Warning: This article contains spoilers for Suicide Squad #46.
Atlantis stands at the brink of war with the United States in this week's Suicide Squad #46. Proving once and for all that this conflict has been, is, and likely will be in most major Aquaman arcs - comics and movies included.
The DC Comics universe has been shaken by an unexpected twist in this typical tale of Atlantis, however, as a large portion of the once-sunken city has been brought to the surface. With relations tense in even the best of times, other nations are struggling to decide how to respond to this new status quo. As always, the new development - completely out of the hands of most Atlanteans - is viewed as an unacceptable change in the eyes of several prominent U.S. politicians and military figures.
To them, a new neighbor is a threat first, and a sovereign nation second, if ever. Especially given the excuse that Atlanteans aren't really "humans" anyway.
As a result, the Suicide Squad has been sent to sink Atlantis by shadowy figures in the American military command... no matter how many innocent lives are lost in the process. Needless to say, the mission isn't going well. Suicide Squad #46 opens with several members of the Suicide Squad brought before Mera, Queen of Atlantis. Unfortunately for the U.S. Government of the comic book world, they've entrusted their secrets to Harley Quinn, who doesn't even wait to be interrogated before revealing the truth, giving everyone in earshot an in-depth debriefing.
Mera is horrified to learn that the United States has sent a nuclear warhead into Atlantis on suspicion alone. Needless to say, there's no way Atlantis can ignore such an action, and by the end of the issue Atlantis has prepared its own response. Reminding America that it's not the toughest empire on the planet after all.
Writers Rob Williams and Dan Abnett have gone to great lengths to stress that Atlantis is a superpower in DC's modern world. The Earth is 70% water, and when Mera is involved, water itself is a weapon. The issue closes with a single stunning image of gigantic waves frozen in place, looming over one of America's cities. From the dialogue, it's clear that this is the entire US coastline. A threat, or warning: should Atlantis be destroyed, Mera has prepared a retaliatory strike of unbelievable magnitude.
Worse still, as she tells the U.S. ambassador, she also has a second wave ready to be unleashed upon American shores should they choose to start this war without cause... the armies of Atlantis, which Mera describes as being filled with "horrors you cannot even begin to imagine." This may even mean Mera has called upon the Trench, cannibalistic predators who would pose a terrifying threat to any who survived the waves (and who will make their debut as one of several underwater races in DC's Aquaman movie).
The "Sink Atlantis" arc is an entertaining one thus far, demonstrating just how easily escalation can happen when the metaphorical "wall" between the undersea kingdom and the surface world is wiped away. Should the nuclear bomb in Atlantis be detonated, it would result in a horrific loss of life, and destroy the highest members of Atlantis' power structure - putting America squarely in the role of villain to the larger story of Atlantis.
Mera's retaliatory strike is understandable, and her sense of restraint is admirable; a lesser leader would have launched a first attack, but Mera satisfies herself with a show of force. But can disaster be averted? With the coming Aquaman movie seeming to adapt the same conflict, but with Aquaman's brother Ocean Master threatening to take revenge on the surface world, this could be the direction the DCEU takes as well.
Common sense would say that cooler heads will prevail, and the U.S. Government wouldn't actually follow their plan through. But then... anything is possible these days.
Suicide Squad #46 is on sale now from DC Comics.