This week, the DCEU takes another kick at the can with their release of Aquaman, hitting theatres this Friday. While the king of Atlantis has been a main stay in the DC Universe for over 75 years, he’s never been the most popular hero. That’s why this review doesn’t focus on him. Instead, the topic of the hour is his better half. In the comics world, Atlantis has gone through a lot this year. A brutal despot has taken over the underwater kingdom, and only the bravest fight against him through the resistance. It’s up to Mera: Queen of Atlantis to find them an army.
Written by Dan Abnett with artwork from Lan Medina, Queen of Atlantis finds Mera on dry land as she struggles to recover from injuries that have made her power over the seas unreliable. While she convalesces on the surface, the battle for Atlantis has already begun. She has been chosen by the people as the new ruler in exile. At the same time, Aquaman’s half brother Orm (a.k.a. The Ocean Master) has started a life on land with his new companion, Erin, and her son. When both Mera and Orm hear of the problems happening in the water, they team up to find an army to save their kingdom. This takes them on a trip to a place Mera thought she would never return: Xebel.
Xebel is the sworn enemy of Atlantis and Mera’s place of origin. She must return to a land that considers her a traitor and convince their king to join them in a quest to overthrow the evil tyrant now in charge of Atlantis. Mera must overcome treacherous plots and physical challenges to persuade the people of Xebel to lend their services. There’s also the factor that Orm cannot be trusted. Add all this together and it’s easy to see that Mera has a long fight ahead of her.
While this story was released as a companion to the main Aquaman title, it reads well as an independent story. If you haven’t been following Arthur Currie’s adventures you can still pick up this book and get a satisfying read. Everything you need to know is quickly presented in a way that doesn’t feel invasive to the storytelling. Although Dan Abnett has been writing at DC for some time, this is probably his best work since his time at Marvel. The plot is strong and moves along at a quick pace that keeps the reader engaged while not feeling like things are moving too fast. Abnett focuses on his strong suit, putting the characters in the drivers seat.
On its surface, Queen of Atlantis might seem like a side quest to find an army for a character who isn’t even featured. Deep down, the story is about Mera and Orm struggling with being cut off from Atlantis. Mera’s injuries have kept her from the place and the man she loves at a dark time. She feels ashamed that she can’t be there to aid in the fight. Orm, while living a life that is healthier for him with someone that truly loves him, is ready to throw it all away if there’s a chance of recapturing glory in his former kingdom. They form an uneasy alliance for different reasons and it leads to them continually becoming adversaries throughout the story. While Mera faces many threats and obstacles, none are as taxing as her confrontations with the self-proclaimed Ocean Master.
The artwork from Lan Medina (along with inkers Norm Rapmund and Richard Friend and colourist Veronica Gandini) is first rate. The many fights that Mera finds herself in are choreographed nicely, from her encounter with an octopus, to her standoff with Xebel’s army, to the many tussles with Orm along the way. Mera is presented as the warrior she can be while still showing the uncertainty she currently struggles with. Featuring picturesque backdrops and inviting underwater sequences, each panel is put to good use with no space being wasted. The story visuals live up to its strong narrative.
If you’re looking for some enchantment under the sea, Mera: Queen of Atlantis is a great read that even non-Aquaman fans should enjoy. (Mainly because he’s not in it.) Dan Abnett and company give Mera center stage and she does not disappoint. The trade collecting the six issue miniseries is now available wherever you buy your comics.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!