(p) Ivan Reis
(i) Joe Prado
I'm torn in my feelings about "Throne of Atlantis".
I really want to like the story, and I very much want to understand how this is a bold, new direction for both Aquaman and Justice League. This week saw the release of the first two parts of "Throne of Atlantis" within Aquaman #15 and Justice League #15 respectively. Since Geoff Johns is writing both titles, he's not limited to cooperating with other writers to convey a singular tale. Instead, this is more like Johns featuring Johns--the characters feel fluid throughout the narrative because they're being written the same way each time, and the story itself is strong because the whole thing is Johns' brainchild. While this situation should have birthed some amazingly epic crossover, the whole idea kind of falls flat. We've seen Atlantis rise up before, and it's kind of starting to get old. I know this is the first time it's happened in the 'New 52', and for that reason, I'm willing to give Johns the benefit of the doubt when it comes to world-building (seeing as he's DC's Chief Creative Officer). And that's why I'm torn over this crossover as a whole: Johns is doing the best he can to make a rather dated idea more appropriate for the modern age, and while it's there are some general missteps made, there's also a lot to like in these pages.
Let's look at the missteps first. I'm worried "Throne of Atlantis" is getting dangerously close to Ultimatum territory in terms of needless death and unapologetic detriment to that universe at-large. In fact, the splash page of the tidal wave looming over Metropolis is eerily similar in look, tone, and feel to the wave Magneto sent to destroy New York City. Upon closer analysis, the similarities become even more apparent. Both Magneto and Ocean Master unleash a massive force of nature upon an unsuspecting human population in an effort to drastically alter the status quo. Both villains are purposefully left out of the issue wherein they cause the destruction, mostly as a means of making them more sinister and foreboding. Lastly, both Magneto and Orm lash out because someone or something is manipulating their emotions through death or destruction.
Now for the good. The fact that Geoff Johns has developed this entire crossover means he's got a lot up his sleeve. There are bound to be plot twists, double-crossings, hidden agendas, and shocking fallouts. Even though the events depicted in Justice League #15 mirror other comic book stories, Johns writers some of the best interpersonal relationships around. For "Throne of Atlantis", he's included a number of plot elements that have been building in both Justice League and Aquaman since their respective beginnings. We see Batman and Aquaman putting aside their personal issues with each other and working together to stop some of Scarecrow's henchmen. The normal, civilan dinner shared by Superman and Wonder Woman gives Diana perspective as to how Clark manages his life outside the League. And Cyborg's slow-burning narrative with his father continues to spotlight Victor's isolation and need to feel human.
The good outweighs the bad, in the end. Justice League #15 has some glaring weaknesses in terms of basic premise, but Geoff Johns' solid character work makes up for it. Additionally, bringing on the stellar Aquaman artistic team of Ivan Reis and Joe Prado was a dynamite choice on DC's part. While Jim Lee's pencils are good, I've always liked Ivan Reis' facial expressions and Joe Prado's depth in shading. I'm excited for "Throne of Atlantis" because I really like stories like this, and I'm confident Johns will do it justice.