The origin stories of the Batmen from the Dark Multiverse continues with Batman The Drowned. Previously, we have had The Red Death, The Murder Machine, and The Dawnbreaker. With The Drowned, we are introduced to Bryce Wayne, and she has gained the powers of Aquaman. Well, in her Earth, it was Aquawoman. It is a gender-swapped Earth.
We meet Bryce Wayne sometime after the death of her love, Sylvester Kyle (get it, a male Selina Kyle). Sylvester’s death was “caused” by Rogue Metas, who I assume would be that Earth’s Justice League. I use quotes there because what exactly happened is not clear. And there is reason to believe that she may not be telling the full story. Normally, I would want to see what happened. A page of action. But I actually like the mystery here. It is played upon later in the issue, when we see what lead to Bryce gaining the powers of Aquawoman.
Aquawoman and the Atlanteans arrived 18 months after Wayne had hunted down the last of the Rogue Metas to avenge Sylvester. She had thought she had finally made the world safe, and these outsiders show up. She mentions that her gut was telling her that they did not want peace, and it was no surprise when the “peace talks” ended in violence.
Here, Dan Abnett does something really small, but something I felt really stands out, and adds a deeper layer to what is going on with The Drowned. The quotes used around “peace talks” are his, not mine. I don’t know about you, but when I use quotes when talking, it is to signify sarcasm. That I do not actually believe what I am saying at face value. Here, she never actually believed that the peace talks were going to lead to peace. But immediately, the art gave me the idea that Wayne could have likely been the one that actually started the violence. And if she started it here, maybe she is actually somehow responsible for the death of Sylvester. But at this point, it is just a hunch.
Bryce Wayne ends up killing Aquawoman. The Atlanteans retaliate by drowning Gotham. Bryce ends up surgically altering herself to have the power of Aquawoman, adding in accelerated healing and control of water. She then created an army called Dead Water, because she had to win the war. And she did. But now all that was left was her, her army, and her signal as the only light in the world. At this time, the Batman Who Laughs shows up, and tells her that the world is done because she does not trust anything. And that is when my thoughts about Bryce being responsible solidified.
I believe she attacked the Atlanteans because she did not trust them, and was not going to wait for them to reveal their nefarious plan. I also believe that the Rogue Metas were not fully responsible for the death of Sylvester, and Bryce did not trust any of them to believe them. So, if you are not going to exactly show what happened, I like the use of subtle hints to guide the reader along. Or, the reader can ignore the subtle hints, and just take everything at face value. It is still a fine story with that.
The Batman Who Laughs gives her the sales pitch, recruits her and brings her to Earth-0. There, she finds herself in Amnesty Bay, fighting Aquaman and Mera. She is able to call forth her Dead Water, negates Mera’s ability to control water, and ends up corrupting Mera. Aquaman is rescued by Doctor Fate, who seems to be doing a lot of that.
Overall, another good issue in the Dark Nights event. It is a fairly simple story, but Abnett writes it with enough subtlety and intrigue to make it interesting. Philip Tan and Tyler Kirkham’s art is pretty. Nothing much to say about it. The art makes you feel like you are underwater, like an Aquaman book should. If you have not read any of these, you really should.