"What the Past Remembers"
Writer: John Arcudi
Artists: Leonard Kirk (layouts), Andy Clarke (i)
Publisher: DC Comics
Plot: As Aquaman returns to Sub Diego he finds the Black Manta waiting, but he soon discovers his long time enemy isn't doing anything overtly criminal, and as such Aquaman can't really attack him. Aquaman's attention is quickly pulled toward Atlantis as he's made aware of a troubling situation within that city that has him speeding toward his old home. However, he soon discovers that there are still elements in Atlantis who are not pleased to see him.
Comments: John Arcudi earns full marks for how well he has merged the established (but abandoned) elements of Aquaman continuity with the new material that was introduced over the past couple years. Most times when a writer decides to take a title in a new direction he adopts a decidedly more abrupt approach instead of the slow-paced transition that John Arcudi has undertaken. I understand why most writers avoid doing this as a bold, new direction makes more of a splash, and it's pretty much guaranteed to catch the attention of more fans, but speaking as a long time Aquaman fan, I have to say John Arcudi has earned my utmost respect for the more leisurely pace at which he's re-established elements from the previous series. It gives him time to connect elements between the two worlds, such as the budding relationship between Lorena and Koryak. There is also a wonderful clash between the two worlds, as the Black Manta injects himself into Aquaman's new world, and Arthur manages to get himself painted as the bad guy when he simply attacks his old enemy without stopping to establish to the gathered crowd that the Black Manta is the true villain. In fact, John Arcudi also deserves credit for coming up with something for the Black Manta to do in Aquaman's new world, as all the character had going for him before this issue was the fact that he was Aquaman's other villain, and that he was responsible for the death of Aquaman's son. There are also a number of nice little character moments like the awkwardness of the father/son embrace that Aquaman shares with Koryak, and the opening exchange between Aquman and Garth establishes how badly this relationship has deteriorated. This makes the big plot development advertised in the next issue box sound quite plausible. The last page was also surprised me by how effective it was, especially when one considers how new this relationship is.
While he's only listed as having provided the layouts for this issue (which I'm guessing translates into rough pencils that that Andy Clarke had to flesh out while he was inking), Leonard Kirk is one of the best artists that DC has under its banner. I'll gladly welcome even his rough pencils on this title, especially when one gets a look at the finished product. There are some loving visuals in this issue, from the credit page shot of Aquaman's little power stunt, to the explosive scene where Aquaman smashes his way into Atlantis. The art also effectively sells the little moments, from the embarrassed expression on Esther's face as she mistakes Aquaman's innocent comment for something else entirely, to Aquaman's discomfort as he shares a father/son moment with Koryak. The big scene where Aquaman deals with the Black Manta before he realizes that it's not going down how he expected it to is also nicely conveyed by the art. I enjoyed the little visual touches like the fact that Esther spends most of her day looking at the clock, which adds an extra impact to the final page.
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