This issue wraps up Aquman’s first story arc, as the Sea King and Mera descend into the depths of The Trench, farther than either has ever journeyed. Aquaman notes that he has never had trouble seeing while in the ocean’s depths, but this time he must actually summon angler fish to light the way. Mera urges Aquaman to kill the Trench monsters, but Aquaman can’t face the idea of ending an entire species, especially since he can’t communicate and reason with them. They discover what at first seems like a structure, but upon closer inspection, they realize that it is a sunken craft from ancient Atlantis, before it sank. The angler fish stop short of entering the craft, their survival instincts overriding Aquaman’s telepathic commands. Aquaman and Mera must continue on their own.

They have barely entered when they encounter a child of the Trench creatures, sick and deformed… “inbred,” as Aquaman surmises as it dies in front of them. They encounter several more child corpses floating in the tunnels of the craft. (Why didn’t the others eat them, like they did each other on the surface?) Finally, the pair reach the throne room and behold the enormous queen of the monsters. The captured humans are in containment pods attached to a wall. A little too easily, Aquaman and Mera break the wall free and begin raising it slowly to the surface. Finally the creatures attack. Aquaman fends them off, while Mera continues her escape with the captured townspeople. Once again, a little too easily, Aquaman holds his own… until the queen attacks! Aquaman must trigger a volcanic explosion to kill her.  He has no choice but to do as Mera insisted and kill them all.

Back on the surface, the police help the heroes free the captured citizens from the pods. Two are already dead, but the rest have survived. The pair return home to Arthur’s lighthouse. There, they are visited by Deputy Wilson who brings along the dog Aquaman rescued last issue. Turns out the dog’s owner was killed by the monsters and the Deputy suggests Aquaman and Mera adopt him, which they do. Hmmm, never pegged Aquaman for a dog owner, but it’s a nice touch.

While I am glad to see a ‘New 52’ title wrap up its first storyline, the ending felt a tiny bit rushed. The Trench creatures were so formidable and unstoppable in the first part of this storyline, but here, Aquaman just brushes them aside. The battle with the gigantic queen was also very brief. But then again, I suppose I’d rather have the story conclude here than stretch on for another issue.

Aquaman’s compassion for the creatures felt a tad naive and it was layered on pretty thickly. The tone was suitable eerie, though. The discovery of the queen wasn’t super original. I mean, I’ve seen ‘Aliens.’ But then again, I love ‘Aliens’ so if you’re going to rip off pay homage to something, it may as well be something excellent! In all, this was a pretty top notch opening storyline! Scary, tense, humorous, insightful… it delivered on pretty much every level in regard to plot! I actually liked that they didn’t face a typical super villain. I’m looking forward to appearances by Black Manta and Siren and so forth, but I liked that this story gave Arthur a fresh threat.

And art? Breath-taking! Ivan Reis is a master, but I daresay this may be his best work ever! He really went all out, with the lush flashbacks, hyper detailing, beautiful facial expressions and anatomy. I love the fact that he and Geoff Johns clearly love Aquaman so much and pour that love into this book. You can feel it!

One bit of warning, though. I’ve seen this happen with other characters; the creators love the character so much they make them infallible; a “Mary Sue” to use fan fic lingo. Arthur is brave, selfless, compassionate… but doesn’t show much emotion. He’s  pretty stoic through the whole thing. Hopefully, we’ll see more facets to his character as the book progresses. Mera at least has one significant trait, her regal pride. It’ll be interesting to see that evolve as well. I hope she doesn’t come across as too bitchy.

So excellent beginning to what hopefully becomes a long string of great stories for the reinvigorated King of the Seas!

Verdict: Buy

Written by Geoff Johns
Art and Cover by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado