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How to justify Aquaman talking to fish, in one panel

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The sensational character find of 2017

In this week’s Dark Nights: Metal #4, Batman and Superman listened to Dream of the Endless tell them a new story about how the DC Multiverse was created. Black Adam showed up. Starro the Conqueror, a giant telepathic space starfish and the first villain to face the combined might of the Justice League, made his return to the DC Universe by springing out of a shadow yelling “HAHAHA! I’M BACK, LOSERS!”

But the thing in the issue that I can’t stop thinking about is this small fish:

He only appears in one panel.

And until such a moment as he gets his own, Eisner-award winning solo series, and — subsequently — a canonical name, I’m going to call him Fish.

Talking to fish has always been the jokiest of Aquaman’s powers, right? How could that possibly help when he’s not underwater? Is it really so much of an asset when he already has super strength and super swimming speed and a magic trident and sometimes a harpoon for a hand and an entire undersea kingdom full of technology and magic?

Yes

There are two things you should know here. First, that Dark Nights: Metal is a wild and fun ride that takes itself exactly as seriously as it needs to in order to be both epic and continuously enjoyable. Second: That you don’t really need to know anything about the following panel except that Aquaman and Deathstroke have come to the tomb of Atlantis’ first king, only to find the tomb raided and guards slaughtered.

But even in the midst of such chaos and darkness, Fish is ready.

Fish is on the fucking ball.

The effect of all this is only enhanced by the panel layout and coloring. Your eye encounters Fish’s dialogue first: a regal declaration and a series of broken pronouncements at home in a high fantasy epic. But given how small fish is and how subtle his color, you might not notice him — until your eye wends its way down the bending, bubbly current of his speech ballon to ...

A very small purple fish. A very small purple fish who just exclaimed “MY LEIGE!”

That’s it. That’s our whole Fish moment. I laughed. I cried. And dammit, I want to know more. What gave Fish its proud loyalty to the Atlantean throne? Is this how all sea creatures see their connection to Aquaman? A beloved monarch?

This is how you make Aquaman talking to fish compelling — you make the fish compelling. Also, it’s still very funny.

Fish is trying very hard. Fish is taking this very seriously. Fish is doing such a good job.

Where’s my Fish ongoing series?