Things just keep getting worse for Aquaman in Aquaman #4. Now arrested and detained by the US government, he has to try and explain that the latest naval attack is the work of Atlantean terrorists and not an act of war. Whilst his determination to maintain peace is admirable, it leaves the task of providing a diplomatic solution to his beloved Mera. And when it comes to diplomacy, Mera isn’t the most patient of people. In fact, when it comes to breaking points, she’s about ready to snap.
As the Atlantean army investigate the ship’s wreckage they make some startling discoveries, but their presence only makes them look more guilty and increases the tensions even further. Meanwhile, Black Manta continues to be courted by the sinister organization N.E.M.O., although what part he’ll play in future events remains unclear. As for Mera, she makes a decision which could either save Aquaman’s life or plunge Atlantis into the very heart of war itself.
Once again it’s another taut story in one of DC’s standout titles, continuing to lay the groundwork in a plot full of political intrigue. Abnett and Briones continue to impress, and despite this still being the infancy of this relaunch it’s already looking like one of the best Aquaman incarnations in the character’s entire history. Yet, amazingly, Aquaman does almost nothing in Aquaman #4. Actually, that isn’t true… and that’s also why it works so well.
Aquaman‘s scenes are all character-driven, as he debates his stance on politics and non-violence eloquently and logically. We know he’s capable of escaping and fighting an entire army without breaking a sweat, and he even points that out himself. However, he knows that it’s a self-defeating cause and so symbolically agrees to a position of apparent weakness, with all the humility and dignity a true leader should. Not only that but he also lightens the mood with some sarcastic humour, but which make his point completely.
Instead, the action in Aquaman #4 is provided by Mera. Proving to be more than just a background character in Aquaman‘s tale – as she has been in some versions – she’s a strong figure and a potential loose cannon, and every page reinforces that fact. It’s a prime example of presenting readers with a ticking time-bomb to build tension, and you just know that she’s going to explode at some point. It’s a matter of when, not if, and when it happens you know it’s going to be huge.
It’s understandable that some may criticise the pacing of this. After all, Aquaman has put the action on the back burner for several issues now, and the main character has barely even seen a fight outside of the initial one with Black Manta. But this is still solid writing, and a breath of fresh air in a market which has been over-saturated with mindless action at the expense of good plotting. The stakes continue to rise with every issue and the constant message of fighting for peace is always welcome.