As the “Drowned Earth” event in Justice League nears its end this week, readers are learning that there’s an expansive continuity behind the isolation of Atlantis and the “talks-to-fish” powers of Aquaman.
In last week’s Justice League #12, writer James Tynion IV had the sea god Poseidon share a history with Aquaman and Wonder Woman that included a cosmic friendship and eventual betrayal between Earth and the sea gods that are now ravaging (and drowning) Earth.
As “Drowned Earth” heads toward its conclusion in this week’s Aquaman/Justice League: Drowned Earth #1, Newsarama talked to Tynion to learn more about the events to this point, how this changes the history of Atlantis, and what readers can expect from not only the finale, but what comes next.
Newsarama: James, there was a lot of information in last week’s issue about this new continuity that’s being established for the history of Atlantis involving Arion and Poseidon. This Tear of Extinction is a sort of opposite to the Life Force, but it was created from Arion’s fear many years ago?
James Tynion IV: Yes, so basically, the Life Force, which is what we’re calling the power that Aquaman has historically had - this power to communicate with all sea life - we learned in this storyline that that Life Force is actually a bigger, more powerful thing than he’s ever realized. And there’s a lot more strength to dig out of it than he’s ever fully attempted.
Fundamentally, it’s the string that ties together every living being on the planet - and beyond this planet.
We’ve learned that the purest, most powerful font of that power is on Earth. Part of the reason of that is Earth is the center of the DC Multiverse.
So the ocean god of Earth, Poseidon, was protecting this font of the Life Force.
When Arion wanted to share it with the universe, he got freaked out and basically said "No, no, no, no, no, I’m not going to share it."
So the Tear of Extinction is a piece of that power that’s been inverted. It’s the opposite of connection; it’s pure disconnection. It’s breaking apart all the connections that life has with itself.
What Arion needed to do to defeat the sea gods back in the day, misguided by Poseidon, was make himself this necrotic force of death.
It ultimately killed him.
Does that all makes sense?
Nrama: Yes, but it also seems like a lot of power for one person to hold, and in this case, it’s Mera holding it. It’s described in the book as “death incarnate.” I kind of feel like it’s similar to nuclear bombs. It’s like, OK, it’s good that you can fight the other evil on the other side, but … do you really want to use this weapon?
Tynion: Yes, and that’s the struggle. This whole arc, we’ve been talking about this dream of Atlantis, the idea of … what was Atlantis supposed to be. It was a connecting force in the world. It was the center of the ocean. It was the merchant capital. All knowledge, all civilization came from the shores of Atlantis.
Then what Atlantis ended up becoming was this closed-off, isolationist, at-the-bottom-of-the-ocean nation. Mera and Aquaman, as children, both dreamed of a broader sense of exploration and connectivity that embodies the original dream of Atlantis. But then as adults, they didn’t fully embody it.
Now, what Poseidon tells Arthur is that you need to go back, knowing that the sea gods weren’t originally villains, but now the only choice is to kill them.
So once again, there’s the dream of how things should be, that all of these characters agree is how things should be. But then there’s the harsh reality of how things are. And that drives them to use the Tear of Extinction, to use death instead of life.
That tension is at the core of the big “Drowned Earth” finale that’s coming up.
Nrama: Batman also came up against the Legion of Doom. He did well in the fight, all things considered, but they got the Totality, didn’t they?
Tynion: Yes, they did. So even if they deal with the drowned Earth, the fact that the Legion of Doom now has the Totality is the most important, most dangerous thing moving forward. And it’s going to change everything, including who Luthor might have to turn to to unlock the power within.
This is a very dangerous moment. In the cosmic war between justice and doom, doom is winning.
Nrama: Next is the special. Scott is writing that?
Tynion: Yes. I’m writing the next issue of Justice League after that, which is a more straight-forward Legion of Doom one-shot issue.
Nrama: So you got to write the line, “Release the Death Kraken!” But Scott gets to write what happens once it’s released.
Tynion: Yes. Scott is unleashing the Death Kraken upon the DCU, and he’s having a lot of fun with it too.
Nrama: Is Wonder Woman’s bird going to stick around after this story arc?
Tynion: I want that! I’ve even been thinking about using the bird in Justice League Dark. We’ve got a bad-ass alien bird. This could be our Lockheed if we play it right.
Nrama: Can you tease what happens in that next issue of Justice League that you’re writing? That’s Justice League #13?
Tynion: The next issue sets the stage not only for the future of the book, but it also sets the stage for a certain thread in the Batman Who Laughs mini-series. What I can say is that the Joker is not happy that Luthor kept the Batman Who Laughs a secret from all of them. And the fact that he’s now been let free into the world is also something the Joker is not very happy about.
If I were to do the one-liner of what Justice League #13 is, it would be, “Joker versus the Legion of Doom.” So I’m very excited about that issue.