As they passed through New Venice, Dolphin pointed at a small but attractive building. “You’re quite the local hero,” she said with a smile.
Aquaman nodded toward the Aquaman Museum. “It’s flattering, and in fact it is the second of its kind,” he said. “It’s not as grand as the Flash Museum in Central City, but then again it was paid for by private citizens, and that meant a lot to me.”
He listened, and his keen senses picked up nothing except a sense of disquiet or unease. Something was almost palpably wrong. No traffic, no shoppers, no tourists, he thought. The place has become a ghost town. Odd — no bodies, no destruction. No visible signs of battle. What’s become of the people of New Venice? Have I failed them again?
Dolphin gently touched his arm. “Something tells me we should go into the Museum,” she said. “Call it a woman’s intuition.” She followed as Aquaman entered the building.
The posters and books at the little gift counter were untouched. The curator’s office was swinging open, and no one was in sight.
“That’s the gallery of shame,” said Aquaman, “my old enemies.”
Dolphin gazed up at statues of the grim Black Manta, the sinister Ocean Master, and several she did not recognize. “Now, this is nice,” she began before trailing off. “Friends and family. I see Garth and Mera are represented, too, along with…” She stopped talking as she caught herself.
“Artie,” he said. “My boy. It’s OK, Dolphin.”
He moved closer to the photo of the lost baby and gasped as tiny fibers shot out from around the area to close in on his struggling form.
Dolphin also gasped and leaped high in the air to avoid a few of the red-hot fibers, only to land in front of a leering figure in a garish costume.
“My, you are a netful, my pet!” he laughed. She swung at him and fell hard as a goon emerged from behind to club her.
The costumed man turned to Aquaman, who fought among glowing wires that robbed him of moisture as they seared his skin.
“You’ve been netted good and proper,” he taunted. “Fitting for one such as you and a Fisherman like me!”
Aquaman called out, “Fisherman, you vermin! What did you do with the people of New Venice?”
The Fisherman laughed as twenty-five thugs rushed in from the alcove. “Aquaman, you wound me! Rushing to this demand for information when we’re such old friends? Surely, you forget your manners. Aren’t you going to ask how I’ve been since last we met?”
Aquaman glanced at Dolphin’s prone body. “Leave the girl alone. This grudge is between you and me!”
The Fisherman nodded. “‘Course it is!” he said. “That’s why I took over this little community. Oh, I needed a base for my piracy and smuggling ring, and I knew sooner or later you’d stick your barnacles in my business, so I figured why not trap you with the perfect bait and get a lair at the same time? I knew if I let that fool Cal Durham escape from my crew, he’d swim to you and lure you into my net!”
Aquaman had been actively sending out telepathic messages while he struggled with the fibers. Eels in that tank! he thought. If I can pull off a real hat trick and get the seagulls out that window to come and drop the eels just so…
His mighty will reached out and drew in the gulls. They, like all sea life, obeyed his commands. He sent them soaring over the tank, and with a precision only he could exert, he ordered them to lift and drop the eels on the fibers.
The backlash of electric current shut down the trap, and his mighty muscles ripped it apart. He thanked the creatures and charged into Fisherman’s gang.
“I’ll put this rabble to sleep, and then we’ll talk!” he said to the Fisherman as he tore into the gang.
“Curse him!” muttered Fisherman as he scattered the gulls. “I figured indoors, he’d be helpless!”
Dolphin rose up and tackled three of the smugglers. Her lithe and agile form was far stronger than it looked, and she slammed them down with ease.
“You boys just stay down, and I’ll introduce you to Daryl Hannah!” she joked.
She caught Aquaman’s eye, and they gripped the hanging net displayed above the statues and draped it over the struggling goons with stunning force.
The platinum blonde beauty yelled, “Aquaman, look! The Fisherman’s getting away!”
Indeed, the wily Fisherman was racing for the upper landing of the Aquaman Museum. “Always take the high ground,” he said smirking as he lashed out with a gleaming line and reel.
Dolphin cried out as it coiled around her bare legs and created a blast of freon. Got to smash free before I freeze solid! she thought, and flipped backward to crack the ice.
At the same time, Aquaman hurled a trident from the Neptune display to slice through the line. “Now, for you!” the hero cried as he leaped up and over the railing to confront the Fisherman. “New Venice will never be a sanctuary for crooks like you! Not while I live!”
The Fisherman laughed, “Then, by all means, let’s remedy that little situation!” He activated a control, and energy surged outward.
Dolphin began to fade away before Aquaman’s clear blue eyes.
“Great Neptune! You’ve teleported her away!” cried Aquaman as he faced the Fisherman across the odd machine.
“You know where I sent her, don’t you?” laughed the Fisherman. “She and all the good folks of New Venice now reside as phantoms in the realm of the Sargasso Sea!”
Aquaman recalled the odd dimension that had been created by his own aunt eons ago in order to save lives when Atlantis first sank. It had become a prison or a limbo instead of a haven as time had passed, and unwary sailors had unwittingly entered its Bermuda Triangle-like portal, never to return.
“I saw that machine destroyed by the Scavenger! (*) How’d you restore it?” he said to buy time.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Siren of the Sargasso,” World’s Finest Comics #262 (April-May, 1980)]
“I didn’t,” explained the Fisherman. “I merely brought the remains to an acquaintance who knew a bit of science and a bit of magic! He fixed it up and offered me free use of it, if I’d kill you for him! Needless to say, I jumped at the chance!”
Black Manta or Ocean Master, no doubt, mused Aquaman. “You banished all of New Venice to that realm and took over the community for your gang,” he said. “Well, I’ll bring them back! In fact, if you fixed the machine as you claim, then maybe I’ll free all the lost souls in that limbo land!”
“Ah, but laddie, you’ll be joining them all too soon!” chuckled the Fisherman. He then gasped as Dolphin popped back into view.
When the villain hesitated, Aquaman jumped through the air to tackle him and pound him to the ground with swift and sure blows.
He whirled to adjust the device and, to his relief, the community of New Venice and countless other lost mariners reappeared to fill the streets in front of the Aquaman Museum.
“Curse you! You freed them all, even the ones trapped eons ago!” groaned the Fisherman.
Dolphin embraced Aquaman joyfully. “Aquaman, I met people from the original Atlantis! Some have been within that realm for eons. And when I concentrated, I somehow returned on my own!”
Aquaman smiled and said, “Your father said you had some of his potential, as far as magic goes. I’d say this proves it, even if it’s all by instinct and is untutored. Your distraction bought me the time to take down my old enemy, here.”
Mayor Paul Lyndon and his lost sibling Senator John Lyndon came forward from the crowd. “You saved us all!” said the mayor of New Venice. “You promised me you’d free my brother, and you did it!”
Cheers rang out as the odd collection of sailors mingled.
“All these folks are welcome to stay here in New Venice and get their bearings,” promised Mayor Lyndon.
Aquaman rubbed his head. “I guess some good finally came out of one my old foes, even by accident. I’d thought the machine hopelessly ruined. This is a lesson to never give up.”
Dolphin led a beautiful woman forward. “Aquaman, she says she is your aunt!”
Aquaman warmly greeted Atlena. “I hardly know what to say. I’m pleased to have you here. We have much to speak of later.”
Atlena nodded sadly. “Your poor, deluded mother, among other topics.” She referred to her sister Atlanna, who had returned after being believed to be dead, only to die for real after acts of madness and violence. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Beyond the Poseidon Adventure,” Action Comics #518 (April, 1981), “Family Plot,” Action Comics #519 (May, 1981), and “The End,” Action Comics #520 (June, 1981).]
A small black girl hugged him and smiled. “You saved us! Is Cousin Cal OK?”
Aquaman lifted Callie Durham and said, “He’s in Atlantis. He was brave to find me like he did.”
With the help of Dolphin and others, Aquaman assembled the JLA transporter.
Soon, he gathered the townspeople and announced his plans. “My family and I will be dividing our time between here and Poseidonis. Thanks to this Thanagarian technology, the commute will be instant. I hope to get to know and befriend you all!”
The crowd of modern residents of New Venice cheered, as did their new citizens — sailors and seekers of all eras and lands who had been trapped in Sargasso Sea of that other realm.