I have just two new issues this week, both strongly featuring women. The first is Aquaman, in which Mera unleashes an all-out assault on Atlantis; the second is Batwoman, tying up her first Rebirth arc with an epilogue that is really a prologue.
Aquaman #26 – Underworld (Part 2)
In the issues leading up to this one, Aquaman was deposed as king of Atlantis by Rath, a ruthless separatist obsessed with the magic commanded by the Atlanteans. Aquaman survived the attempt on his life and is living in the under city.. He has also transformed his look – now sporting long hair and a beard not unlike the Aquaman we will shortly see on the big screen. In the last issue, there was one panel that really stood out for me:
I simply loved the idea of Arthur, in effect, becoming the undersea Batman and, as the story developed it was thrilling to watch that promise fulfilled. Then there’s Mera, trapped on the surface, initially mourning for Arthur then renewed as she learns he’s alive. Her story continued, beautifully, in Justice League, where her determination to reach Arthur almost caused catastrophe. It’s a lot for the next issue to live up to but it delivers pretty well.
First, Mera – she thought Arthur had been killed as they fled Atlantis. Now she knows he is alive and they are separated by the “Crown of Thorns”: a magical barrier sealing Atlantis. She is, shall we say, a wee bit pissed off by this, and she unleashes all her power against the barrier, in effect using the whole of the ocean to ty to break it down. (Seriously, talk about badass!) In Justice League #24 we saw the surface perspective on Mera’s attack; now we see it from under the sea and while King Rath shrugs it off, declaring nothing can break through the barrier, it’s clear that most of his advisors are rattled.
Meanwhile Arthur is still in the Tride, alternately battling and running from the Drift – the King’s elite guard – in the company of the mysterious mute girl who now gets a name: Dolphin. This has the feel of the writers assembling the pieces rather than significantly moving the plot along as Arthur is meeting people and learning things but there’s a nice payoff in the final panels as a new villain, the ominously named Kadaver, makes his first appearance.
Lots of unanswered questions as is fitting for a second instalment. Gimme more angry-badass-Mera any day!
Batwoman #5 – The Many Arms of Death (Part 5)
Ah, Batwoman! I like Batgirl, too, but Kate Kane owns my goddamn soul. This is the conclusion of the first arc of her Rebirth solo title; she’s also prominent in Detective Comics. Following on from the Night of the Monster Men crossover event (mini-event?) Batwoman does the one thing Batman cannot: she leaves Gotham to pursue the black-market sellers of the “monster venom” that turns people into, well, big-ass monsters. The trail leads her to an island called Coryana, which, it turns out, is a place where Kate has serious history: a “lost year” during which she fell in love with the mysterious Safiyah and, apparently made a whole lot of enemies. In issues 1-4 of The Many Arms of Death Kate returns to Coryana, thwarts a terrorist plot to destroy the island and reconnects with former friends and enemies from her “lost year”. In issue #5, we flash back to the events of that year and find out a bit more of why Kate is so hated by Tahani, the female assassin who repeatedly attacked Kate in the previous issues.
This is beautiful. While Saffiya is an ambiguous character – she rescues Kate from drowning, so she seems to be “good” but her associates are smugglers and pirates – her romance with Kate is sweet and touching. There are hints of the person Kate is going to become but she is no Batwoman here, just a lost girl slowly rediscovering her path. Tahani’s antipathy toward Kate is also realistic, if not wholly Kate’s fault and in the climactic action we see Kate set foot on the path that will ultimately lead her to Gotham and the Bat.
This issue has a different artist from the rest of the arc, but as it’s all flashback that works nicely, and I have to say that Stephanie Hans’ art is stunning. The romantic scenes are like beautiful watercolours framed by roses (for Desert Rose – the name of Saffiya’s bar). A dance club scene lays the panels out in strips of alternating colours like strobe lighting, evoking the noise and music in art. And the ocean storm…I can’t describe it so take a look: