It's a new age dawning for Aquaman in the Justice League movie universe, and with a new chapter of Aquaman comics beginning... it only makes sense that the Atlantean hero should get a Jason Momoa makeover. He's not the first DC hero to get a re-design closer to the films, but fans of the character shouldn't worry about a shameless change that's just skin-deep. With Aquaman #25 coming later this month, Arthur Curry will be taking a tumble that leaves him in a similar spot to the movie's wayward hero: hunted, without a throne, and with few allies left to count on.
The majority of Aquaman's "Rebirth" storyline has centered on his attempts to earn, and hold the throne belonging to him, beginning a new age of cooperation and reconciliation between Atlantis and the surface world. But in recent weeks, enemies of Arthur's have arisen to strip him of his crown... a move supported by the rest of the Atlantean government. That's right, King Arthur of Atlantis has suffered a coup, meaning his coming re-design seeming far rougher, and more brutal than his kingly look is no accident. If James Wan and Jason Momoa are going to prove Aquaman is a certified badass on screen, Dan Abnett and artist Stjepan Sejic are preparing to do the same in the comics.
Judging by the early artwork from Sejic, it seems that when Jason Momoa appears on the Aquaman comics' cover fans may not actually notice the difference. But below the surface, the message sent by both Momoa's look and the new Aquaman design is the same. This is not a time of glory or victory for Arthur Curry, but one of merely surviving... of avoiding his true nature, instead of embracing it. There isn't a direct parallel between the coming Aquaman story and that of the movie, since the film's assumed plot - Arthur fights his Atlantean destiny, but eventually learns to accept it - was covered in Geoff Johns's acclaimed New 52 relaunch. A relaunch that we suspect will be adapted to the Aquaman movie, as a matter of fact.
Instead, the story beginning with Aquaman #25 will find Arthur removed from his throne by Atlantis itself, after his attempts to "unite" Atlantis with the surface world were refused by the rest of the empire's authorities. The Atlanteans took Arthur's extremist opponent, Corum Rath, as their new leader... and when their king resisted, he was struck down by his former allies. Preview pages of Aquaman #25 show Arthur hiding out in the deepest districts of Atlantis, but speaking with Newsarama, writer Dan Abnett reveals that the real crushing blow is still to come:
"I think it's going to be even more shocking than [losing the throne] — the price he's going to pay and the turnaround that's going to happen in the nature of this book. It is a very, very dramatic moment. I mean, obviously, we've carefully timed it to tie in with the 25th issue, because that's a bit of a milestone. But I hope, like all great twists and swings in the face of fortune in a character, this one makes perfect sense. It might be bad and unexpected, but it is completely organically part of the process that we've been pursuing for the last 25 issues. I think it makes perfect sense.
"It's a very, very big, dramatic change. And it's a really great point to join in. It's sort of, in some respects, a very fresh start. After a year of an intense bi-monthly run, we’re shifting back to monthly. That’s not a sign of a drop off in success, it’s just time to regroup and focus. One of the things we’re doing is changing art style, and that’s going to need the pace of a monthly book to achieve. So a turning point for Aquaman, the start of a major new direction, a fresh focus and feel… it’s a very big difference."
The talents of Stjepan Sejic are well-known throughout the comics world already, and the preview pages show that Arthur's new chapter will be a moment to mark. And fans can debate whether the decision to cast an actor like Jason Momoa to set a new tone for Aquaman is the same line of thinking here. It's certainly a far cry from the prior "Rebirth" art style, which was, along with the story, a spiritual successor to Johns's own New 52 reinvention. No surprise then that Abnett is promising that Aquaman #25 will be "a great place to join in and be part of the story" for newcomers, as the creative team is making "every possible effort to make sure that those readers are welcomed."
It's too early to tell just how shocking or unpredictable Arthur's new story will be. But if the creative minds of the DC movie universe have decided that beginning Aquaman's story as a true outsider is the best foot to put forward, then perhaps the time has come for the comics to follow suit. Since the story's been leading here all along, it appears this is a case of two different teams striking gold in the same spot... and with the same bearded, fearsome hero.