We open on a rather toothy and horrifying version of Clayface bearing down on Aqualad after trashing the rest of the team. The monster’s about to do the same to Aqualad when the Batman shows up to save the day. Reprimanded afterward by Batman, Aqualad needs to get his head in the game. Atlantis is on his mind, he’d better get back there and get it together. Yeah, we’re finally getting Atlantis, and more of the new Aqualad’s origins, in this Kaldur-centric episode…
Arriving in Atlantis via transporter tube, Kaldur is greeted by Aquaman, whom he greets in Atlantean as King Orin. It’s all subtitles at first, and as one can tell from the repetitive sounds in certain words, it appears there may have been a limited Atlantean language created just for this series. That is so cool. It’s notable that the language is spoken, not telepathic.
The Atlantis (or more precisely Poseidonis) of this world is beautiful, a domed underwater city of varying architecture and colorful vegetation. We get a brief glimpse of Lagoon Boy and also see mer-people and other races as well. We also meet Topo, who on this world is a more humanoid octopus man as opposed to Aquaman’s octopus pal. It is Topo, assumedly one of Kaldur’s former sorcery classmates who relays the origin of Aqualad.
Told in animated wall paintings similar to Raffiki’s in Disney’s “The Lion Guard,” Topo tells of a time when Aquaman battled the Ocean Master and two young men helped and saved him, Kaldur and Garth. Aquaman offered them both the opportunity to join him as his protégés, but Garth declined, choosing to continue with his studies. Thus Kaldur became Aqualad. In our continuity though, we know Garth of the Purple Eyes became the first Aqualad and later Tempest.
Then we meet Garth, and Tula, and Queen Mera. The character designs are color-thematic, but I would have liked something closer to the comics versions. I wish Tula and Mera had a bit more clothes, and I absolutely hated Garth’s top-knot. Mera is shown to be a teacher, and with child, though not showing. Although we know it’s Tula who is keeping Kaldur’s mind on Atlantis, it doesn’t take a genius to know Garth and Tula are together now.
Atlantis is just full of cameos and subplots. There’s also Vulko who is guarding what can only be Starro the Conqueror frozen in ice at the science center. Prince Orm, identified as Aquaman’s brother is also there, though not called Ocean Master. Despite that, others do seem to be careful around him as if walking on eggshells. And then there’s the Black Manta who attacks the city to take Starro once Aquaman is called away.
Battle ensues with Manta and his armored henchmen as he tries to take the frozen Starro – and when he can’t, he destroys it. His ship is suitably cool, sometimes animation doesn’t do it proper justice. Manta talks as if he has a familiarity with Aqualad, and we do discover in the second season that he is in fact Kaldur’s father. Even Kaldur’s name comes from a scientist who was loyal to Manta in the comics, Cal Durham. At the close of this episode we find Manta reporting to The Light. Curiously, we later find that Ocean Master is a member of The Light.
“Downtime” is not all about Aqualad however. We also get to see Dick Grayson training and playing one-on-one basketball with Bruce Wayne, Megan making a meal telekinetically, and we meet Artemis’ mother who is in a wheelchair and wants her to continue her education. As Artemis is a compilation of a few different characters, it’s hard to guess who her mother might be supposed to be however…
My favorite bit of the other members was the birthday party Wally (Kid Flash) West attends. His parents Rudy and Mary are there, as are his aunt and uncle Iris and Barry (the Flash) Allen, and friends of the family Joan and Jay (the Golden Age Flash) Garrick, all for Jay’s birthday. More Flash family please!
As the new Aqualad, as well as the Aquaman mythos altogether, are among some of my favorite comics stuff, I loved this episode. I can’t wait for more. Other bonuses include how maturely Kaldur takes the news of Garth and Tula being a couple, and our split-second first mention of “Hello Neighbor” on Artemis’ TV, later changed to “Hello Megan,” so integral to Miss Martian’s character.