It sounds like something out of Greek mythology or a Shakespearean play: Two half-brothers at odds, a kingdom's throne at risk, and powerful deities called upon to take sides in battle.
But writer Geoff Johns will be putting a modern-day spin on that war in "Throne of Atlantis," the crossover storyline that starts next month in Justice League and Aquaman. Johns, who's writing both titles, told Newsarama that he wanted to explore the "gray areas" behind the battles and political maneuvering of war.
Plus, this time around, the kingdom is the mysterious underwater world of Atlantis, the deities are complex costumed superheroes of the Justice League, and the half-brothers — Ocean Master and Aquaman — are not clearly representing good and evil.
In fact, that latter point is an important one for fans of Johns' writing. With Ocean Master, the writer promises to explore the sides of the character that are not necessarily villainous, comparing Ocean Master to other character considered both heroes and villains — like Sinestro and Black Adam. But he also said the character is not like "any other villain I've tackled."And although he described "Throne of Atlantis" as being character-focused, the crossover promises plenty of action, with The Trench playing a role, the Atlanteans battling the Justice League, and Johns revealing that there will be "a lot of other heroes" involved too.
The crossover has a prelude in Aquaman #14 next week, then begins in December with Justice League #15. It continues in Aquaman #15, Justice League #16 and Aquaman #16. The crossover has its finale in Justice League #17 — and solicitations promise the membership of the League will then be expanding.The crossover also marks a creative team change for both titles, as Paul Pelletier now takes over art on Aquaman, while the title's former art team of Ivan Reis and Joe Prado move over to Justice League. Newsarama talked to Johns to get his take on "Throne of Atlantis" and find out more about his plans for Ocean Master and the rest of the League.
Newsarama: Geoff, the first year of Aquaman seemed to concentrate on proving that he's a "real-deal" superhero, while also building out his world in the New 52. How would you categorize the first year of Justice League, and how does "Throne of Atlantis" move both comics forward into the next year? And what themes does this storyline begin to explore for both comics?Geoff Johns: The first year of Justice League was all about world-building, and the first year of Aquaman was all about introducing a different spin on Aquaman, and new concepts like The Trench and The Others. Both books kind of culminate here in the second year.
With Justice League, with Ivan and Joe jumping on board, this was the perfect time to kick off our big Aquaman-centric Justice League story.
Starting with Justice League #15 with Ivan and Joe, the whole idea for where the book is going to go is character-driven and character-centric epic storylines.But Superman and Wonder Woman have a big role in this story. Cyborg has a massive role in "Throne of Atlantis." Everyone will have a big role. Just because Arthur is the focus doesn't mean everyone won't play a role. It's just that he gets a little more of the spotlight.
And then as we move forward in Justice League, you'll see the spotlight rotate a bit in the second year.
We're going to tell the biggest possible stories we can, focused on our most important characters, and make these stories really, really personal, but very, very big. Hopefully the perfect balance of what Justice League as a book should be.
With Aquaman, it's been all about setting Aquaman up as a true A-lister, getting him to a point where Aquaman crossing over with Justice League just made sense organically. It makes sense to have him the focus of a story that involves the entire Justice League and a lot of other heroes too, as we move throughout this story.
So the fact that we're here, and it's now, and Aquaman is headlining a League story and it's big and exciting — and it looks beautiful with Ivan and Paul just doing fantastic work on it. But the fact that we're here and Aquaman is now elevated to this status, for me, it really is the end of the first year of us getting the League back on track and Aquaman to a position of real power.
Nrama: Well, I know that the Ocean Master, Arthur's half brother, plays a big role in the story. What's the relationship we'll see explored between the two of them in this story? Can you describe his role?
Johns: Orm isn't going to be an outright villain. He's actually a pretty complicated character, much like Sinestro or Black Adam or Captain Cold.
Nrama: Those comparisons sound like this is going to be a character you love.
Johns: I absolutely love villains, as you know. And so looking at Ocean Master and taking a step back, and saying, OK, what kind of person is this? He's someone who actually cares very much for his brother. He doesn't understand his brother at all. And he cares for him, because he's his brother.
He has violent tendencies, just like all Atlanteans do, which we've seen with Arthur. And he has a perspective on the surface world that's very different from Arthur's, but shared with the Atlanteans.
But at the end of the day, like other Atlanteans, he doesn't want to get involved in the surface world. They're a culture whose world was sunk, and most of the civilization died. There were very few that were able to survive and adapt to being underwater and create this underwater society. And over the years, the centuries, they built this wonderful society.
But it's very insulated and very fearful of the outside world because of what's happened. It's just in their DNA.So what sparks this war, and why it happens, and ultimately where it goes is a big mystery that's within the storyline.
Orm's relationship with Arthur is very different from what Orm's relationship with the Justice League will be. But Orm's relationship with Arthur is extremely complicated.
This is a world of grays, just like all modern-day wars, by the way. Modern-day wars are, "who attacked first?" and "let's keep going" and "now it's retribution" or it's defense. Perspectives really get blurred. You can see it right now with what's going on right now.In Atlantis, it's not like "boom!" and they come out of the water and attack. It's very complicated. And war's nothing that anyone wants. But they're pushed to it. And we'll see why and we'll learn what happened.
Nrama: Is this comparable to the type of wars you've had in Green Lantern. Do you see similarities to the stories about these ocean-based stories to space-based stories?
Johns: Maybe in the sense of scope, but the difference here is that Atlantis is a single entity. It's led by a single person with Orm. He's not known as Ocean Master yet. He actually earns that name in this storyline, and we'll see why.
Space is endless. There are all sorts of different societies and beings. But this story is very personal for Arthur.I don't know how to describe it really. Maybe in terms of Shakespearean epic comic book-y stuff. That's close. But it's very unique.
Orm himself is nothing like any other villain I've tackled. He's not just an underwater Doctor Doom. He's got a very fascinating view and motivation about what he's doing.
Nrama: With Justice League #17, solicitations indicate the team is expanding. Is that related to what happens in this storyline?
Johns: The expansion of the team is... you'll have to read the story and find out what happens and why. In issue #17, it's an extra long issue. We'll have no back-up in that issue. It's going to be the whole conclusion. Aquaman #17 will be an epilogue to that.
Nrama: And The Flash doesn't seem to be involved, right?Johns: He is busy fighting Gorilla Grodd when we open the story.
Nrama: The "Gorilla Warfare" story in The Flash.
Johns: Yeah. The book itself is going to be a little more reflective of the DCU as we go into the DCU.
Nrama: Any chance we're going to see Aqualad?
Johns: You will see other Atlanteans, but I don't want to say who yet.
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