this as heresy and dangerous, and Koryak insists that they might force the issue. Of course, if the tunnels are also under Poseidonis, one is left wondering why they couldn’t have used them back there, or at least examined them to see why their city is rising out of the ocean…  Mera swims towards the bottomless pit she came out of, and Aquaman decides to follow her, again, followed by Dolphin. The kid tells Thanatos that he’s told “the others” what Thanatos has done, which angers him. Mera is about to go through a portal, but Aquaman uses his tow line to try to stop her. Thanatos’s giant hand reaches out and grabs her. Aquaman and Dolphin try to pull her back, but they are all pulled through the portal. When they come to, Aquaman finds himself in a guillotine with Thanatos standing next to him in what looks like Revolutionary France.
  • Thanatos and Aquaman fight in Revolutionary France, and when Aquaman bests Thanatos, everything goes white.  In Tritonis, Iqula is angry to find Koryak leading his people into the temple that holds the entrance to the tunnels that Iqula has forbidden the Poseidonians from using.  Koryak threatens to destroy the sacred temple. Aquman finds himself in a jungle, Savage Land-like setting, and finds Thanatos, riding a dinosaur, about to kill Mera. Aquaman fights the dinosaur, but Thanatos kills Mera, and the dinosaur is about to eat Arthur when things go white again.  Iqula decides to allow Koryak entrance to the tunnels, which is not a popular choice among his own people. Dolphin finds herself with Mera and Arthur Jr. in a cave; Mera tells her that they are in Hell. Aquaman finds himself in a Roman gladiatorial bout against Thanatos, while Arthur Jr. explains that he called the rulers of this realm, calle the Others, to see what Thanatos was doing.  Mera explains that it’s more purgatory than Hell, and that the Others are testing Thanatos and Aquaman to see who is more worthy of returning to the corporeal world. In the tunnels, Koryak suffers from a lack of confidence in his leadership, but Vulko supports him, revealing that he knows what happened to King Thessily. Aquaman gets Thanatos down and at the point of his trident. When Julius Caesar gives him the thumbs down, Aquaman refuses to kill his foe.  The Others see that Thanatos lacks compassion, and so find him worthy of returning to the world, while they tell Aquaman that he is going to stay in their realm until he becomes evil enough to earn his exit.
  • Issue fourteen loosely ties in to the Underworld Unleashed event.  It opens with a series of random images – marbles rolling down stairs, birds flying over the ocean, a submarine surfacing, and a rock lying at the edge of an underwater cliff.  Thanatos, happy to be alive again, swims and talks to himself. Aquaman turns up in the same place that Mera, Dolphin, and Arthur Jr. have been. Mera greets Aquaman with a kiss, and introduces him to Arthur Jr.  An airline pilot slips on the marbles on the stairs, and an unnamed supervillain kicks a security guard in the leg so that a blood clot comes loose and kills him. Arthur is surprised to meet Arthur Jr., who Mera says was born after she came to this place, which means he might be Aquaman’s son, but could also be Thanatos’s.  Using the scrying portal there, they watch as Thanatos turns up ready to rule Poseidonis, only to find it abandoned. Koryak, Vulko, and the other Poseidonians continue through the tunnels, although the wall art they find, which depicts Kordax (who has telepathic powers over sea life) and Shalako (who has hard water powers, like Koryak) suggests theological and historical issues, not that Koryak cares.  Aquaman tries to leave his new prison, unsuccessfully, and learns about how this anti-purgatory works. He decides to try to use the scrying portal again. In a weird sequence, the supervillain sets a sequence of events into play with his powers, so that he can kill Aquaman on behalf of Neron. Thanatos is annoyed at how little he has to do, so he declares war on the surface world. Aquaman thinks about some prophecy about how two brothers will fight over Atlantis, and tells Arthur Jr. that he hopes he’s not his son.  The villain causes a bunch of ducks to fly into the airplane piloted by an inexperienced replacement pilot, just as it gets hit by lightning, and crashes into the surfacing submarine, just as Thanatos swims nearby. The explosion of the nuclear sub causes the rock to fall off its cliff and land on Thanatos just as a crevasse opens beneath him, before closing and crushing him to death. We learn that the super villain is Major Disaster, and Aquaman appears to make contact with his father through the scrying portal.
  • As issue fifteen opens, we see that there is a large complex under Poseidonis that is raising the city, and that within it, a crystal holds some kind of secret.  Aquaman speaks to his father through the portal, and Atlan’s identity is a surprise to Mera. Aquaman requests that he gets them out of the netherspace they are in, and Atlan agrees, but says that he’s going to put him somewhere other than where he left from.  Aquaman, Mera, Arthur Jr., and Dolphin all go through the portal, as Poseidonis shakes. Upon arriving at this new place, Arthur Jr. collapses. Atlan explains that because he’s from the other dimension, he will age quickly and die. Mera sends him back through the portal, and then follows.  Aquaman tries to stop her and ends up piercing the wall with his harpoon line, which sends a shock through him, making him collapse. In some American military command room, Admiral Strom and some others watch video of Thanatos declaring war in Aquaman’s name; Strom encourages action. That crystal cocoon from the first page opens, revealing a lizard-like woman.  Dolphin sees to Aquaman, who she always calls Orin, if I never mentioned that before. He realizes that they are beneath Poseidonis, and he calls this place home. He wants Mera back, but also kisses Dolphin, when the Earth shakes again, affecting them and the lizard woman. We see that the city continues to rise to the surface. In the tunnels, Koryak, Vulko, and their followers come across a casing of some sort made of shell and seaweed.  Aquaman and Dolphin, exploring the complex they are in, find the lizard-woman, who identifies herself as Tiamat, and turns into a large dragon and attacks them. As they fight, a US sub explores the changes happening under the ocean. Aquaman yells at Tiamat, and we learn that they are in her spaceship, where she has been sleeping for millennia, while the ship, which is conscious, learned and fell in love with humanity. Admiral Strom, learning that Poseidonis is rising, clearly knows what’s going on and thinks it’s happening ahead of schedule.  Aquaman tells Tiamat that her ship has chosen him over her, and once again sends his hook into the wall, coursing energy through his line into the dragon. As she dies, she says that Orin is no more human than she is. At the same time, Poseidonis breaks raises through the ocean’s surface, and we see that Tiamat’s ship is a large round asteroid with a humanoid face (just like we saw in the tunnel paintings Vulko examined before. In front of Koryak and Vulko, the shell structure opens, and a the snake-skinned Kordax emerges, claiming that his return was preordained for the turning of the millennium.
  • Dolphin, swimming far from the spaceship under Poseidonis gets a sense of its scale, and learns that the local dolphins always knew it was there.  Apparently dolphins, like Dolphin, don’t share information willingly. Arthur is on top of the dome, as we saw in his earlier vision, but he’s bothered by the fact that there is no crowd there to cheer for him, suggesting that reality diverged from prophecy somewhere.  He sees a ship coming, and joins Dolphin. Kordax confronts Koryak, and recognizes him as a descendent. Koryak attacks him with his hard water spear, but Kordax deflects it and attacks. The Justice League approaches Poseidonis, having been sent to investigate Aquaman’s declaration of war.  Aboard their ship, Wonder Woman is convinced that it’s not Arthur in the video footage, and the whole team is surprised to find Poseidonis above the waves. A gate opens for them, and they fly inside the dome. Kordax continues to fight Koryak, and when the Poseidonian military opens fire, he kills some of them, and then uses his telepathy to gain control of everyone there before dumping them all into a chamber under the tunnel, and joining them.  The League is led by Dolphin through the dry Poseidonis to the throne room where Arthur awaits them. He denies sending any transmission, but is also kind of stand-offish and uncooperative. Obsidian moves to examine the spaceship, against Arthur’s warning, and is hurt by it. J’onn grabs the fake hand Arthur is wearing over his harpoon (since the League sees its presence as a sign of mental illness), and it catches fire. Things turn into a fight, and Wonder Woman sends him flying out of the building with one punch.  As Arthur fights Guy, Dolphin begins to fight Wonder Woman, until she too is sent flying. Arthur starts pumping water into the city (he’s cybernetically connected to it now), and the League has to choose between leaving and drowning. Dolphin helps Ice Maiden make it back to their vessel, and Wonder Woman suggests leaving Poseidonis alone for now. Dolphin and Arthur talk, and he shares that his plan is to find the five lost cities of Atlantis, and to begin preparing a defense against the aliens who were responsible for human development.
  • A manta-like figure sits and broods, and shows that he has Wolverine claws.  Arthur and Dolphin talk about how he needs to unite the lost cities of Atlantis.  Admiral Strom goes to his office where he speaks through a portal to some entities, telling them to wait before coming to Earth; they tell him they’re going to do what they want.  Aquaman takes Dolphin into the vessel below Poseidonis, and they take a ship that he can control with his mind to go looking for one of the lost cities. Martian Manhunter recommends that the US government not respond to the threats issued by Thanatos in Aquaman’s name, but Strom tells the other admirals and generals that they need to act on their own.  Arthur has the ship explain history to Dolphin, and we learn that life on Earth was seeded by a group of aliens known as Hunter/Gatherers. They arrive at the city Hy-Brasil, where they meet it’s guardian, the manta-guy from the beginning of the issue. He refuses to allow Aquaman and Dolphin entry, and they begin to fight. After a few pages, Aquaman is close to defeating him when the Queen of Hy-Brasil arrives to stop them.  Aquaman explains his goals, but the queen is not interested in helping. However, as Aquaman defeated her husband (who kills himself from the shame), he is now made King of these odd-looking people. The queen offers all her city’s weapons, but also says that they must mate, or that he will be killed by her people.
  • The Queen of Hy-Brasil shows Aquaman part of their extensive armory, and reminds him that if he tries to leave her, her people will kill him.  Dolphin, on their ship outside the city, hears a voice telling her that she cannot love Aquaman. Scared, she lashes out and hits the weapons controls of the ship, firing on Hy-Brasil.  She fights off the voice, but finds herself under attack by the Hy-Brasilians. Admiral Strom takes a VTOL jet out for a spin. Aquaman is able to stop the attack on Dolphin, but the Queen insists she be executed for her crimes, and that she wants Aquaman to do it.  Atlan dismisses the threats of The Others, and speaks to a shadowy figure he calls Garth. Dolphin is taken to an arena, and after Aquaman again speaks in her defense, but she refuses to say anything on her own behalf. The Queen insists that her High Seer examine her memories, and after Dolphin threatens “unforeseen consequences”, he absolves her of responsibility.  Strom approaches a mountain, and speaks to another shadowy figure. In Dolphin’s mind, the High Seer sees that she was abducted by aliens as a child, and experimented on before being freed and marked by someone. While trying to learn that rescuers identity, the High Seer is killed by Dolphin, who snaps his neck with her ankles, although it seems she wasn’t in control of herself when it happened.  Aquaman reminds the assembled that the Seer had absolved her beforehand. Aquaman calls the Queen a coward, and he and Dolphin leave the city, hearing a scream behind them. One Hy-Brasilian comes out to tell Aquaman that the city will stand with him when the time comes, and they return to their ship. In the mountains, Admiral Strom informs Ocean Master that Aquaman has alien technology that will lead him to him.  
  • Ocean Master let go of his staff while he slept, which causes him agony after Neron changed him.  When a young woman tries to help him, he mistakenly burns her. Aquaman and Dolphin buzz some dolphin hunters in their ship, and then talk about how Dolphin killed one of the Hy-Brasilians.  In a pyramid with a human eye, Atlan packs hurriedly knowing that The Others are coming after him. Aquaman and Dolphin arrive in the Himalayas, where colonists from one of the lost cities settled.  They begin to climb a mountain together (I don’t know why they couldn’t have just flown their ship up to the top), not knowing that Admiral Strom is watching them. On the way up, Ocean Master grabs Aquaman’s harpoon hand, sending his energy down the line.  Dolphin falls, but manages to snag a hand hold. Aquaman reaches Ocean Master, and they begin to fight. As they fight, Ocean Master triggers an avalanche, burying himself, and knocking Aquaman off a ledge. He manages to catch Dolphin as he falls, and use his harpoon to grab the side of the mountain.  Strom tries to get into Aquaman’s ship, but is punched by an unseen person. The snow swirls around Strom, freezing him into place. Some people from the lost city come to Aquaman and Dolphin, and invite them into their mountain, where the city is hidden. They are knocked out by green energy. When they wake up, Ocean Master has Aquaman trussed up in a torture device designed so that when he gets ripped apart, spiked rocks will kill Dolphin.  Aquaman appeals to Ocean Master, referring to the coming alien threat, but OM is already aware of it and removes the supports, putting Aquaman under great physical stress. The ship busts through the wall of the mountain, blasting the rocks pulling on Aquaman and threatening Dolphin. It turns out that Garth is in the ship.
  • Still frozen, Admiral Strom’s anger drives him to stay alive.  Ocean Master is angry that Garth has flown the ship through the wall of his city, and blasts the ship.  Garth shoots back, and Ocean Master, hurt, drops through a hidden trapdoor in the floor. Garth emerges from the ship, and Aquaman immediately notices that he looks about three years older, and has scars on his face.  Garth makes it clear he was with Atlan. Atlan, meanwhile, is in an apparently empty city but comes across Koryak, and then Kordax. Kordax sends “his” people – the still apparently mind-controlled Poseidonians – after him.  Ocean Master worries that Aquaman is going to ruin his plans, and takes it out on his followers, one of whom, the girl he burned by mistake, reveals that they all worship Neron, and that they view Ocean Master as his vessel. This revitalizes the villain’s sense of purpose.  While Dolphin and Garth talk, Aquaman drills through the trapdoor. Strom uses his weapons to melt the ice on him, and vows to finish what he started. Aquaman explains to his friends that Ocean Master is his brother, which Garth already knew. The heroes find him, and Arthur and Orm begin to fight again.  When Arthur punches his mask off his face, they are surprised to see that Orm is disfigured after seeking power. The people of the city use mental energies on the heroes. Atlan evades most of the Poseidonians, but gets knocked down by Koryak, who uses his powers on him (which is weird because this entire sequence looks like it’s happening on dry land, where Koryak’s powers don’t work).  Aquaman, under mental attack, tells Orm that they are brothers, and when Arthur grabs his staff, the psychic energies allow them to link and Orm sees the truth of their connection. Aquaman asks Ocean Master to work with him, but just then Strom shoots Aquaman in the chest. Ocean Master is angered by this, and uses his powers to destroy the mountain they are all in.
  • In another of the “lost” Atlantean cities, Thierna Na Oge, two sisters, Bres, who wants to align with Aquaman’s enemies, and Nuada Silverarm fight over who should rule.  Nuada wins and banishes Bres, before telling the other citizens of the city to prepare for Aquaman’s coming. In the Himalayas, Garth pilots the ship out of the destroyed mountain, and decides the best place to take the injured Aquaman is (conveniently) Thierna Na Oge.  Strom blasts his way out of the wreckage, and looks up to see a skull-faced asteroid hovering over him. He teleports away. Koryak looks for Atlan’s body, unsuccessfully, and is consoled by Kordax, who is actually pretty angry. Aquaman wakes up in Thierna Na Oge, having been seen to by Nuada.  She is familiar to him, and she explains that he is sensing “echoes from other timelines.” She offers him the support of the city. At the same time, Bres is visited by the skull asteroid. Garth and Dolphin chat about how this new city is strong in Atlantean sorcery, and then he kisses her, and impressing her with it.  The skull asteroid is floating outside the city, and while Aquaman summons his ship to help stop it from crunching into the city, Nuada readies her mystical conclave. Aquaman does some damage to the asteroid, and when the conclave strikes, the asteroid appears badly damaged. Legions of armored soldiers stream from it, the conclave come out to fight them, and Aquaman and his allies join the fray, which is pretty intense.  Garth’s new powers over temperature are effective, and just when Aquaman is about to be shot, Cron and some other sharks show up to help out. Dolphin disarms one of the enemies, and then, hearing voices again, aims at Aquaman. We see that Bres is fighting on the side of the enemies, until Nuada blasts her. Dolphin continues to fight whatever is influencing her, and when she fires her blaster, it’s to hit someone about to get the drop on Aquaman.  The enemy retreats, and Aquaman feels that the whole skirmish was too easy. Somewhere, Admiral Strom stands around and laughs.
  • Issue twenty-two opens with an older man, chained in a dungeon, being tortured by one of the alien “Hunters”.  It turns out that this guy is supposed to be the Guardian of the city Basilia, and the Hunters are upset that he’s turned on them.  Aquaman shows up and interrupts the torture, fighting the lone female Hunter. The old guy, whose name is Spought, knocks the woman out and is freed.  Meanwhile, Garth and Dolphin are searching another part of the floating city, and see a large squadron of Hunters disembarking from a flying skull ship.  It turns out that when they came to the city, they split up because they couldn’t find anyone. Arthur and Spought make their way through the city, and we learn that Spought, who has been guarding this silent place for centuries, decided that he likes mankind and that he would work against his masters.  The hunters find Arthur and Spought, and the magical shield that Arthur is employing against their blaster fire returns it to his enemies. This is the work of Atlan, who is also in the city, and who shows himself to his son. Dolphin and Garth decide to try to find the city’s command centre. Arthur punches Atlan, and they agree to work together, deciding to wear the uniforms of the dead Hunters (who are completely human in appearance).  In Tritonis, Kordax leads the enthralled Poseidonians, including Koryak, to fight that city’s people. Aquaman and his friends think they’ve been discovered, and then realize they are watching other Hunters chase Garth and Dolphin, but Atlan insists they don’t help. Instead, they enter the command centre, where they find the woman from before, and other Hunters, waiting for them. As Aquaman and Atlan fight, Spought takes command of the city, and at Aquaman’s urging, flips the floating city over, causing all the Hunters to fall into the ocean.  Garth and Dolphin also fall, but Garth uses his powers to save them, and they decide that Aquaman knew they’d be fine. They get Spought to take the city to Tritonis. As they travel, Atlan and Orin (I should probably be calling Aquaman that from this point on) talk, and they come to some kind of peace with each other, although Atlan doesn’t like Orin’s beard. At the White House, Shaxak, one of the Hunters, has a meeting with the President of the United States (Clinton? He’s not shown), and promises him a Golden Age on Earth.
  • The President (who is never shown) introduces Senator Neptune Perkins (the former member of the Young All-Stars) to Lady Shaxak.  Aquaman and his friends arrive at Tritonis and find it destroyed, with most of the people crucified. He goes to King Iqula, who tells him that it was the Poseidonians who did this to him, and they have Lady S’ona.  Aquaman frees him and flies him towards Basilia (I don’t know what they did with the rest of the merpeople). There, Atlan gets in touch with Arion, who agrees to help, but is not impressed to learn that Aquaman will be running the show.  In Tritonis, the Poseidonians are revelling when Aquaman, Garth, and Dolphin come and confront Kordax, Koryak, and Vulko. Dolphin realizes that it was Kordax that rescued her as a child. Orin challenges Kordax, but he proposes that Garth challenge Koryak instead.  Garth defeats him easily, and Kordax and Orin begin to fight. Their battle is both physical and telepathic, and affects every living thing in the ocean, and extends to people connected to the oceans, like Perkins and Arion. The Sea Devils are hanging out on their ship when some whales go nuts around them, sending them sinking.  Orin pulls back on his attack to spare every living thing, and Kordax gives him S’ona and tells them to leave. Kordax slashes Koryak’s face for losing. Garth and Orin talk about the trust they have in each other. Shaxak holds a press conference, and announces that her mate, the Hunters’ leader, is arriving. Spought and Atlan are met by Tsunami who arrives to help, and says her daughter is coming as well.  As the Sea Devils work to repair their ship, they get some help from Aquaman and Power Girl (I’d forgotten that she was once connected to Atlantis in her complicated history), who just happen across them on their way to gather with their allies. In the Golden City, Orin addresses Atlan, the new guardian of Hy-Brasil, Arion, Garth, Tsunami, Nuada, Dolphin, and the Sea Devils. Arion challenges his leadership for a bit, but Orin has good reasons as to why he should be in charge.  They all overreact when a large shell approaches. Deep Blue, Tsunami’s daughter, emerges from it, pledging to help out.
  • The Hunters’, who call themselves the Explorers’, large skull-shaped ship floats above the White House.  Their leader, Ahk-orrd, teleports down to meet Neptune Perkins and give his message of peace to the media.  Aquaman and his allies have gathered in the Golden City, and Aquaman tells them how the Hunters, who he calls the Hunter/Gatherers, once colonized Earth but then fell to another alien race, the Anunnake, becoming their servants.  He says they abandoned Earth but left observation ships, and that now they’ve sent the Hunters to take over. Ahk-orrd tells a different version of this story, which has his people working alongside the Anunnake, to help planets like Earth grow.  A fish warns Aquaman that the enemy is coming to attack them. Power Girl and Arion strike first, supported by the new Guardian, the Sea Devils, and Nuada. Aquaman helps, riding a massive whale into the side of the ship, where he and Garth interrogate their prisoners.  Ahk-orrd cures a homeless man of his blindness in front of TV cameras. Aquaman decides to use Atlan’s portals to help coordinate the defense of all the Atlantean cities, addressing the various citizens of the deep, including the Poseidonians under Kordax’s control. Nickey (of the Sea Devils) chats with Deep Blue, and we learn that she has the power to increase the size of sea life, at least temporarily.  Admiral Strom is visited, and killed, by Tiamat. More alien ships arrive and attack the various cities, while Aquaman’s allies fight back, with Aquaman coordinating in each place. Aquaman launches the ship under Poseidonis. Koryak rages against his father ordering them around, while Kordax is visited by Tiamat, who orders him to deal with Aquaman. Poseidonis approaches Washington, where Ahk-orrd’s ship dwarves our heroes’.  Aquaman and Garth teleport into the White House, where Ahk-orrd insists he meet with Orin alone. He offers Orin a place in helping them turn Earth into a Utopia, and promises to leave if Orin rejects them, but only after telling everyone on the planet that Aquaman stopped them from perfecting the world.
  • Power Girl, Dolphin, and Garth mock the offer made to Orin, who is stuck considering the Hunters’ offer, as he fears that if he rejects them, the rest of the planet will blame and punish his people.  As they talk, Kordax and Koryak bust into the White House on a wave of teleported water. Atlan and Arion watch from Poseidonis, which is still floating over Washington, and see that Tiamat, in full dinosaur mode, is on top of the White House as well, as more portals flood the area with water.  Power Girl attacks the dragon while Neptune Perkins helps President Clinton get away. Aquaman and Kordax fight, and Kordax tries to make Orin believe that he is under the control of the ship under Poseidonis. Garth and Koryak fight as well, with Garth gaining the upper hand. In Basilia, many of Aquaman’s allies wait to see what they should do, and find themselves surrounded by may Hunter ships.  As Power Girl struggles with Tiamat, Arion comes to her aid, as does a squadron of Hunters led by Ahk-orrd. As Orin is choking Kordax with his harpoon line, Dolphin tries to stop him, and reveals that since the first day she and Aquaman met, she’s been fighting off Kordax’s mental commands. When Orin realizes that it was Kordax who saved Dolphin’s life as a child, he hesitates, giving the immortal the chance to cut him.  Dolphin fires a gun at Kordax, not wanting Orin to be hurt, and Kordax uses his mental powers to return the shot right into Dolphin. At that, Orin taps into his telepathic powers at their strongest, and manages to force Kordax to kill himself. The heroes on Basilia fight against their attackers, but are overwhelmed, and forced to flee on Tsunami’s wave as the city is destroyed. Ahk-orrd argues with Tiamat until Aquaman arrives, carrying the dying Dolphin, and blasts her mentally.  Atlan catches the falling dragon in a magic bag and destroys her. Aquaman orders Arion to save Dolphin, and then clarifies that he is begging for help. Later, in Poseidonis, Orin meets with Ahk-orrd and Shaxak. We learn that the Hunters boosted Orin’s mental abilities in the fight, showing him what can be offered to him if they work together. Orin asks about the Hunter’s methods to turn the Earth into Utopia, and learns that they would first have to destroy much of human civilization, a fact they did not tell anyone.  Aquaman reveals that he was broadcasting their conversation through one of his portals. Learning this, the Hunters leave. Dolphin appears to be on the mend, Garth and Atlan leave to attend to other matters (in the Tempest miniseries, which I don’t own and have never read – is it good?). We also learn that Koryak is free of Kordax’s control. Aquaman stands on the dome of Poseidonis and watches the Hunters leave.

Peter David’s run lasts for almost fifty issues, but as I got to the end of the Hunters arc, which really started in the first issue with Admiral Strom getting involved in Aquaman’s life, I figured it was time to keep this column from getting ridiculously long.

These are very good comics, with tight plotting, some very nice art, and some great action scenes.  At the same time, I feel like something is missing, and I think that that’s Aquaman. I don’t feel, after reading over two years’ worth of comics, that I know Arthur/Orin any better than I did at the start.  Sure, we learn who his father is, and meet at least one (but possibly two) of his children that he didn’t know, and see him enter into a relationship with Dolphin, but I don’t feel that Peter David made a convincing case that he really knows Arthur’s character.

Shaun McLaughlin’s Arthur was mired in his losses, while David’s Orin just seems to be going through the motions of living up to his responsibilities.  His fight with the Hunters, and Kordax, are fought because it’s the right thing to do, but I never really get the sense that Orin is working out of love for his people.  

He is aloof with Dolphin, who is herself a pretty distant and unreadable character.  He is a terrible father. When he meets Koryak, his mostly grown child with Kako, that he never knew existed, he doesn’t seem too interested in getting to know the boy, nor does he see his existence as a second chance after the loss of his son with Mera.  Instead, he almost sees him as a rival for the affections of everyone around him, much like King Thesily’s reaction to the boy’s existence. Likewise, when he travels to the netherspace to rescue Mera, he barely blinks when introduced to Arthur Jr., who may or may not be his child.  It’s like he’s incapable of caring for his children, or utterly uninterested in them.

I’d be fine for that, except for the fact that throughout this run, he’s managing his own father issues with Atlan.  When they finally speak, Orin expects something from his distant immortal sorcerer father that he is not really prepared to provide to his own children.  Some men are incapable of caring for their offspring; I understand that. I’m just not sure it fits with Orin’s character as it’s been shown before. Especially given the closeness we see between Orin and Garth.  Often, there is a tenderness to their scenes together, which is nice, except for the fact that when we, as readers, believed that Garth was dead, Orin didn’t seem too concerned by his prolonged absence.

David chose to portray Orin’s trauma physically, with the adoption of the harpoon hand, and that works in a grim 90s way, but I expected more balanced character development from the man who was refining characters like Quicksilver, and making them likeable for the first time ever, in more or less the same era.

Aside from that, I did really enjoy the way the twin plotlines involving Kordax and the Hunters played out over such a long stretch.  We don’t get slow build storylines in the Big Two’s comics very often these days, so it’s cool to remember how stories like that used to work.  The last couple of issues in the arc are very exciting, and David manages to juggle a lot of cool characters as Orin’s various allies move into play.  I also like that the story is grounded in the Atlantis Chronicles series that I now wish I’d reread before launching into this series.

The art on this book is also a little problematic for me.  I love both Martin Egeland and Jim Calafiore’s work here. They are both great character artists, with different styles that still manage to compliment one another nicely.  Egeland is very good at giving these characters character – it’s easy to read their feelings as his characters act and emote clearly. Calafiore is better at finer details, and his action scenes are often excellent.

The problem is, I can barely ever tell if the action is happening underwater or above it.  Characters walk around on the ocean floor and in underwater cities, and throw things as if they are on land.  Part of the problem with this lies with Tom McCraw’s colours, as he does nothing to differentiate the two settings.  Okay, to be fair, that wouldn’t have been as easy as it is to do digitally today, but even the 1940s Sub-Mariner comics made it clear when the action was happening in the deep.  

These criticisms aside, I am really enjoying going back through this stuff.  David came to this character with a vision and direction that was all new, and made some very significant changes to a character that was largely viewed as a joke or irrelevant for decades.  At the same time, this is the mid-90s, when comics were getting pretty terrible across the board, so in comparison to the other stuff on the stands at the time, this book stood out as an example of real quality.

I’m looking forward to seeing how the second half of David’s run, after he resolved his big story, stands up today.

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 can follow these links for trade paperbacks that contain some of these comics:

Aquaman by Peter David Book One

Aquaman by Peter David Book Two

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