"Aquaman" #34 wraps up the King of the Sea's fight against Chimera, and on the whole it works well. Jeff Parker's story meshes well with what readers have learned up until now, even as it also provides an answer to the recent earthquakes in Atlantis. But with some guest art from Carlos Rodriguez and Bit that up to Paul Pelletier's normal standards, and a rough patch or two in the story, this ends up being a good comic rather than a great one.
It's nice to see Parker's storylines seeding themselves from one to the next; the Chimera storyline, for instance, takes bits and pieces from the previous issues that Parker wrote upon taking over the title, growing them into something bigger. Along those lines, it's the confrontation with Chimera that finally gives us an answer on the quakes hitting Atlantis, even as there's no simple solution offered up. This is feeling more and more like an extended epic than a series of short stories, which is good. There are a couple of bits where the dialogue doesn't feel quite natural, though, like Chimera's sudden statement, "I'm like the greatest aquarium ever built, in one being." He's not speaking like a person, but like a stereotypical villain. It's a little too much of telling rather than showing, which isn't what I normally expect from Parker.
One thing I've noticed with Parker is that he's not afraid to take characters and deliberately put them in the proverbial penalty box rather than remove them entirely; the foes aren't so much defeated as they've been deferred. We had that with Hercules earlier, and it's a repeat performance with Chimera. Both of them were in many ways too strong to entirely stop, and I like that Parker doesn't resort to some previously unknown power-up to make his protagonist suddenly the victor. Presumably we'll see Chimera back again before long, and this comic makes you interested in the rematch.
Rodriguez and Bit's art is in the same basic vein as Pelletier's, but because it's not quite as crisp and clean it ends up suffering in comparison. They succeed when it comes to Chimera, showing all of his different forms in ways that help illustrate Parker's concept for the character. While sometimes he feels a bit too much like a guy in a rubber suit (especially on land), I can see where they're going (and how it follows on the ideas in Parker's script). I just wish it was a little more eerie like his earlier appearances made him. They're at their best in the three-page mental battle scene, which uses limited lines and colors to illustrate the flashback. What's interesting is that this is where I think a lot of artists would have floundered, with no real coloring or heavy detail to fall back on, but instead they shine. It has a great old-world feel, and they nail this sequence perfectly.
"Aquaman" #34 satisfies as it wraps up Chimera's story, and that's something that month in and month out this title's been doing. With little subplots happily blooming and a new rogue's gallery slowly being built up, "Aquaman" is the little book that could. It might not make your head explode with each new issue, but it doesn't need to; it's fun and it gets the job done.