Featured Screen Shot
Synopsis "The Enemy Below Part Two"
Previously: Superman and Aquaman (the King of Atlantis) had managed to avert a war between the surface world and Atlantis caused by Lex Luthor’s flagrant disregard for Atlantean sovereignty (Superman The Animated Series: Fish Story). Relations remained strained, however, and elements in the Atlantean military pushed Aquaman to take a more militant stance. Prince Orm, Aquaman’s brother, hired the assassin Deadshot to kill him while he was attending peace talks. Orm then seized control of the Atlantean Throne, claiming that the surface world was responsible his brother’s dead. In reality, Superman and the Justice League had saved Aquaman’s life, but they discovered the Atlantean connection too late to stop Aquaman’s capture by Orm’s guards (Justice League: The Enemy Below Part One).
Orm tells Aquaman that he is tired of watching him lead Atlantis to ruin and General Brak accuses him of siding with the surface world against his own people. The deposed King remains defiant until Orm shocks him unconscious with an energy blast from his own Royal Trident. Moments after the guards have dragged out Aquaman, Mera bursts into the Throne Room saying that she has heard about her husband’s return. Orm tells her that it was an unfounded rumour and then reveals that he has taken her son, the infant Prince, into protective custody. He ominously tells her that, “The Prince will come to no harm as long as you cooperate!”
Unaware that Aquaman has already been captured, Superman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and J’onn J’onzz rush to alert him to the threat from within Atlantis. However, their path is blocked by one of the massive Atlantean submarines. Superman quickly disables it, but the League are stunned unconscious by depth charges fired from guns hidden in the canyon walls. Orm makes a show of displaying his new prisoners to the court and announces that their incursion is to be considered an act of war. The League are to be executed immediately, but Mera knocks out the guards and frees them. She agrees with them that somebody in Atlantis has betrayed Aquaman and they set out to search the city. They dodge Atlantean marines, but find no trace of the Aquaman or Orm.
Aquaman is no longer in the city however, and has been chained to a boulder above an underwater volcanic trench. Orm tells Aquaman that he has found a solution to the issue of his succession to the Throne. He then pins the blanket holding Aquaman’s son to the boulder. Orm will automatically inherit the Throne after they are dead. Orm blasts the base of the boulder and leaves it to topple into the volcanic chasm. As it slides down the cliff face, Aquaman manages to free one of his hands, but there is not enough time to free his other hand before they hit the lava. With his infant son’s cries ringing in his ears, Aquaman uses his razor sharp belt buckle to sever his chained han.
Clutching his son, Aquaman staggers into the Atlantean Throne Room and demands to know where Orm has gone. The League are stunned by Aquaman’s intensity, but neither they nor Mera know Orm’s location. While Aquaman is being fitted with a prosthetic hook (to replace his severed hand), Batman calls to warn the League that a situation is developing near the North Pole. Aquaman identifies the cause as a Thermal Reactor, a doomsday device that will melt the polar ice cap and flood the surface world. Atlantis built it as their last defence against a surface attack, but it was never armed. Orm must have used the stolen plutonium from the USS Defiant (The Enemy Below, Part One) to arm the reactor.
The tranquillity of the Arctic ice is disrupted as Aquaman and the League race to reach the polar reactor. General Brak and his Navy try to block their way, but his forces can only delay the League. Aquaman telepathically summons a Killer Whale to smash through the Atlantean line. He is the first to reach the hidden ice caves containing the thermal reactor. The caves and surrounding glaciers are crumbling as the reactor heats up. Orm ambushes Aquaman and their battle carries them into the cavern outside the reactor room. Orm has the upper-hand until he looses his grip on the powerful Royal Trident. At the end of the fight Orm is left hanging on to a ledge above a precipice by his finger tips. Aquaman is unswayed by his brothers pleas and lets him plummet, presumably to his death.
Orm had deliberately sabotaged the thermal reactor’s controls to prevent it from simply being turned off. The Batman believes that he can still shut it down from inside if Green Lantern’s ring can shield him from the radiation. Their gambit is successful and the disaster is averted. Back in Atlantis, loyalist soldiers bring the captured General Brak before the King. Brak protests that he has just been following orders, but Aquaman is in no mood to hear his excuses and orders him taken away. The King later confesses to the League that his fear of the threat of the surface world blinded him to the threat from inside his own kingdom. Going forward, Atlantis is left with the job of rebuilding its Navy without the boats the League had to destroy or General Brak and the other officers who supported Orm’s coup.
The Hand Scene – see below.
Runner up: “I saw it, but I still don’t believe it.” – Green Lantern’s incredulity to Aquaman riding a killer whale into battle.
They’re racing to reach the thermal reactor, so the League stops to hover in mid air as Aquaman strolls across the ice. The conversation may be necessary, but everybody seems to loose their urgency. Superman could have made it to the reactor and hefted it into orbit while everybody else is chatting.
The scene where Aquaman cuts his own hand off to save his baby son is one of the most intense that they’ve ever included in the Justice League cartoon. Its a merging of three separate parts of the Aquaman mythology – Mercy Reef, the loss of his son, and the replacement of his hand – but the result is something quite new. Its gives a grander, more mythic feel to the loss of the hand and really underscores the intensity of his personality. Aquaman is one of the stand out characters in the cartoon and rebuffs every accusation of blandness that has ever been directed at the comic book character.
The rest of the episode isn’t bad either. I originally watched this episode as the hour-long story, but I think its one of those that actually works best as two half-hour episodes. The first part, with the USS Defiant and Deadshot set pieces, wraps up fairly conclusively with Aquaman’s capture and even the back reference to the Defiant’s plutonium could have been dropped without harming the story. The only real problem I had with his episode is that there are a couple of points where the animation on Aquaman goes very weird – when he’s looking directly at the camera in the hospital scene and later when Orm shocks him from behind.
|Character Site||The Captain's Justice League Homepage||Jason Kirk||4.5/5|