Aquaman #49 (On Sale: November 6, 1969) has just an absolutely beautiful cover by Nick Cardy. What a great design and a powerful drawing. One of Nick's best for sure.
The feature-length "As the Seas Die" is by Steve Skeates and Jim Aparo and is some of their best work together to date. Jim Aparo is really changing before our very eyes; each issue is like looking at a different artist. His layouts get more dynamic, his people get more real, his story-telling gets more and this issue features some wonderful work. Aquaman and Aqualad are off the coast of Alaska investigating reports of schools of attacking fish, when they themselves are attacked. The fish don't respond to Aquaman's telepathic commands, so they must fight the fish. However, they get some assistance in that effort from Phil Darson, whom Aquaman (and we readers) met in Aquaman #43.
Phil is there investigating the fish as well, which he says are not only being driven insane, but are also dying. Aquaman and Aqualad go see Professor Davidson, who is the one who summoned Aquaman. The professor believes that the fish are being poisoned by pollution, but that none of the factories int he area will talk to him since a saboteur has been attacking the plants in the last few days. Even as they talk the saboteur is striking again, blowing up part of a nearby plant. Aquaman sees the saboteur jump into the water and gives chase, but is taken out when an explosive is thrown his way.
The next day reports want to discuss the saboteur with the president of the Leland Factory hit the night before, but he won't talk, saying that there was no saboteur, just a boiler malfunction. When they leave he explains to an underling that he doesn't want anyone snooping around and finding out that they are dumping chemicals into the ocean. Back at Atlantis Ocean Master arrives and demands a meeting with Aquaman, but Mera tells him that Aquaman is too busy to see him right now.
Meanwhile Aquaman and Aqualad have found evidence of pollution at both factories that have been hit by the saboteur. that is when Aquaman reads int he paper that Leland says that the explosion at his plant was an accident, which Aquaman knows to be false since he chased after the guy who planted the explosives. They begin to wonder if the Professor might not be involved. Aquaman decides to check out the Leland factory that night, while Aqualad keeps an eye on the Professor. Aquaman sees the saboteur returning to the Leland factory and follows him. The Professor leaves his lab and Aqualad follows him.
The saboteur breaks into Leland's factory only to find Leland waiting for him with a gun. The saboteur disarms Leland and explains that he had asked Leland earlier to stop polluting the ocean and Leland had refused; taking out Leland's plant had seemed the only way to stop him from killing the sea. Aquaman arrives before the saboteur can harm Leland, but he overpowers Aquaman and set the plant on fire. As Aquaman goes after him he is knocked unconscious by Leland who heads out after the saboteur. Meanwhile the Professor has been trying to reach Leland at his home with no success.
Aquaman awakes int he flaming building and staggers out as he hears gunshots int he distance. He sees two figures struggling on a cliff. When he gets there he finds they have fallen over, but the saboteur is still alive. He tells Aquaman he meant him no harm and considered him a friend. He pulls off his mask and it is Phil Darson, who explains that there was no legal way to stop Leland and his kind, so he resorted to the only method he knew would work. Darson then dies from his wounds.
Later they meet with the Professor who says he found evidence that chemicals from the Leland factory were killing the ocean and when to confront him. Aquaman says that he has already talked to the new owners and that they will stop dumping the chemicals into the ocean. They then head off, back to Atlantis. This story was reprinted in Adventure Comics #501.
Edited by Dick Giordano.