Mera: Tidebreaker is the first DC Ink release, launching the publisher’s imprint for young adult graphic novels. As written by Danielle Paige and illustrated by Stephen Byrne, it tells a familiar story with new character insight. Given the popularity of the Aquaman movie, most readers will be aware of Mera as an undersea princess, but it’s refreshing to see that here, she’s also a warrior, willing to fight for her people. While navigating history, birthright, and expectations, Mera learns to decide her own fate in this rewarding read.
Xebel, her father’s kingdom, is ruled by Atlantis. Mera’s father has two plans: to marry her off to his chosen successor, and to choose the winner by seeing who can assassinate the missing heir to the Atlantean throne, Arthur. Mera, meanwhile, is worried about living up to her mother’s legacy as warrior queen and steamed that her father doesn’t even consider her to take the throne as his heir.
Mera sets off to the oversea world to complete the mission herself, but once she meets Arthur, things don’t go as planned. Arthur, not yet Aquaman, here has the amazing-nice-guy demeanor of Superman or Shazam, which gets him further than the ability to talk to fish. Similarly, the emphasis is on Mera’s abilities and training, not any kind of superpowers (although she can make water blasts).
Events move briskly, keeping the reader interested in an epic story. Although a lot happens, the story has room to breathe, with large-sized panels to punctuate key moments. The faded color scheme, grey with hints of light green, makes the book almost resemble a black-and-white independently published comic. The tones evoke both filtered undersea light and the haze of memory. It also allows Mera’s red hair to pop, drawing the reader’s eye to her as lead on whatever page she’s on.
It’s convenient that the framework is familiar to many fantasy stories, allowing the reader to focus on Mera’s motivations. There’s a solid amount of action, but more importantly, there’s a realistic depth of characterization that establishes Mera as someone worth spending time with, someone more than Aquaman’s girlfriend. Although classically formulaic, evoking star-crossed lovers and those buffeted by fate and constrained by royalty, the journey here is deep and satisfying. (Review originally appeared at Good Comics for Kids.)