Review: Mera, Queen of Atlantis trade paperback (DC Comics)

December 26, 2018

In his introduction to the recent Aquaman: The Search for Mera collection of classic material, current Aquaman writer Dan Abnett calls Mera "neglected" and "undervalued" by the annals of comics lore. She has long been Aquaman's equal, and even of late a Justice Leaguer, but largely unknown by the general public (though the new Aquaman movie might change that). To that end, Abnett's Mera, Queen of Atlantis miniseries is deserved and long overdue.

It is not necessarily a pilot nor good argument for an ongoing Mera series, though I'm not sure separating Mera from the Aquaman title would be a service to either character anyway. The character arc of the book is predictable. But at a time when the most recent collection of Abnett's Aquaman title is involved in the good but esoteric conclusion of a long-running Atlantean civil war storyline with mostly new characters, Mera has familiarity going for it. The principal characters in Mera will be recognizable to Aquaman movie fans. Further, Mera serves to bridge unresolved elements from the New 52 Aquaman run to Rebirth, something the main Aquaman series might not have had time for but that's a good thing to take care of in a miniseries.

[Review contains spoilers]

Not to miss the point, but among the main characters in Mera aside from Mera herself are Aquaman's half-brother Orm "Ocean Master" Marius and Nereus, king of Xebel and once Mera's betrothed. We've barely seen either one in about four years, since the end of Geoff Johns' New 52 Aquaman run when Orm went into hiding and Nereus crashed through his door talking about the "Seven Seas" -- with a tag that all would be revealed in Johns' Justice League "story event" "Rise of the Seven Seas." Famously that story never manifested, though chatter ever since has suggested it is still coming (and may even have some current day relevance). If not necessarily doing anything with the "Seven Seas" plotline, Mera at least unfreezes Orm and Nereus from when we last saw them, showing that Orm's gone on to build a life with the human family he met during Forever Evil.

Again, the Aquaman title currently stars a Jason Momoa-looking Aquaman (bearded, at least), but also lesser-known Aqua-figures like Dolphin and new baddie Corum Rath. That's not a great place for Abnett's Aquaman Vol. 6: Kingslayer to be, published within days of the release of the Aquaman movie. Mera, on the other hand, published about the same time, stars Mera, Orm, and Nereus, all names in the Aquaman movie if not exactly the same characters (Nereus, I believe, there becomes Mera's father). So Mera is doubly timely, both in unsnarling a sticky wicket left by Johns' departure from Aquaman/Justice League and the end of the New 52 and also offering movie fans a comic they can go to where they might find characters they enjoyed on screen. Ideally that'd be the Aquaman title, but Mera deserves the recognition too.

The story itself involves Mera, newly named Atlantis' queen-in-exile, and Orm going to Xebel to beg assistance from Nereus against Rath. Among the best parts are Mera and Orm talking over their shared history of antagonism in the second and third chapters; Abnett has often been strong in his characters just talking, and here is no exception. Arriving in Xebel, however, the story begins to feel padded, with Mera and Orm having to battle a sea monster, for instance, solely for the opportunity to speak with Nereus. The conclusion seems a little lopsided in that, while Nereus is ultimately the villain of the piece, the climax of the book is a fight between Mera and Orm. I kind of like Mera as an odd couple story of Mera and Orm, but I was surprised Nereus didn't factor more.

Abnett's Atlantean civil war storyline saw Mera injured and partly de-powered, either because or in spite of the Mera miniseries. This allots Abnett a fairly common trope in which Mera starts the book back on her heels and unsure of her various roles as queen, hero, wife, and so on, and in the final pages finds her confidence. That's fine, I guess, and its ubiquity perhaps means it resonates, but it seemed to me Abnett might have as easily presented Mera overcoming some challenge without the need for her to be doubting herself. Abnett's written a fine Mera over many years (often outshining his Aquaman), but this seems an approach often shoehorned on female characters but not male ones. There is not any sense here of Mera's own goals beyond rescuing Aquaman in Atlantis, nor the establishment of her own viable supporting cast or etc., that would lead one to see the start of a Mera series in these pages.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Mera, Queen of Atlantis

Despite my misgivings, it's again apt that Mera finally has a volume to her name, and frankly picking up Ocean Master from where we left off was enough to sell me on this from the get-go. Art for Mera, Queen of Atlantis is by Lan Medina and Norm Rapmund, both experienced, and it's nice to see a book with just one art team. In distance shots the art is sometimes indistinct, but in close-ups, Medina soars, with some of the facial dynamism of Ian Churchill. Overall Dan Abnett has done a stellar job with his Aquaman run; I'm sorry that it's soon to be ending, but I'm glad there's a number of feathers in Abnett's cap before he goes, both this miniseries and also Justice League and Suicide Squad crossovers.

[Includes original covers]

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Mera, Queen of Atlantis
Author Rating
4 (scale of 1 to 5)

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