Aquaman continues to follow Topo, who has coincidently gone to the city of the Idylists, where Aqualad is in trouble. He is ambushed, and taken out by a hammerhead shark.
On the surface, General Horgan is getting up to more trouble.
Aquaman wakes to find Aqualad and Mcaan, and finally gets the full story. Then Manta appears and beats Aquaman up, until Aquaman escapes. He doesn't stay loose for long, as Manta reveals that he has Artie Jr and Topo prisoner. Manta makes Aquaman and Aqualad battle for Artie Jr's life. Aquaman figures out how to escape, but is too late. Aquaman send Topo back with Artie Jr's body, then goes to find Manta... alone, because Aqualad no longer wants to be around him.
Frankly, this is it. This is the big one. This is the story that changed Aquaman forever. This is the start of the tale that shook up everything that Aquaman is, and was. While the changes had been coming for some time, starting perhaps with the Steve Skeates "Mera Quest" story, this is the one that pushed him over the edge. No writer ever quite managed to pull him back since, though several attempts have been made.
It's kind of ironic that such an important story has a completely misleading cover. I won't deny that the cover is dynamic and um... well-executed. But the scene doesn't happen in the story. If anything, the opposite happens, as Aquaman shows his disregard for Aqualad by seriously trying to kill him instead of trying to find another way out. Aqualad's reaction may not have been expected, but it was the most logical one.
Aquaman also shows his true colors here. Instead of trying to find another possible way to save his son, instead of making absolutely sure the boy is dead, instead of taking the body to Mera and comforting her, he sends Topo back with the body and no explanation, and goes after Manta in a rage. To be honest, the whole thing is shockingly insensitive on Aquaman's part.
Aquaman figures out that the fish in the city are robots when one of them gets caught in Manta force field. Had he figured it out sooner, his son wouldn't have died and Aqualad wouldn't have been angry at him. Heck, if he'd simply continued to try calling fish to aid him, life would have turned out better.
Mcaan explains that the Idylists are peace-loving people who live in a hidden valley, but occasionally visit the main city to preach. It was during one of those visits that they convinced Mcaan's son Syan to go with them. Mcaan thought that Aqualad was one of them because of his purple eyes.
Remember back a few issues when Manta was working for Karshon? He got a map for his services, a map to the city of the Idylists, which he conquered. His intent was to make an undersea kingdom for blacks. He made the Idylists experiment on his men to make them water-breathers. Indeed, during the scene in the jail, it appears that Manta has already had the operation.
This story is sad, on many levels.