As Atlantis is in the midst of a civil war, DC Comics' Aquaman title is spinning off a new limited series that puts the spotlight on a fan-favorite character, Mera: Queen of Atlantis.
The series, written by Aquaman scribe Dan Abnett, kicks off this week with Mera exiled from Atlantis by King Rath, who deposed Aquaman months ago.
Newsarama talked to Abnett to find out more about the series, why readers will get a new perspective on Ocean Master and other characters, and what readers can expect next.
Newsarama: Dan, how does the new Mera: Queen of Atlantis series spin out of the story we're seeing now in Aquaman?
Dan Abnett: It spins out directly from Mera's own situation, as is happening now in the Aquaman series. She's been fighting furiously to support Aquaman, but she's also been kept at arm's length by the situation itself. And that has really crystalized in the last couple issues of Aquaman.
And from that, she's now positioned in a parallel course. She's almost covering for Aquaman because he's "missing" in Atlantis. But it's a great opportunity to see her being herself, rather than being a partner or sidekick.
She has roles and responsibilities to play which are really hugely important.
Nrama: And I think you told me last time we talked that the story in Mera can stand alone without reading Aquaman, correct?
Abnett: Yes, you can read it on its own and it makes perfect sense.
But it had huge relations to the Aquaman storyline as well.
It's a global event that's affecting lots of people in different ways in different places. And in different ways, those things will come together.
But it is a complete storyline.
And I'm really enjoying it. I think it's high time she had her own series.
Nrama: She's now been exiled, and the solicitation says something about her acting as the "queen in exile." So I guess with Arthur gone, she's having to step up?
Abnett: Yeah, I think Aquaman, in his role as king, had lots of things going on. So it was almost like spinning plates. He was always trying to balance all the different responsibilities.
He is now so focused on one responsibility that Mera is stepping in and taking over others, almost as a sort of public face to Atlantis - the representative of Atlantis as far as the rest of the world is concerned.
But she's not taking on those roles as Aquaman's replacement. She's taking on those roles because she's absolutely justified in being that person and being taken very seriously.
She's also fighting a sort of Fifth Column battle to support his efforts in Atlantis without making more problems for him.
For example, the rest of the world - the surface world - is getting very, very spooked about what is happening in Atlantis and whether it'll have repercussions on a global stage. And she is the person standing in the middle of that going, no it's not. Let them sort it out. It's not going to threaten you.
And there's lots of other strong characters who have a vested interest in this that she's got to balance in there.
So she's being a very powerful hero, but she's also being a diplomat, really, trying to make sure that everything keeps where it should be.
For instance, if the U.S. decided Atlantis was a serious threat and decided it was time to pacify it because there's a civil war going on in it, that could lead to massive problems for the world.
So she's the one person standing in the way going, no, this isn't something that you need to deal with.
And the same goes for other forces.
Nrama: Including Ocean Master.
Abnett: Yes. I don't want to spoil too much about that. But he's got a vested interest in what happens.
And there are other people like that who feel a duty to be involved, because it's their homeland.
And the last thing you want is somebody like that turning up.
Or the people of Xebel turning up and saying, this is our opportunity to even the score with our old rivals.
So she's kind of trying to keep everybody happy and at arm's length - or thwart them from their often well-intentioned plans, because they think it's going to help, but she knows it isn't going to help.
She's the only person who can convince them or stop them from doing something that will make everything a great deal worse.
Nrama: I assume her exile also gives you a lot of opportunities to explore who she is and how she relates to people, separate from Arthur.
Abnett: Yes, Mera's series puts her in contact with key Aquaman characters to see what her relationship is like with them, rather than what Aquaman's relationship is like with them.
Some of the key characters in Aquaman's world relate to her in a very different way, and therefore we get to learn more about them because they're interrelating with someone different.
We're also going to delve back into her past and bring back a few characters that haven't been seen in the Aquaman continuity for awhile who play a very important part in this.
Nrama: It's got to be difficult, writing these two stories that spin out of the same situation, but not crossing them over. I assume it's helped by the queen's exile.
Abnett: Yeah, it's that balancing act of making sure the story is immediate and self-contained so that it is accessible to anybody, but also has a greater context for long-time readers or people who know Aquaman.
They'll go, "Oh, that's really cool! This character is back in it again. I haven't seen him for ages!" Or "that thing that happened ages ago - that's really important now because of this."
So I'm balancing those two things to try to keep everybody as happy as possible with what's going on.
Nrama: Let's get back to what you said earlier – that Mera deserves a book of her own. What do you think it is about Mera that's really caught people's attention, particularly the last few years?
Abnett: I always found Aquaman as a character very appealing, which is why I jumped at the chance to write him — mainly because he gets such short shrift. He is the "other guy" in the Justice League. Traditionally, he's not the really cool one. He's the other guy in the group photograph.
And I really enjoyed the idea that it was mixing fantasy with real world with super heroics, in a compelling way, to make people go, "Wow! Aquaman's much cooler than I thought he was."
And right from the word go, I realized that, if anything, Mera was an even stronger character.
Nrama: Really? You think so?
Abnett: Well, in the early days of me writing Aquaman, there was always a danger that Mera would over-balance the book, because she's actually more obviously the lead of the book than Aquaman is himself.
So to find her own path through the book, to make her a prominent important character which in no way was diminished by Aquaman but also didn't diminish him was really important in the main book.
And now, the gloves are off and we can actually do something that really focuses on her and how important she is - and how capable she is as well.
I think it's something that's long overdue. She's one of the most overlooked characters in the DC Universe, as far as I'm concerned. She's a very important, very strong, very interesting character. And it's great to be able to do things with her.