This week's DC issues had plenty of surprising twists and turns — from the identity of a second Catwoman being revealed to a very surprising guest in Deathstroke — but the story development in Aquaman #36 is one fans have been anticipating: the return of Atlanna, Aquaman's mother.
With the help of Martian Manhunter, Arthur found out in Aquaman #36 that his mother is still alive —something that was teased in last month's issue (as well as on the cover of February's Aquaman #39, above).
The issue also represented a year of stories for current writer Jeff Parker, who took over in December 2013 after having launched the hit DC digital series Batman '66. Working with artist Paul Pelletier, Parker has been exploring what it means for Aquaman to be king of Atlantis, and with the current storyline, he's setting up another mystery linked to the legacy of Atlantis' royal family.
Newsarama talked to Jeff Parker to find out more about the issue and what readers can expect when Atlanna comes back to town.
Newsarama: Jeff, so much of this story feels like Arthur being affected by the conflict within his own heritage, the pull between the legacies of his two worlds. Is that the theme you're exploring?
Jeff Parker: It is. He feels like he belongs in both worlds, and that he has huge responsibilities in both. Being either a hero of the surface or a king of the ocean would be more than enough of a role for any person, and he’s trying to make both work.
Nrama: Why was this a theme that interested you in Aquaman?
Parker: It’s a big fantastic metaphor for the life so many people find themselves in. If you’re biracial, or have parents from two very different countries, or even wildly diverging regions of the same country, you can relate to that position. It’s a quantum state almost, of belonging to yet being apart from your heritage.
Nrama: The addition of Dr. Shin and Daniel Evans to this storyline not only helped Aquaman find answers, but has also emphasized how amazing Atlantis is. Was that part of your thinking as you depicted them coming to Atlantis for the first time and discovering the city's secrets?
Parker: Yes, I thought it was a good time for a "welcome to Atlantis" to remind everybody that this is an amazing place, a true wonder of the DC world.
Nrama: After what Daniel Evans and Dr. Shin have done to Aquaman, what does his trusting them now say about Arthur?
Parker: I think he’s starting to put aside feelings and has started concerning himself more with results. It’s a good quality for a king. Even though he’s bringing them in for his own reasons, he knows how much this access means to them, especially Stephen Shin.
Nrama: The big surprise in this week's issue is that Atlanna is alive, something you teased last month when Aquaman found the empty coffin (and of course, she was just revealed on the cover of issue #39's solicitation). What does the discovery of Arthur's mother being alive mean for the character?
Parker: It’s everything to him! To not know one of your parents your whole life and then find out she might still be out there and you could meet her?
He clearly can’t think about anything else. He’s stopped everything to pursue this and doesn’t mind dragging in Martian Manhunter or anyone else he needs to get there.
Nrama: What does the addition of a living Atlanna mean for the title as a whole?
Parker: That’s the fun part; it introduces a real wild card to the deck that can really shake up our book. I’m determined to let the characters shape these stories, and she opens up all kinds of possibilities.
Nrama: We've seen her on the cover I mentioned. Who came up with her design? Were you involved?
Parker: I made some suggestions, but Paul is the one responsible for that great look. You can tell she’s had a wild journey these past decades, assembling a new life with elements of her royal past and things we’ve yet to discover. And that she may not have been a fighter as the young woman who fell in love with a lighthouse keeper, but she is now.
Nrama: As you mentioned, Arthur got help from Martian Manhunter this issue, and you've got some other guest stars from the DCU appearing in the book the next couple months. What motivated the addition of some outside characters?
Parker: I think Aquaman is getting used to the idea of tapping his resources. He helps others when they need him, so why not make some demands?
Nrama: It's unusual to see a Gorilla Grodd fight with Aquaman. What was your thinking behind the battle?
Parker: It seemed like it would be a good fight, and it is! I really wanted to show Grodd as a manipulating mastermind. Some great acting on him thanks to Paul.
Nrama: Can you give us a hint about why Grodd's part of this storyline?
Parker: He has some information Aquaman needs on his search, and he also has some other secrets that Solovar and the gorillas would rather the world not know. This issue actually opens up the history of the DCU in new directions.
Nrama: Interesting. Can you describe what's coming up for Aquaman until we get to the Convergence break in April?
Parker: It’s a full-on quest with big discoveries and deeply personal stakes for our main cast, it’s not an arc to miss.
Nrama: How involved are you in the plans for what Aquaman will be experiencing during Convergence?
Parker: I’m writing a couple of Convergence books, but not with him.
Nrama: Anything else you want to tell fans about Aquaman?
Parker: Just want to thank everyone for spreading the word about what we’re doing in this book, I feel the team is really firing on all cylinders and appreciate the outreach.