In the first five issues of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s run on Aquaman, the writer took advantage of the character’s “death” in “Drowned Earth,” emphasizing the core of the character by stripping him of his memories and challenging him in a new way.
But with this week’s Aquaman #48, readers will see Arthur’s memories returning, putting him on the path toward his previous life and bringing the series toward a momentous #50 that sees DeConnick introducing Jackson Hyde Aqualad into her run.
Aquaman #50 will also feature a visit by Lex Luthor to Black Manta, as the series ties into the “Year of the Villain” events where Lex makes seemingly irresistible offers to villains throughout the DCU.
Working with artist Robson Rocha, DeConnick began her run on Aquaman #43 about the same time the Aquaman film had its successful run in theaters last year.
For issue #48 and #49, Viktor Bogdanovic serves as guest artist before Rocha’s return in issue #50.
Newsarama talked to DeConnick to find out more about the return of Aquaman’s memories, her incorporation of Jackson Hyde into the series, and what readers can expect from upcoming issues of Aquaman.
Newsarama: Kelly Sue, over your first few issues, you’ve introduced new mythology to the world of Aquaman by telling a story that’s separated from the events that happened right before your run began. But now it looks like you’re going to bring the series back toward the world in which Aquaman existed before your run. Does that start in issue #48?
Kelley Sue DeConnick: Yeah! We’re going to finally fill in the gaps between what happened after “Drowned Earth” and before “Unspoken Water.”
It’s set up in issue #48, and in #49, you’ll see exactly what happened in that space.
Nrama: Why did you, as a writer, want to introduce your run in a story that kind of separated Aquaman from that world for a few issues?
DeConnick: It was a few things. It was absolutely with complete respect for everything that had come before. We’re not undoing anything.
But because of the timing, coming in with a new creative team, and with a movie, when the character had a huge spotlight and we were going to have a lot of new readers, presumably, coming off the film, it was a good time for us to kind of step aside for a moment.
We were able to re-establish who this character is, what his core values are, what his tone is, where he comes from, and what his role is in the DC Universe.
So taking a minute to re-introduce him to himself was a way for the readership to kind of get a sense of who he is.
In issue #48, as Mother Shark is restoring his memory, as she says, “This process was never meant to be reversed, so I don’t know what giving you back all of your memories is going to do. So I can give you back just the three things you absolutely must know about yourself, the three most core aspects of your identity.”
And in giving him those three things, we’re also giving new readers, these are the only three things you really need to know about Aquaman going forward.
You need to know his origin story - that he was born of an impossible love. You need to know that he has a part of himself that is in Atlantis, and that he was king of Atlantis for a time. And you need to know that a part of himself is a hero in our world as part of the Justice League. Those are the three things you have to know going forward.
Nrama: Can you explain who Mother Shark is, and why she’s such an important part of all this?
DeConnick: Mother Shark is a gatekeeper at the bottom of the ocean. Everything that dies in the oceans passes through Mother Shark to get to the afterworld.
When you die in the ocean, and you pass through Mother Shark, she strips you of the things that bind you to this world, which are your memories. And she uses your memories to build her coral garden. And then you pass on to the afterworld. But your memories, your stories, stay here and feed the ocean.
Aquaman died. As he was coming to Mother Shark, the ocean gods of “Unspoken Water” were asking for a champion, and she saw something in him. She saw that he was marked by love. And so she stripped him of his memories and sent him as an empty vessel up to the ocean gods to see if he was a worthy champion.
In the events of the first five issues of our run, he proved himself to be worthy.
So he drank of the Unspoken Water, and he goes back to Mother Shark. And she restores the memories that he absolutely needs.
She asks him if there’s anything else that he needs to know? And he says, I need to know who the redhead is. There’s an emptiness where she used to be, so I need to hear who she is.
And then we start to learn that at the end of Aquaman #48.
Then in issue #49, we learn more about their relationship and what happened that ended in his death.
Nrama: So with issue #48 and #49, what will we find out about Mera?
DeConnick: Mera is under pressure to choose - she has to name a king. She’s queen of Atlantis and she has to name a king. Because of Arthur’s history with the kingship, they’re not real excited to have him as regent. So she’s in a little bit of a bind.
Mera’s not someone who needs to be saved. Mera’s really strong-willed. She’ll get it worked out. She’s got a plan.
Nrama: The whole idea of her choosing a regent reminds me of true-life stories of kings and queens of old.
DeConnick: The Odyssey is the one that I think of. In fact, in Aquaman #50, you actually see her reading The Odyssey. It’s my not-so-subtle “please trust me/don’t freak out” kind of message to the readership.
Nrama: Let’s talk about issue #50. The solicitations have already revealed that Jackson Hyde and Black Manta. Can you talk about what’s coming up with Jackson Hyde?
DeConnick: Jackson and Arthur meet in issue #50, or at least make contact in #50. And he’s going to be a regular part of our cast in Amnesty Bay.
I got to do a lot of learning about him. I didn’t know too much about him, really. That was pretty cool. I like him a lot.
Nrama: And then we know that, with Black Manta, your series is tying in to the “Year of the Villain"? So Black Manta is the one that Lex Luthor visits?
DeConnick: Yeah, Aquaman really only has two big villains, so you know it’s going to be one of the two. And since we’re trying to move him out of Atlantis, Orm really only gives a damn about what’s going on in Atlantis. So it kind of had to be Manta, which is great, because I was actually looking forward to writing him anyway.
Nrama: We just found out that Lex Luthor is turning into a more powerful version of himself, thanks to Perpetua. And he’ll visit the various villains of the DCU.
DeConnick: Yeah, I can’t remember what they’re calling him — like, Uber Lex or something like that.
Nrama: So when Lex offers Black Manta the opportunity to acquire the means to defeat Aquaman, what will he do? I know you can’t spoil the story, but is it giving you the opportunity to explore how much Black Manta wants to beat Aquaman? Or at least how he feels about Lex’s offer?
DeConnick: Yeah, I’ll say this. Manta doesn’t think that Lex has anything to give him that he would want, and Lex comes up with the one thing.
Nrama: You’ve got Viktor Bogdanovic on the next couple issues. Does Robson Rocha come back onto art after that?
DeConnick: We have Vik for #48 and #49, and then Robson is back for #50 and forward. He had a baby! I think that’s public. He took two issues off to be with his family, which is super great.
But having Vik has been awesome for these two issues too. He came in like a champ with a super-weird script. It’s very challenging. I explained that I wanted this character to be so big that on a double-page spread, we can’t see her whole body. So we’re breaking a lot of rules. You never get an establishing shot where you see all of her and all of Aquaman, because she’s so big that you can’t possibly get them both in frame. He would end up being so tiny you couldn’t see him. And that’s a challenge.
Issue #49 is even more of a challenge, because it ends up really being entirely flashback. And that’s hard to pull off. And he did it! So I’m very pleased.
Nrama: Robson has really defined the look of your series.
DeConnick: Yeah, Robson is killing me. He’s so good! And he’s so fast too, which is just, like, not fair. Nobody should get to be that talented. That’s not cool. But yeah, he’s phenomenal.
He’s also just an incredibly charming, delightful young man to work with, because he loves the character so much and he’s having so much fun, and you can just see it on the page.
I could not ask for a better partner on this series. I really feel incredibly lucky. And I’m terrified, too, of boring him. I want him to stay! It’s been so great to work with him.
I should also shout out colorist Sunny Gho and inker Daniel Henriques, who are also part of our team, and letterer Clayton Cowles. We really have a monstrously good team on this book, and I’m incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to work with all of them.