Hey, hey, DC fans! Welcome to Ink Spots, a fun new section of DCComics.com where we’ll be talking about Young Adult comics, fiction and especially DC Ink! If you’re a DC fan, we think (hope?) you’ll enjoy what we have lined up for you here, but don’t be surprised if the things in these posts aren’t exactly what you’re used to. We like to do things a little different around here.

For starters, we don’t do book reviews. We do Book Breakdowns. What are those? Well, you can get the lowdown here, or you can just read on and figure it out for yourself because this is our very first one.

Danielle Paige and Stephen Byrne present the undersea Kingdom of Aquaman in a whole new light with DC Ink's debut graphic novel, Mera: Tidebreaker. This new YA spin on classic DC characters like Mera and Arthur Curry flips the script on what fans of Aquaman’s recent big screen adventure may think they know about the underwater royals with a fresh new origin story full of romance, politics and heroism. By making the story about Mera—and making Arthur Curry just a supporting character—DC Ink opens up a whole new world for the fierce princess born to rule and unwilling to tolerate oppression. Mera learns what it takes to be a good ruler, how to follow her heart and what it means to stand up for what she believes in, while also finding love along the way. Swoon!

Let’s dive on in, shall we?

Cover Crackdown:

From the colors to the main image, Mera: Tidebreaker's cover couldn't be any more perfect for the story underneath. Mera's trademark bright orange hair is the only pop of color in an otherwise cerulean environment, symbolizing how she was born to stand out. The rest of the cover fully immerses you in the feeling that you're underwater, setting the stage for the oceanic adventure.

It's important that Mera is half-in, half-out of the water, signifying her curiosity in the world of the land above. In this book, she doesn't know anything about being on land and so her possible reluctance is understandable. Plus, the way she's staring right at the reader, eyes locked on with a fierce confidence, wonderfully evokes the kind of warrior she is underneath that crown. They say don't judge a book by its cover, but Mera: Tidebreaker knocked it out of the park with this gorgeous one!

Tell Me a Story:

Mera: Tidebreaker's new version of the woman destined to rule Atlantis by Aquaman's side is a young activist, heir to the throne of Xebel, loyal to her people and her father, the king. But her colony is under the militaristic rule of Atlantis, and she'll do anything to get their freedom. She gets the opportunity when Xebel plots to overthrow Atlantean rule by assassinating long-lost Atlantean prince Arthur Curry, who has been living on land his whole life with no idea of his true heritage. Mera believes she can kill the prince to prove to her father that she doesn't need to marry the prince of the Trench, Larken, and can rule Xebel on her own. But when she hesitates on her first attempt to kill Arthur, she starts to get to know him and realizes he's just an innocent who doesn't deserve to die. It's not long before the star-crossed royals fall in love, complicating matters. Because, of course, when you find the perfect guy, he's the one you've been sent to kill! Just normal teenager problems, right?

Let’s Talk Art:

Illustrator Stephen Byrne takes what makes the cover so effective and expands it throughout the entire graphic novel. Mera: Tidebreaker is told primarily monochromatically, with page after page completely cerulean and mint green…except for Mera's hair. It's a massive risk, but Byrne pulls it off. The color scheme makes you feel like you're underwater the whole time—even when the story takes place on land. I felt like I needed to come up for air after reading it! You never lose the feeling of being deep in the sea, which sets the tone for the story of Xebellian princess Mera perfectly. And he totally nails the underwater effects of hair, as Mera's long locks never stop looking glam. If only someone could bottle a product that mimics Xebellian/Atlantean hair, I would totally buy it in spades.

Dialog Discussion:

New York Times bestselling author Danielle Paige, best known for her hit Dorothy Must Die series, brings a new, much-needed voice to comics with this first DC Ink graphic novel. The way she infuses Mera with every emotion that teenage girls feel when they first start to gain their independence is so real. Of course, most teenage girls don't also have their entire society's welfare on their shoulders and a mission to kill the man they're destined to fall in love with, but the fact that Mera is still relatable through all of this is just proof of Paige's talent. We shouldn't be rooting for Mera to kill Arthur Curry, but we want to see her succeed. We feel her passions, her frustrations. And when she decides to save Arthur instead, we root for that as well.

Mera isn't perfect. In fact, she makes so many mistakes that it's clear she has a lot to learn. But she's empathetic and strong and doesn't give up on what she believes in, and that's the perfect role model for young women to see. And the scene in which Mera and Arthur both refuse to admit to the other how they feel about each other? The banter was so hilariously stubborn on both sides that I could feel the frustration leaking out from the pages! What a fantastic way to rake up the tension before their inevitable first kiss.

Voted Most Likely:

If Mera: Tidebreaker was a high school senior, there's no doubt that it would be voted either most environmentally conscious or most likely to become president. Both Mera and Arthur's love for their respective homes is so clear, and they'd do anything and risk anything to make sure the people and places they love are safe. Mera knows how to navigate tricky, complicated politics to the point where she helps stop a war from breaking out. Plus, you know they'd both be on the front lines of cleaning up beaches from pollution and protesting politicians who don't believe in climate change. They'd make the world a better place.


Most Crushworthy Character:

I've made it clear by now how amazing Mera is and how this is totally her story, right? Okay good, because now it's time for me to crush hardcore on Arthur, aka the future Aquaman. Paige makes Arthur the dreamiest, most perfect love interest for Mera—he's caring, kind and strong, but knows when to take a step back and follow Mera's lead. Talk about the perfect 2019 comic book crush! He is truly flawless. And come on, he totally knows what he's doing when he walks into the room in just a towel to put on a shirt in front of Mera. That was sneaky, A.C. But damn, did it work. Just like Mera, I needed a glass of water after seeing that panel.

What Would You Most Like to Ask?:

If I could ask Mera one burning question now that I've finished reading Mera: Tidebreaker, it would be a pretty simple one: How on earth could you leave Arthur alone on that beach after that amazing, romantic kiss?! Girl, what are you thinking? Yes, I know you have to face your responsibilities in Atlantis and he still can't go there yet while the peace talks are being enforced, but still. That kiss was hot. You finally got the guy after so much will-they-won't-they, and I need more. I need to see what happens next!

Mera: Tidebreaker by Danielle Paige and Stephen Byrne is now available in bookstores, comic shops and as a digital graphic novel.

Sydney Bucksbaum has a thirst for good TV, YA books and for...um, Robin. You can find her writing about movies, TV and comics here on DCComics.com and on Twitter at @SydneyBucksbaum.