We agree with much of your review. More troublesome to us is the dip in artistic quality that has been evidenced in issues 26-30 with multiple artists/inkers on every issue. Remember those splash pages by Paul Pelletier that practically took your breath away? When was the last time you saw one?
We reached out to AQUAMAN editor Chris Conroy to offer our feedback and he responded very positively. Its no secret that Pelletier has struggled with the monthly schedule demands of AQUAMAN and Conroy explained that DC's editorial is trying to maximize his page count each issue by supporting him with penciling assistance. We're not sure its an effective technique (we'd rather see a guest artist for an issue or 2) but their intentions are well meaning at least. He added that they are all doing their best to make the book consistent with the high art standards that have come to be associated with AQUAMAN in the New 52.
Nice review! We enjoyed the issue (expectations were not high) and want to note that Manta was hardly your "Average Joe" before Aquaman accidentally killed his father. Manta's father was a criminal & murderer himself and Manta was already following in his footsteps when he took the job to get a sample of Arthur Curry's blood and left Thomas Curry for dead in the ensuing scuffle. It would have been nice to see more of Manta & son's exploits prior to meeting Arthur to give their backstory some context.
@illo_29@jake_fury Originally this issue was to be the full conclusion of the arc...then artist deadlines and such necessitated the Ostrander The Others "fill-in" issue and since Villains Month was already planned, Death Of A King had to be extended. Johns has said Aquaman (and most other books) will feature stories that occur prior to Forever Evil & then will catch up when the 7-issue series concludes. That's another reason for 11 issues of Batman: Zero Year.
Admittedly we are biased, but Aquaman's power levels are off the charts these days -- for instance in last week's AQUAMAN #21, Arthur threw a submarine (they weigh 5000 tons or more) up from the depths of the ocean to the surface -- requiring a displacement of an estimated 50,000 tons of water to accomplish. Not to mention he recently knocked Superman for a loop & his trident is an indestructible ancient Atlantean artifact. So yeah, it may be Clobberin' Time, but this time its the Sea King who's left standing!