As Sweeney and Arthur discuss the reality of the situation, Garth arrives. While he attempts to be cheerful, the situation in Atlantis is too dire for him to keep up the pretense. When Arthur makes it clear that he has no intention of returning to Atlantis, Garth casts a spell to put them into the bodies of two fish so Aquaman can see the situation for himself.
Diving deep, they find the trench where the Atlanteans have rebuilt their home in cliffside caves. Garth-fish explains the new Atlantean magic to Arthur-fish, and shows him the palace (where Rodunn preaches at the gate). Garth-fish then shows Arthur-fish where Dolphin and Cerdian are living under house-arrest. But the sight of Mera being drugged into submission sends Arthur-fish out of control, and the two are discovered by the lead sorcerer Hagen.
They run, but are chased by barracuda. And at the surface, their bodies are in danger from Atlantean soldiers trying to earn the bounty on Aquaman's head. Sweeney saves their bodies by driving her car at the soldiers, who don't recognize it and think it's a threat.
Back in Atlantis, Garth-fish can't undo the spell because that would require concentration. But Aquaman realizes that his hand could cancel the spell. Once he realizes that the Lady won't help him, he uses his telepathy to send the hand to Garth's wizard staff and cancel the spell. It works, and the two recover on the beach.
Garth then convinces Arthur to return to Atlantis and claim the throne, to free Mera and Dolphin. But the Lady denies him that, and worse - she tells him that he's already used the hand in anger and will have to deal with the consequences.
Cover Review: I'm not sure what to make of this one. Interesting, and related to the subject within, but... I was getting used to Maleev's style. Kind of a shock. Nice to see Tempest again. And Aquaman has a different look to him on this cover, after the shave and haircut from the last issue.
Definitely read the preview story, "Home Again", before reading this issue.
My first response to this issue was a big "What? When did Aquaman use his hand in anger?" It had to have happened in the last issue. But the only time he hit Rodunn is right before he got the warning from the Lady to not use the hand in anger. Is this a mistake, or a sign that the Lady isn't watching Aquaman so closely that she saw what happened right before he sought her help? Or is the Lady referring to something that happened after the warning? All he did after the warning was deflate the monster and heal Rodunn, neither of which seemed to involve much anger.
It was interesting that Sweeney stuck around long enough to recognize the threat to Arthur and Garth, and it was even more interesting that she charged in to protect them. I liked the fact that the Atlantean soldiers were remembering the Cerdian war, although the sequence only worked if you consider that fifteen years in the past had dimmed their memories of what a tank really looked like.
The scaled sorcerer is Hagen (I missed the mention of his name in the last issue), and he's not the only Atlantean who has been altered from human form. Instead of going for the possible Kordax connection, maybe they just altered themselves? That leads to the question of why they would alter themselves. The Atlanteans in Poseidonis were historically very xenophobic, hating anyone who didn't look exactly like them, so just how much did they change in the fifteen years of slavery? One theory is that they don't want to be like surfacers anymore after being slaves to surfacers - and this theory is supported in this issue. Garth mentions the new architectural styles reflect the underwater lifestyle, and that sitting like surfacers is no longer allowed. To extend this idea, then, the Atlanteans who are the most altered from human form, like Hagen, would be the elite. The goal of any ambitious Atlantean now would be to look less human and to master the powers of the sorcerers.
Speaking of powers, Tempest seems to have a little too much to prove. It may be the stress of leaving the Titans only to become a prisoner in Atlantis, but he isn't acting with the care or intelligence he usually does. Leaving their bodies on the beach wasn't the smartest thing to do... at the least he ought to have found a lake or something away from the ocean. Getting jealous of Arthur when he mentions mystical powers is also a little off, after all Arthur is the son of the sorcerer who taught Garth his own powers. Still, it was an effective appearance overall, with Tempest's spell working perfectly, and Arthur being the one who got them into trouble.
At the end of this issue, we are getting into the biggest conflict that this book may be offering. No, it's not Arthur versus the Atlanteans. It's Arthur versus the Lady of the Lake. The first three issues showed Arthur cooperating with her, but now he has a strong reason to go against her wishes. Will their partnership survive this conflict? Is it even a partnership, or has Arthur gotten himself in over his head? Is he still his own man after swimming in the secret sea? If Arthur parts with the Lady, will she undo the healing he's done? By my count, four people now owe their lives to the Lady's powers: Aquaman, McCaffrey, Rodunn, and Tempest. Maybe Aquaman has gone to the well once too many times.
Now for the major complaint. The artwork is both rushed and uneven. It doesn't help that there are two sets of artists on this issue. I had hoped the art would grow on me, but it hasn't, and it's just not terribly good. It's not horrid, but the look just isn't right for my preferences. The story has supported the art so far, but little things like Arthur-fish attacking the courtesan on page 13 aren't shown well, the action has to be figured from the words. Weak storytelling is one of the worst problems with comic book art, and it's definitely a problem with this book so far.
And there is a big problem with Tempest. His eyes aren't purple. We have a nice close-up of his eyes, and they are clearly gray. The colorist needs to be notified that Tempest has purple eyes because of his genetic heritage of magic. I'll be writing to DC, as I'm sure many Tempest fans will also be doing.
Ok, question time!
This issue raises a lot of new questions and comfirms some bits of the new Atlantis... it gets better on every reading.