At the end of the previous volume of DC Rebirth’s Aquaman series, Arthur Curry was deposed as king of Atlantis, and one of his loyal guards Commander Murk appeared to stab him in the back as a magical barrier came over the underwater city, cutting it off entirely from the outside world.
However, it seems doubtful that Aquaman would just die like that. And he didn’t. Volume 4, subtitled Underworld, continues that story.
Of course Arthur Curry isn’t dead. He’s living and working on the lowest levels of Atlantis, a common laborer, hiding from government search parties and underworld goons. But he’s not going to be hiding forever. His sense of right and wrong is too strong, and he does have an unexpected inspiration in the form of Batman. Striking from the shadows and saving one person at a time is about his speed right now, starting with a mysterious young woman known only as Dolphin.
Meanwhile, other factors move to either consolidate power or take down newly crowned King Rath on their own. Rath is looking to remove the mutants and less genetically pure people of his kingdom, solidifying his fascist tendencies for the reader. Vulko is looking for a way to dethrone Rath, though in favor of whom he doesn’t seem to know. Mera is lonely and looking for hope, trapped on the other side of the wall from Arthur. And Arthur? Well, he never much wanted to be king anyway.
There’s something to be said for the leader who doesn’t really want the power but simply accepts the responsibility.
But on the lower levels, there are crime lords and spies to evade, magical artifacts that are guarded by long dead ghosts, and a whole host of other things in Atlantis. Writer Dan Abnett may finally be taking advantage of the weird setting that an underwater city would have to be. Likewise, the series is showing a strong political side that, in the past, worked best for me. Given the publication date, Rath does seem to resemble in some way a certain prominent American politician who likewise wants to build a wall to keep the undesirables out.
But does Aquaman want to be a king? Will he take it back? Or will he be a symbol and hero for an uprising that wants Rath gone and Atlantis no longer under the control of corrupt, power-hungry dictators? And with new artist Stjepan Sejic, the new status quo for the series is more obvious as Aquaman goes from being on top his kingdom’s food chain to the bottom of the metaphorical barrel. This is a bit of a step up from what came before, and I hope I don’t wait so long to get to the next one.
9 out of 10 bioluminescence attacks.