Mera: Tidebreaker – Danielle Paige, Writer; Stephen Byrne, Artist; David Calderon, Colorist; Joshua Reed, Letterer
Ray – 8.5/10
The DC Ink line is one of the most promising new initiatives to come out of DC Comics in years, uniting some of the biggest all-stars in Young Adult literature to reinvent DC icons in stories free of continuity geared towards the bookstore market. The upcoming lineup is VERY Gotham-heavy – besides a Wonder Woman project, future books are slated to feature Batman, Catwoman, Harley Quinn, Oracle, and Cassandra Cain.
So the choice of a launch title is a bit surprising – the lead character is Mera, sea warrior and frequent love interest of Aquaman who only got her first starring role a few months back. I think that might actually be a smart choice, though – fantasy author Danielle Paige has a freer hand with the character than she would with a bigger name, and she makes the most of it.
Much of this OGN takes place underwater, and that’s where Stephen Byrne’s art shines most. Paired with colorist David Calderon, Byrne reinvents his style with a minimalist approach that uses only green, orange, and white palettes. The color scheme is an Aquaman easter egg, of course, but it also gives the book a unique, dreamy look that works especially well in the Xebel-set scenes. The book takes place in the thick of the Atlantis-Xebel conflict and recasts Xebel as the oppressed colony of the Atlantean empire. This twist, upending the standard dynamic of the two powers, feels similar to the big twist in Captain Marvel but works better here due to the regular ambiguity of the Atlantis-Xebel conflict. It also sets up a very interesting new take on Mera, the daughter of the King of Xebel and a secret rebel working to undermine Atlantis.
There’s an odd Disney-esque vibe to this story. The best way I can describe Mera’s characterization is “What if Ariel had Merida’s personality?” Mera doesn’t want Atlantis occupation, she doesn’t want an arranged marriage, and she’s not afraid to show it by blowing a hole in the Atlantean embassy. When a prince from the allied kingdom of The Trench (not a race of horrid piranha-people here) is named as her intended, he has just one task to accomplish before the wedding – he has to show his worthiness to marry Mera by assassinating the exiled Prince of Atlantis, who has been living on the surface world. Determined to get out from under her father’s thumb and prove her independence, Mera decides that if the prince needs killing, she’ll be the one to do it.
The story flags a little bit once Mera gets to the surface. There’s a lot of Mera experiencing human culture and stumbling over concepts like “paying”, and Arthur’s characterization doesn’t move much beyond “sweet guy with a six-pack.”
It’s not hard to see why Mera eventually falls for him, but he’s easily the least interesting part of the story. Where the story truly excels is in Mera’s personal struggle and her eventual decision to take responsibility for her actions. This is a surprisingly mature comic, essentially a tale about child soldiers in a war they didn’t start. Its Mera is a great, compelling lead, maybe the most interesting she’s been.
The book ends on a hopeful note, but also a very ambiguous one – it seems to almost demand a sequel. Based on the first installment by Paige and Byrne, I hope it gets one – DC Ink is out of the gate with its first win.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.