The tide is turning in Aquaman, as the citizens of Atlantis are finally figuring out that power-obsessed King Rath must be forced off the throne. But as this week's Aquaman #35 ends, King Rath will acquire some scary new powers to battle the the uprising from Aquaman and his allies.
"Kingslayer," the new storyline by Dan Abnett that starts with issue #35, will feature artwork by Riccardo Federici as it heads toward this summer's conclusion to the epic King Rath story in Aquaman. Writing the title since "Rebirth" began, Abnett is also starting to tie the story in to the aftermath of Dark Nights: Metal while simultaneously orchestrating other parts of the Rath story in Mera: Queen of Atlantis.
Newsarama talked to Abnett to find out more about what's coming up in Aquaman, what's driving King Rath to make seemingly desperate choices, and how Aquaman is finally finding allies in his quest to remove Rath from the throne.
Newsarama: Dan, the last issue almost made me feel sorry for Corum Rath. Almost. Even as he's becoming more and more corrupt and power-hungry, his childhood hints at not only something learned, but something forged by pain. How do you think this character's story is relatable?
Dan Abnett: I didn’t want him to be just a ranting, one-dimensional bad guy. I don’t know how sympathetic he is, exactly, but I wanted to show there was more depth to him at least. He’s driven by his hard upbringing and his childhood dreams.
Nrama: When you were first creating this character, did you know his story? Or did you figure it out as you got to know him over time?
Abnett: In part. He was, I suppose, a throw-away villain at first, but then I found more ways to use him and rough ideas I’d had about his origins became more clearly mapped out. But right from the start he was a volatile character with a background hardened by life in the lowest, poorest levels of Atlantis.
Nrama: He's not very bright, though, is he? I mean, there's probably a reason they call it the "Abysmal Dark" and lock it away in a basement…
Abnett: Ha! Maybe… I think it’s less a lack of intelligence and more an excessive confidence. He believes he can master it where others haven’t.
Nrama: There are a lot of different chess pieces in Atlantis that you've been playing with in this story, and they seem to finally be lining up on the side of the rebellion. Why do you think it took so long for some of them to figure out that a tyrant King Rath might be a bad thing?
Abnett: I think many trusted that the elders of Atlantis had made a wise choice, and many who believed that having a "strong" and pro-active king would be a good thing, people sick of Arthur’s more compassionate approach to rule.
Nrama: The aristocracy of Atlantis and their experience with Rath remind me of the way the post-World War I rulers in Germany thought offering Adolf Hitler a token position in the government would be a good thing (something they obviously grew to regret). Are you drawing from real-world experiences as you write this politically charged story?
Abnett: I guess I am. Not any one in particular, but just a general consideration of historical figures, mainly so that this story has some ring of authenticity and credibility. Certainly there are some striking, singular examples, and you often look at them (with the benefit of hindsight) and wonder how anyone could have gone along with it at the time. But they do, and they have, and, sadly, they will.
Nrama: As issue #34 ended, and King Rath's dearest friend was turned into his personal zombie, that felt like the ultimate testament to his hardened heart. He actually like seeing Kadaver become his slave. What drove him to this place, and what does he really think happens next?
Abnett: Confidence and ambition drove him here at first. Perhaps desperation drives him now. Now that he’s tasted power, he cannot let go, even if it’s driving him into a terrible place.
Nrama: In issue #35, there's a moment where the earth quakes beneath Rath's feet. What does that represent?
Abnett: Atlantis itself rebelling against Rath’s dominance. Or is it?
Nrama: In this week's issue, Murk also appears to wake up to the mess he and those on his side have made. What does Murk's realization represent?
Abnett: The recognition of the true hardliners who were trying to convince themselves that Rath was a good idea… or at least a power that could be controlled and kept in check.
Nrama: Now that Dark Nights: Metal has ended, I know you've got even more story elements coming that tie into what happened in that story. Can you explain how you coordinated the Aquaman portion of that story and how the events of Metal are influencing this story?
Abnett: I had a good back and forth with the Metal editors, and with [Metal writer] Scott [Snyder], to make sure things were in step. Some of the biggest consequences are yet to be shown. It’s always good to be able to acknowledge a major cross-range event in an individual book, but it’s great when you can use the machinations of the former directly into the long-term story you’re creating.
Nrama: You've had some amazing artwork on Aquaman during your run. Who's on #35 and going forward, and what do they bring to the title and the mood of each upcoming issue?
Abnett:: We’ve truly been blessed with artists for this epic story. Stjepan Sejic was a hard act to follow, but Riccardi Federici’s work is amazing too, and we’ve had some great one-shots as well, especially Kelley Jones. It’s rare that such a long meta-story gets outstanding artwork for every step of it.