Review: Aquaman Vol. 5: The Crown Comes Down trade paperback (DC Comics)


For a book that's just three issues and an annual, Aquaman Vol. 5: The Crown Comes Down is a nice surprise. After the expansive, lush Aquaman Vol. 4: Underworld, I wondered what writer Dan Abnett could really do in such a short book, and truly this is more of an intermezzo between the fourth and sixth volumes than a collection in its own right. But Italian artist Riccardo Federici is a fine follow-up to Stjepan Sejic from last time, and indeed there is an important plot shift in this book that sets up the next volume's finale of this storyline -- so this book is good-looking, but more than just an artist's showcase like Batwoman Vol. 2: Wonderland. Inasmuch as Crown Comes Down brings us up to date on the goings on in Atlantis, it's a shame we'll have to wait now until December for the next part.

[Review contains spoilers]

Three issues (plus an ancillary annual) is a short book relatively. Issues #31-33 do represent an unbroken run by Federici in a three-part story, so perhaps that's part of the reasoning, just like the last book was six issues all by Sejic. Artists deserve their due, to be sure, but a stronger product might have been one volume bringing both of their work together. One wonders what's at play here — DC's post-Metal emphasis on artists, some deference given to two artists each of whom haven't done much work for DC, or perhaps an interest in more Aquaman books on the stands in time for the upcoming movie.

My concern going in to Crown was that we saw Aquaman Arthur Curry foment a rebellion against the evil Atlantean king Rath in Underworld, and with Rath unlikely to be deposed until the end of this storyline in the next volume, I wondered if this wouldn't be just place-holding rebellion-stuffs from Abnett; we saw place-holding before, in Aquaman Vol. 3: Crown of Atlantis. But happily Crown Comes Down is very sharp, in part an interstitial rebellion story but one that quickly establishes some major stakes: that Mera's life depends on Aquaman destroying the magic shield around Atlantis, and that Mera has been designated the new queen of Atlantis.

The book is moving toward where it was moving toward anyway, Aquaman vs. Rath, and the shield might have as easily been taken care of then, but Abnett does well in squeezing an extra facet out of this with surprising importance. I haven't heard the Mera miniseries is especially strong (though Mera, to be sure, deserves her own miniseries and ongoing membership in the Justice League) but I'm more interested in it than before given that it branches off from this book. Essentially, in the midst of the Rath story, these three issues are a backdoor pilot for the Mera mini, but I'm OK with that.

I have faulted Abnett's Aquaman for showing an Arthur dedicated to saving Atlantis without demonstrating any real basis for why Arthur cares for Atlantis; in past volumes when Mera has suggested they leave it all behind and go live on the surface, it seemed the sensible thing to do. In an especially good mid-book scene, Abnett has Arthur and Mera revisit that, with Mera's recent experiences with the Justice League forming a logical basis for her new about-face, that she recognizes the call to duty in both herself and Arthur (why he's deigned to rule Atlantis) and that they're meant to live lives of service. This is smart work by Abnett to bend and change the characters' arcs like this; probably Abnett's character work on Arthur and Mera is among the best coming out from DC right now. In this way, though Crown is short, it's wholly worthwhile.

Riccardo Federici has done a number of painterly works, and his pencils here are full of soft, sketchy lines. It is similar to Stjepan Sejic in that both artists differ wildly from the DC house style and both offer a kind of ethereal take, though Sejic's style is rounder and more animated. Federici is quite appropriate for this title, drawing so detailed as to define every strand of hair, and all the flowing, floating locks distinctly convey the underwater landscape. Certainly Atlantis is a better setting for Federici than the Justice League Watchtower of Batman: The Murder Machine (collected in Dark Nights: Metal: Dark Nights Rising), where Federici's figures came off too sketchy and too indistinct. For mainstream DC work, Federici still has some tics to work out, including too much focus behind and under the characters' rear ends, but I'm glad he's back on this title a couple issues hence.

Crown ends with the first Rebirth Aquaman annual, titled "Crownspire." It is ultimately a story set just before the Rath storyline, and involving heavily Arthur's friend-turned-frenemy Murk. In this way "Crownspire," by Phillip Kennedy Johnson, is something of a lost story, reflecting this title's earlier, significantly different status quo, and that's nostalgic and entertaining as the Rath story starts to heat up.

Strangely, the contents for this book call this the "Crownspire Annual," an error that I think was in some solicitations, and since I didn't pay enough attention to the annual's cover art before I started reading, I wasn't hip to the trick of this story until just before it was revealed. To that end, the story had me wondering if "Crownspire" wouldn't be some annuals-based event or DC sub-story a la Nightwing: The New Order, a kind of Elseworlds, future-set Aquaman tale. The reality, of course -- a Black Mercy hallucination -- is much simpler, almost rote in the DC Universe, but I appreciated that Johnson didn't go for the involvement of Mongul here; rather Arthur and Mera just ran afoul of some bad sea plants. And given the storied history of Arthur and Mera's son, I actually don't put past that there might not be a way for "Tom" introduced here to make his way to "the real world" (perhaps more so if this were Abnett's story).

Max Fiumara's art really makes the annual, however; in all this book is artist-heavy. Fiumara's renditions of the characters are chiseled and detailed and oddly angled, the right kind of strange on the other end of the spectrum from Federici to depict Aquaman's fantasy/sci-fi universe. Specifically his Superman is great, but then Fiumara's able to lend the end a lot of human emotion, too.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Aquaman Vol. 5: The Crown Comes Down

In all, Aquaman Vol. 5: The Crown Comes Down pleases even though, as described, it's something of an appetizer. I am assuredly spoiled by DC having double-shipped their titles for a while; the wait time between Batman volumes 6 and 7 is only four months, while we won't see the next volume of Aquaman for six. At three issues in this trade, that seems far too long to wait.

[Includes original and variant covers, Riccardo Federici and Max Fiumara sketches]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Aquaman Vol. 5: The Crown Comes Down
Author Rating
4.5 (scale of 1 to 5)

Comments ( 4 )

  1. This review coming out just as Abnett's run was announced to be ending, with Kelly Sue DeConnick taking over.

    1. Well, that's sad, but I don't think I expected Abnett to write the title forever, and by the time he's done he'll have written at least seven or more trades' worth, so not too shabby. Hope DC puts him in something suited to him.

  2. AnonymousJuly 24, 2018

    As much as I enjoy Kelly Sue DeConnick (and have been buying all her Image work), Abnett's run has been so refreshingly consistent in quality and tone, I was hoping to see it hit 50-100 issues someday. I'll be sad to see it end, but it at least seems the right size for a hefty "Aquaman by Dan Abnett" Omnibus someday (for which I hope they include his final few issues of New52 Aquaman, which sets up so much of this Rebirth run!)

    1. I'm stoked for the Suicide Squad crossover collection -- at least the Aquaman title is going out with a bang!


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