MERA: QUEEN OF ATLANTIS
Writer: Dan Abnett
Penciler: Lan Medina
Inkers: Norm Rapmund & Richard Friend
Colorists: Veronica Gandini
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Cover Artists: Nicola Scott & Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Collection Cover Artist: Stanley “Artgerm” Lau
Rating: 9/10 World’s Best Dad Mugs
As sure as a fish needs water to breathe, I can’t say that I love Aquaman without the most essential character in his comic, Mera. The entire perception I had about DC’s aquatic hero was swept away when I picked up and read Dan Abnett’s issues of AQUAMAN during DC Rebirth. In the first issue alone, they put into perspective how important Arthur was not only as a hero but as a ruler of the largest portions of Earth. At that point, the floodgates were opened and soon I was picking up the entirety of the New 52 run as well as any other collection of stories I could find on the shelves. Among some of my favorite reads, there was Mera. Attempted Assassin turned lover who quickly proved to be one of the most powerful women in the DC Universe who was long overdue for her own solo series. I couldn’t have been happier with the tidal wave of votes that came in from social media for MERA: QUEEN OF ATLANTIS to be my next read. Without dipping our toe in any longer, let’s dive in and be wary of spoilers!
On The Surface
The story takes between issues #33 through #38 of the Aquaman series that has been currently running. During this time, Mera has been stuck on the surface unable to breathe underwater and with weakened powers due to dark magic used on her. She’s forced to sit out the ongoing revolt led by Aquaman against the current mad king of Atlantis while she recuperates. It’s not all bad though. She did get nominated the Queen to rule Atlantis once the whole thing has blown over. Relaxing poolside isn’t Mera’s style so she is going to be seeking out any way she can to prevent issues from the surface making things worse with Atlantis.
Despite all the help she can do, as well as, whatever efforts Aquaman is putting up down below, things in Atlantis are continuing to escalate. Something needs to be done. With the increasing news of the civil war being waged among the Atlanteans being covered on the news, a long-awaited member of the Aquaman series makes his return. Orm Marius was long since almost washed away from my memory, being last seen in the New 52 run. During the Throne of Atlantis, he was defeated by Aquaman and the League, being sent to a surface prison where he remained until a kind-heart broke him out to start a new life. Thanks to a heartwarming new lease on life being spent with his newfound love, Erin, and her son, as well as, Lan Medina drawing him a butt that could shift the tides. Orm has returned and shall now be referred to as “Ocean Daddy” for obvious reasons.
Mera and Ocean Daddy have to put aside their differences from one another to save Atlantis and to do that they seek out the aid of Mera’s people, the Xebels. They're the ones that sent Mera off to kill Arthur. The Xebel’s aid is needed in resisting the mad king who sits on Atlantis’s throne but bad blood between the Atlanteans and enough toxic masculinity in the water here to have Greenpeace up in arms is gonna give Mera and Ocean Daddy a challenge. Wait, just Mera now cuz Ocean Daddy went full overboard on the plan and now they are fighting each other for the throne of Atlantis? Ok well, that’s fine because Mera will handle this. The story wraps with Ocean Daddy’s betrayal having him sent off to be put in prison again and Mera gaining the allies she needs to help win the revolt with Aquaman in his series.
This series was an outstanding success in my eyes on Mera’s character. With the Rebirth run of Aquaman putting Mera more in the forefront, pushing her role to be one of Queen, we’ve really got to see what makes her such an awesome character. She was never really that big into the surface. She liked it because it was part of Arthur’s identity and the unification of land and sea meant a lot to him. She was there to support him on his decisions and readers anxiously awaited the marriage of the King and Queen of the Atlantis. Unfortunately, the undertow of plot and drama sucked Mera and Arthur in. If it wasn’t dark magic curses preventing them from being together, it was Atlantean culture throwing a wrench into their plans. Now that Arthur is both unfit and unwilling to rule, it’s up to Mera to step up.
I love how much we see Mera demonstrate how more qualified she is than Arthur to rule Atlantis (no offense Aquaman). She has the knowledge of what a rulership is like and understands that the traditions are important to many of the Atlanteans. The perspective she has compared to Arthur is one where she is able to both get the people to bend and settle to changes as well as do the same herself where Aquaman was more expecting changes overnight. She is proactive in mitigating and preventing conflict where she can seek the best possible outcome for both parties she seeks to work with.
If it comes to exchanging blows, she’s more than capable in that department as well. She has been shown to be extremely powerful with her control of water throughout Aquaman comics and while in this story she may be weakened in those terms, she is far from defenseless. She is resourceful and well trained to not have to always rely on her powers, showing how much of a badass she is. Mera’s cleverness and tact with negotiating is such a fun experience to read that I hope, and can’t wait to see more focus on her ruling Atlantis in future issues. Mera’s realization of what the crown means to her by the end of this is such a great moment. To go from accepting the title of Queen out of obligation to knowing that because she didn't want the power she would be best suited for the throne, then accepting it, was a great finish for this issue.
Ebb and Flow
All right so I’ve gushed a bit about that beautiful mermaid but now it’s time to talk about that merman. It’s understandable to be thirsty but be careful, it’s dangerous to drink this tall glass of saltwater. Orm’s time in this was such an interesting one for me. Because it had been so long since I had seen him appear, this series generated a lot of excitement for me to see the Ocean Master return. It was an even better surprise to instead of having Orm being salty and out for revenge for being exiled, we get him part of a happy little family. I am a sucker for characters like Orm that are shown to have these redeeming or on the road to redemption moments. Not only does Mera point it out, but Orm’s sister and his fiancé also mention how much of a better person he is away from Atlantis. He is truly happy and it makes you cheer for Ocean Daddy.
Unfortunately, as the tide can bring in new beginnings, it can wash them away for both Erin, her son and myself in hopes of Orm leaving the life of Atlantis behind him. Orm begins a deterioration throughout this story that inevitably leads to his betrayal of Mera and sister Tula as well as the heartbreaking panels of witnessing the news being told to the people that were part of the happy life he could have had. The siren’s song of duty is too powerful for Orm to resist. He can only fall into the excuse at it lures his life course into self-destruction. Despite both Orm and Mera experiencing different forms of what she called indoctrination as someone of a royal line, they both came out differently when faced with Atlantis’ rulership. Mera may have taken the title out of honor and duty at first but it was never about power for her. It was about the people and the safety and wellbeing of them. Orm sank deeper and deeper into the belief of higher purpose, thinking that the power and weight of the crown was something only he could accomplish. The depths of delusion only continued to unfathomable levels the farther along he immersed himself in Atlantis’ conflict leading to his downfall and the end of Ocean Daddy.
A Wonderful Read
Down where it’s wetter and down where it’s better. Take it from me. I can’t express how much I appreciate Dan Abnett and the rest of the creative folks who have worked on Aquaman. Their issues had me fall in love with the character and their world on all the long nights I would be out on the water reading them. With Abnett writing a series about my Queen of the Sea I knew I was in for something special. Lan Medina’s pencils were amazing, and with the help of Norm Rapmund and Richard Friend on inks as well as Veronica Gandini on colors, everything came alive. Each page was like swimming through the coral reefs with how beautiful the colors looked. I was bummed to see Orm choose to throw his life away but even more sad that he tried to ask for a “second chance” again immediately after stabbing Mera in the back. I’m curious to see what Orm’s fate will be in the future. At the end of all of this though it is Mera you should be getting a takeaway from. She is powerful, smart, resourceful and loving. She shows strength and independence but also service to the needs of her people. One day in the future I hope they return with more issues starring Mera because like the ocean, there is so much to discover. If you haven’t been a fan of Aquaman or are curious after watching the recent movie starring Jason Mamoa and Amber Heard than this would be great pickup to learn more about DC’s world under the water.