Written by: Dan Abnett
Art by: Scott Eaton & Philip Briones
Despite his best intentions, Aquaman just can’t catch a break. He’s either an enemy to the surface world, or an enemy to Atlantis, and it seems like he can never truly be the peace-maker he’s sought out to be. The conclusion of the “Crown of Atlantis” two-parter shows Arthur’s reaction to being considered unworthy to be King of Atlantis, and the fallout that ensues.
At an undisclosed location, presumably far away from the Atlantean palace, Arthur and Mera discuss their next step after the Council made it clear they’d rather have the rebel Corum Rath as king. Mera just wants to leave Atlantis behind and live on the surface world with Arthur where they can marry and start anew. But of course, Arthur won’t leave without trying to reason with the Council one last time. She leaves for the lighthouse, frustrated that Arthur won’t come with, which leaves Arthur to face the Council alone.
The trial is short, to the point, and somewhat predictable. It seemed like they already had their minds made up in the last issue, and Arthur wasn’t going to change his mind either. There’s not much action up to this point, but if you’ve been following Abnett’s run on Aquaman, this whole political rift is very compelling. And, even if you haven’t been reading every issue, it’s still compelling and difficult to see Arthur be so rejected by the people he’s been fighting so hard for.
Honestly, I was rooting for him to just leave it be after this. Just go be with Mera, spend some time back with the Justice League, doing “surface world” stuff. Let the whole thing cool off a bit, strategize, then challenge Rath later down the line. But, that’s just not who this character is. He won’t back down. He knows what kind of leader Rath is and he can’t leave his people under his rule.
Aquaman refuses to give up the throne, making him officially an enemy of Atlantis. He flees the scene before being captured, but before he can leave Atlantis, Rath summons something called the “Crown of Thorns”. This is basically a giant barrier around Atlantis to keep anyone from getting in or out. Mera sees the Crown of Thorns from the lighthouse and knows Arthur is in grave danger. Just as Aquaman is about to escape, he’s stabbed by his old comrade, Murk, and sinks into the now entrapped Atlantis. His bride-to-be is left to watch him descend, without being able to do anything to reach him.
This was an especially tough read because of everything Arthur’s been through up to this point. After so much pain and determination to help relations with the surface world and Atlantis, he is rejected by his own people. Since the start of Rebirth, Abnett has been elaborately crafting Aquaman’s story to lead up to this moment. However this resolves, I 100% think it will go down as one of the best Aquaman stories told in years. Scott Eaton and Philip Brioles do great work on the art. The transition between their work is done so well, it’s barely noticeable unless you’re really looking for it.
Before I give my rating, I’ll just remind all of you Aquaman fans out there who might have some mixed feelings about this arc: this isn’t the first time Arthur’s lost the throne, and I doubt it will be the last. But we should all know by now that Arthur Curry won’t be down for long.