MERA QUEEN OF ATLANTIS #1 / Writer: Dan Abnett / Pencils: Lan Medina / Inks: Richard Friend / Colors: Vero Gandini / Lettering: Simon Bowland
Mera Queen of Atlantis #1 balances an ongoing Atlantean civil war against Mera’s own duties and desires while sprinkling in a dash of surface world intrigue. That sentence alone suggests an exciting page-turner of an issue, doesn’t it? Indeed, the cover for Mera Queen of Atlantis #1 proclaims that “The Battle For The Throne Begins Here”. Unfortunately if that battle truly does begin with Mera #1, the titular character will have little to do with it.
The first issue of Mera’s mini-series is bookended by scenes of Prince Orm and his surface family where he struggles against the pull to get involved in the undersea war raging between Arthur and Rath. Orm, it should be noted, gets more development and is treated more sympathetically in six pages than Mera is throughout the rest of the issue. Most of the issue focuses on Mera as she fights a hired criminal, talks to the Justice League and the Secretary of State, and mopes that she’s not married yet.
Dan Abnett makes an unconventional—one might say archaic choice—and narrates the issue extensively through omniscient third-person. This is a narrator voice that treats Orm’s and Mera’s scenes with equanimity. The narration is a constant distraction such as when it info-dumps exposition during Mera’s fight with Eel, draining all energy from the one action sequence the issue has. Further, it robs Mera of the ability to speak for herself. This character is an exiled queen and a most lethal fighter, and yet in Mera #1 she is denied the chance to speak for herself.
Unfortunately the writing problems in Mera #1 go well beyond narration choice. The “six hours earlier” chyron at the start of Mera’s scenes is a lead-up that serves no purpose. Exposition is delivered clumsily—such that information provided to the reader via narration is later provided, almost verbatim, to the Justice League by an ancillary character. Meanwhile Mera spends the balance of the issue insisting to anyone who will listen that the Atlantean civil war must be left to its own devices while pining for Arthur and her wedding.
I wish I could say that the art uplifts Mera #1 from the disappointment of its story but unfortunately Lan Medina’s pencils are not up to the challenge. There is a lot of close-up drawings of character faces but Mera seems to possess a repertoire of only three expressions: depressed boredom, vague interest, and teeth clenched determination. There are several panels in the final pages—including her conversation with the Secretary of State—where Mera’s expression appears completely blank—as though she is waiting to have a personality pour into her. Likewise Richard Friend’s inks and Vero Gandini’s colors do nothing spectacular for the bulk of the issue.
The saving grace in the art is two pages where the book flashes back to different moments in Mera’s past. Gandini washes out the colors which lets Friend’s shading shine. These flashbacks also favor action which is Medina’s strong suit (it is the opening action scene that is probably Medina’s best work in the book).
The art in Mera Queen Of Atlantis #1 is barely competent, doing little to offset the fact that, excepting three panels in this issue, the book is about a woman robbed of all agency. Unfortunately it’s not the result of any villain against whom she can fight to take it back. This is a theft that comes at the hands of her storyteller, and it’s a theft that robs this first issue of all drama. Mera deserves better.
Verdict: 1.5 out of 5 Wet Fish
Theron Couch is a collection of 1000 monkeys on 1000 typewriters trying to produce Hamlet. From time to time he accidentally types comic book reviews. Theron’s first novel, The Loyalty of Pawns, is available on Amazon and he’s published assorted short stories. Theron maintains a blog with additional comic and book reviews as well as posts on his personal struggle with mental health.