Dan Abnett is sending Aquaman somewhere he’s never been: deep into the sea.
When in Atlantis sitting atop the throne, he’s just Arthur Curry, the half-Atlantean, half-human king of Atlantis. He was only the superhero Aquaman on dry land - until now.
In Abnett’s current “Aquaman” storyline “Underworld” (part two, issue no. 26 is available now in print and digitally, illustrated by Stjepan Sejic) Arthur Curry takes to being a hero in the shadows of Atlantis while trying to stay out of sight. When he is seen, the locals refer to him as “The Aquaman.” He’s been usurped from his Atlantis throne by those who feel him being half human makes him too trusting of “the surface.”
That rebellion is led by Corum Rath, who becomes the new king of Atlantis and wants the mystical water world to be what it once was, completely separated from the rest of the planet.
In addition, Abnett told the Washington Post, “He is unlocking weapons of a magical nature that have [not been used] by Atlantis for a very good reason. He’s going to unlock things that are going to have very bad side-effects.”
Aquaman is presumed dead and has gone into hiding in the grim hopelessness of the Ninth Tride of Atlantis.
That’s when Aquaman vows to take on more of a vigilante approach, Abnett decided.
“I just thought it would be a really interesting version to actually acknowledge him as a superhero in the classic sense of the word, that is to say, someone who is masked and mysterious and worked in the shadows,” Abnett said. “He’s got to work out whether he’s got the strength to go back to that [politics and royalty] role, even if he is being vilified for it.”
Abnett has been writing “Aquaman” for the entirety of the series’ current 26-issue run under DC Comics’ “Rebirth” relaunch, and enjoyed the chance to get political.
“[Aquaman] trying to lead a nation was something really worth exploring because it’s something that isn’t really available with other characters in the DC Universe,” Abnett said.
Longtime Aquaman love Mera, who now has hope that Aquaman is still alive, is determined to get back to Atlantis and to Arthur despite the magical barriers that keep her from entering.
Mera swears she’ll never let anything come between her and Aquaman again, but Dolphin (a classic character who Aquaman meets in issue no. 25) and Aquaman seem to be building a bond in the Ninth Tride as Mera attemps her return to Atlantis.
“We brought [Dolphin] in because she’s popular with Aquaman fans and she’s really the embodiment of the part of Atlantis that is suffering most in every regard, but particularly under the leadership of the new king,” Abnett said.
Perhaps standing out the most in Aquaman’s turn as a vigilante is a new look that includes a beard and long hair, reminiscent of his style in the 90s “Aquaman” comics written by Peter David.
The hero’s orange and green Atlantean armor is now his “super-suit” and the long hair and beard (as well as the occasional assist from a school of fish) serves as his “mask.” To many fans, this makeover is a nod to the look of Aquaman in the upcoming “Justice League” and “Aquaman” films as portrayed by actor Jason Momoa - but the new look that obscures his face also fits with his going into hiding.
“It seemed too good a thing not to do, just to slightly shift the visual continuity of the book towards something that people are getting excited about in its own right,” Abnett said. “But to do it as an organic piece of the storytelling rather than just let’s give him a visual overhaul because there’s a film on the way.”