27th Mar2019

‘Mera: Tidebreaker’ Review (DC Ink)

by Dean Fuller

Written by Danielle Paige | Art by Stephen Byrne | Format: Paperback, 192pp | Published by DC Ink

mera-tidebreaker-cover

This is the second of the DC Ink books I have reviewed, the first being Under The Moon, a young Selina Kyle/ Catwoman story. I expect the approach to the characters in this to be as fresh and as different as the approach in that book. The DC Ink imprint is aimed at encouraging in new readers in the 13-17 age range, with a special emphasis on female readers. These are not comics or graphic novels as such, but packaged to look more like books with mainstream style covers. I love the idea, and I try to read and review the book as their target audience would, not as an old curmudgeonly ‘in my day’ type reader. Let’s take a look.

Mera, of course, was always a good choice for one of these titles, just as Selina Kyle was. Brand recognition, as the corporate types like to call it. Mera was a big part of the hugely popular Aquaman film recently, thrusting her into the public pop culture consciousness, although she has been around in comic book form since 1963. Originally a supporting character in Aquaman’s own book, over the years Mera developed into a strong character in her own right. Perfect for DC Ink in the sense that she is a strong female role model, albeit one de-aged here to her teens, and also beating Disney princesses by being both a princess and the hero all wrapped up in one character.

The author Danielle Paige took a less contrary approach here to some of the other books in the DC Ink and Zoom imprints by utilising elements from the comics rather than just a complete reboot. Mera is the Princess, and heir to the throne of, Xebel, a penal colony of Atlantis, something only introduced in the DC Brightest Day retcon. As with all princesses, she is expected to marry, and rule at the side of her husband, though obviously subordinate to him, being a woman. Young Mera’s not too thrilled about that, and as a consequence is something of a rebel. She rebels against Atlantis’s rule, against the rules of her society, and against what a good little princess should be. Only her love and respect for her father stop her outright rebelling against him, but she is not committed to the arranged marriage planned for her to Larken, an arrogant prince from another place. The first part of the book gives us this insight into Mera and her world, and then leads us to Aquaman himself….

Not so fast. There is no Aquaman (yet). What we do have is a 16 year old Arthur Curry, completely oblivious to his heritage as an Atlantean prince, and actually forbidden by his father to even venture into the sea. Arthur then doesn’t realise there is a huge target on his back, as the true heir to the throne of Atlantis, and there is a plan by several colonies, including Xebel, to assassinate him. Mera, wanting to show she could rule by herself, decides to take it upon herself to find Arthur and kill him herself. Nothing personal, but he represents the oppression of Atlantis. She travels to the surface world, for the first time, and finds Arthur at Amnesty Bay, a small coastal town full of the usual stock teens you find in 1990′s horror films. She fakes drowning, to get him to take her into his confidence, and plans to kill him when he takes her to his house.

Mera struggles to kill Arthur, finding than she both rather likes him and that as he isn’t even aware of who he is, can’t justify killing him. That’s not an issue for prospective husband Larken though, who has followed her and is more than happy to do the deed. Mera reluctantly does try to kill Arthur, but only succeeds in making him discover who he truly is. While their powers are evident, the ‘superhero’ aspects of the characters is kept very firmly in check by Paige, inviting us to focus more on their characters, their motivations, than their powers. In the end, Mera helps stop her father’s planned assassination and gets him to see the error of his plan. Mera returns to her home and Arthur elects to remain in Amnesty Bay, a nod to his comic book history as a man of two worlds, never fully happy in either.

Mera: Tidebreaker was a solid read, a curious blend of superheroic fantasy and Dawson Creek teen TV shows. I like the approach Danielle Paige took, her concentration on character and relationships, and the themes used, of duty against freedom, head versus heart, emotion against logic and Mera’s relationships personified all these things. Arthur, Larken, her father, all represented a struggle between two sides. The art by Stephen Byrne was nice enough without being exceptional. The art for this type of book isn’t supposed to be of the ‘bells and whistles’ high concept variety, but is there to tell the story nicely. You need nice big panels, uncluttered layouts, and pacing that makes it all easy to follow. In that respect, a good job by Stephen Byrne.

I really enjoyed this book. I think it took the best elements from comic book Mera, added on some teen angst and issues, and also delivered a decent story, all while looking pretty good visually too. Can’t ask for more than that

I would put my money on Mera: Tidebreaker being the best of the DC Ink bunch, and one that delivers everything it needs to. Mera’s in safe hands.

**** 4/5

Mera: Tidebreaker will be available from April 2nd. Pre-order it now on Amazon.

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