How JUSTICE LEAGUE's 'Drowned Earth' Changes AQUAMAN Ahead of DeCONNICK's Start

Justice League #11
Credit: Francis Manapul (DC Comics)
Credit: Francis Manapul (DC Comics)

This week's’s Justice League #11 continues the current “Drowned Earth" crossover event, including the new “Life Force” the story has linked to Aquaman’s power of communication with sea life.

And according to writer Scott Snyder, the end of the “Drowned Earth” story he’s crafting in Justice League with Francis Manapul will set up Aquaman’s new status quo for Kelly Sue DeConnick to take over the hero’s solo book in December, when solicitations promise the hero will suffer from amnesia.

Newsarama talked to Snyder to find out more about what’s coming up in Justice League #11, how Snyder views Aquaman’s “Life Force” power, and what readers can expect from future issues in the “Drowned Earth” storyline.

Newsarama: Scott, since we just found out some information from the Justice League/Aquaman: Drowned Earth special that James Tynion IV wrote; I’d like to hear your perspective on this mythology you’re adding to Aquaman’s powers — the “Life Force.” Can you explain the idea behind it and how it will shape Aquaman’s story?

Scott Snyder: We wanted to really strip Aquaman down to his core and what makes him special. There’s so much I love about him from so many different runs — from Peter David, Dan Abnett, and Geoff Johns obviously.

So one of the things I’ve really been fascinated with is why he has these powers. Nobody else in Atlantis seems to have his particular form of powers, because he’s half-Atlantean/half-human.

And then even more interesting to me than that was what do they represent? Talking to fish is one thing, but is there a bigger meaning to them, even if that’s their physical limit?

It got us thinking about what that means. For me, the idea of fish communicating, fish in schools, is that they’re the root of life on land as well, and the fact that they coordinate with each other and can communicate, even in visual ways to make schools to protect themselves, is sort of the beginning of a kind of chain of achievements that leads to us.

So it connects him to this primal idea of the ways in which we need to connect with each other, to be able to survive and evolve.

And we took that to this notion that all life is connected, not just in terms of people or mammals, and not in just it being a physical ecosystem, but that life that came before you to now - all of it is connected by this almost evolutionary force that has to do with communication.

Credit: Francis Manapul (DC Comics)

Nrama: OK, so his powers aren’t changing — it’s still this sort of communication.

Snyder: Yeah, Aquaman’s powers are what they’ve always been. They’re not changed. We’re not looking to expand them in any radical way.

But we wanted to kind of go back and see if there’s a way to expand the meaning behind them.

I think it gives him a role that we’ve wanted to give him for awhile too, as this “mariner” figure. He always struggled with being the king of Atlantis, the king of the Seven Seas, in a way that he seemed a bit restless.

Credit: Francis Manapul (DC Comics)

So I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of him as a character that would be a sailor and a mariner in the idea that he’s always looking for new oceans, new horizons, in a way that he wants to go find new species, new people, new ideas, connect with them, and be expansive and inclusive in that way.

The tides bring with them new opportunities, new people, new shores, new concepts.

So that’s him, to me, almost this wanderer, this guy that rides the waves and currents and finds unexplored lands and unexplored people.

For me, at least, that’s the kind of framework we were going for with his powers as well.

Nrama: So this role you’re describing — does this lead into the upcoming run by Kelly Sue DeConnick on Aquaman?

Snyder: Yeah, it totally does. I’ve read her first issues. They’re great. I can’t wait for people to see them. They’re really bold.

What we’re doing with his powers is different from what she’s doing in terms of where she begins her story, but the last page of our “Drowned Earth” is the situation that is sort of the beginning of her run.

Credit: Francesco Mattina (DC Comics)

You don’t have to read our story to read hers at all. We want each thing to be singular. But that said, the last page, the kind of hook at the end, allows you to seamlessly go right into what she’s doing. So the status quo at the end of “Drowned Earth” becomes the status quo of that book.

We had our story all set, and then when she came in and told us what she wanted to do, it was really easy, because where we wanted to leave Aquaman turned out to be very close to where she wanted to pick him up. So it was really painless and fun.

Nrama: James said the Tear of Extinction taps into a power that’s kind of the opposite of the “Life Force,” similar to how, for example, the Still Force was kind of the opposite of the Speed Force. Right?

Snyder: Yeah, every single energy that one of the heroes is connected to in one way or another, even just figuratively, like the Speed Force for Flash and the Emotional Spectrum for John Stewart and here the Life Force for Aquaman, there’s an opposing force that’s been difficult to access. You’d have to work extremely hard through different dimensional tactics and science and magic to access them.

But now that the Totality has fallen to Earth and the Source Wall is broken, these things are more powerful and more accessible.

Credit: Jorge Jimenez (DC Comics)

The idea is that if the Life Force is about life and growing and connecting and becoming more than it begins as, through Poseiden’s Trident, through what happens in the oceans, through what happens in the oceans and across the galaxy, then this is the opposite.

It’s life disconnected from itself and sort of turning into something dark and black by being completely isolated from other aspects of itself.

So the Tear of Extinction, what it does is cut you off from everybody else. It seals you off in am isolated, kind of necrotic way, so that you wither and die. It’s the opposite of the expansive oceans and life.

Nrama: Then with the next issue, Justice League #11, what will readers see? What’s featured in this chapter of “Drowned Earth?”

Snyder: This issue, for us, is huge, because Aquaman and Wonder Woman discover the Graveyard of Gods and find Poseidon and start to learn that there might be a secret history to the sea gods that nobody expected. There might be a different sort of betrayal, and a different sort of ugliness behind the ugliness of Arion and Poseidon defeating them than they knew.

And of course, the Legion of Doom comes into the book, which is tremendous fun for us, because I love writing them so dearly.

Credit: Francis Manapul (DC Comics)

And we leave the characters in some pretty dire straits at the end of this. But some of the fun stuff coming: We return to some of the set pieces in Metal.

In issue #12, Black Manta really takes center stage and learns that there’s an even more powerful kind of Kraken. Just as there’s a Life Force and there’s kind of a Tear of Extinction, there’s also a space kraken who represents life and the transformation of life, and then there’s a death kraken as well.

So we get some of the fun of releasing the death kraken, which is huge fun to say.

We’ll have flying pirate ships and the pirate Justice League and lots of other crazy stuff. We really wanted it to be the most fun and packed and energetic and exuberant book on the stands while still being grounded and emotional and in control, in terms of building an Uber-story that runs all the way through these 50 issues.

We want each arc to feel really singular, really important for the characters that are on center stage. And yet we want to be very clear, constantly, that there’s a bigger story happening just beneath the surface.

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