Friday, August 29, 2014

The Rise of the Seven Seas

There's been some online chat about what DC has planned to the "Rise of the Seven Seas" storyline for the Justice League, so I'm certain I'm about to say anything new in this post.  But it will help to crystallize my own thinking about it (and the many fantastic water-based Heroclix figures that such a story could at some point spawn).

If you don't already know, "Rise of the Seven Seas" is a Justice League arc that's been set up in the pages of Aquaman.  Just like the "Throne of Atlantis" arc; Aquaman, with his globe-spanning domain of the sea, seems to be an easy first-choice nowadays when DC needs an arc big enough for the entire Justice League.

The story is not just 'something for the League to do'. It's pretty clear that DC editorial (i.e., former Aquaman-writer and Creator-in-Chief Geoff Johns) intends to use it to expand the mythology that centers around Aquaman.  Just as he built the Seven Spectrum Corps around Hal "Rainbow Brite" Jordan, he (and the writers) are building 'the seven seas'--seven underwater races/communities/kingdoms--around Aquaman and his role as king of Atlantis.

Johns is quite capable of making up new stuff on his own (e.g., The Trench), but his specialty is taking abandoned or toxic piece of DC lore, cleaning it up and weaving it into a larger, more epic and coherent mythology. That's what he did with the Justice Society, with Green Lantern, and the Flash.  And he's been doing it with Aquaman.  Whether by artistic bent, fanboy devotion, or company shrewdness, he prefers making an ever-growing quilt than a new blanket of whole cloth. He views DC's past as a legacy of riches to be built upon, not a hampering embarrassment to be destroyed or a heavy yoke of continuity to be borne humbly.

What may very well  be happening in "Rise of the Seven Seas' is that Johns will use the story to reintroduce disparate aspects of DC's underwater mythology and tie it all together in a way never done (well) before.  The DCU will wind up with seven different undersea kingdoms of different cultures and races.  Atlantis is the First Kingdom, Xebel (where Mera is from) is the Second, and The Trench (the chompy creatures of the black deep) is the Third, and the statues in the pic above gives us hints as to what the Fourth through Seventh will be. All of them will be in Aquaman's province, of course (he's 'the King of the Seven Seas'),  but several of them will likely have historical associations with other characters as well.

For example, as many longtime readers will remember, part of the Silver Age Superman mythos was his relationship with the merfolk, specifically Lori Lemaris.  Strange how many of the important people in Superman's life have the initials "LL".

How do they--oh, never mind.

So one of the underseas races will probably be Merfolk Kingdom. There's no statue of a mer-person among the Seven Seas picture, but if you look closely you can see that there's a seventh statue obscured from our view, probably so as not to give away the return of merfolk to the DCU.  And, for the historical reasons mentioned, I assume Superman will probably be the member dealing with them in the Justice League Rise of the Seven Seas story arc..

Wonder Woman also had dealings with merfolk, particularly during her adolescence as Wonder Girl, when Ronno the Mer-Boy was a contender for her affections (even in adulthood, in fact).  

How sad is USAF officer Steve Trevor that his major rivals are a guy with no human genitalia and a giant amoeba.
Does Wonder Woman not know ANY Marines she can go out with?!

But I'll wager the undersea world we will revived for Wonder Woman won't be the merfolk.  It will be the forgotten Atlantean colony of Venturia, ruled by her Golden Age foe, Queen Clea the Imperious.

Oh, look, how shocking; domination and servitude.  In a Wonder Woman story.
Queen Clea was a real piece of work, even among Wonder Woman's wacky foes. One time she teamed up with the Penguin, Ibac, the Joker, the Weeper, the Shade, Dr. Light, Brainiac, et al., to fight the JLA and JSA, and enslaved Superman with a mind-controlling "Venus Girdle".  We need Clea back; once Wonder Woman comes back from her all-Olympian vacation of Mazzuchelli's run, she's going to need some substantial opponents.  A warmongering, slave-owning leader of a queendom of underwater anti-Amazons would fit the bill nicely, and I expect to see her going toe-to-toe with WW in "Rise of the Seven Seas."  Take a look at the second statue in the picture; sure looks a lot like Clea to me.

Golden Age Batman, contrary to what many modern readers think, wasn't all about the grim and gritty.  He and Robin did LOTS of weird, trippy stuff, including visiting an Atlantis all their own.  They fought Nazis there.  I guess it was closer than going to Europe.

The Riddler is SO envious of that kid's staff.

I don't imagine we'll see a Nazi-infested underwater kingdom just for Batman's sake (cool though that might be). But Geoff Johns could certainly choose to reintroduce, say, Aurania (rival city-state to Clea's Venturia) and give it any characteristics he wanted. The first status in the "Seven Seas" pic is pretty clearly a set up for classic Aquaman foe The Fisherman--the unique headgear is a dead giveaway.  

The Busiek run surprised even the Fisherman.

And, even if you include Kurt Busiek's fun idea of his headgear being a alien symbiote, the Fisherman is basically a thematic villain who would seem perfectly at home fighting Batman (or the Flash).  So I'm guess that one of the kingdoms will be the source of a modern version of the Fisherman, who will be dealt with by Batman or the Flash during the "Rise of the Seven Seas".  

The statue farthest to the right, the insectoid-looking one, is a bit of a mystery.  It doesn't seem to correspond to any undersea society from DCU history. I suspect that it, like the Trench, is a new creation by Johns, one to give trouble to Cyborg (who, remember, can now breath underwater) or possibly Green Lantern, because we know how GL fans love their weird alien creatures.  

Speaking of Green Lantern, I am hoping that--somehow--this arc generates for us a modern version of The Shark, a classic GL villain with aquatic origins.

One of the lesser known stages of evolution is Homo Hanna-Barbera.

The Shark was reintroduced when Johns brought Hal Jordan back to life, but hasn't been seen since the New52 (during which time Hal's been mostly off-planet).  The DCU isn't quite right without him, and that weak knock-off DC keeps trying to foist on us successfully ("King Shark") is certainly no substitute.

Perhaps we will see Name-Or again and his fantastic undersea world of Lemuria, who so memorably but irrelevantly participating in the Attack of Jean Loring's Brain?

What do you hope for or expect from "The Rise of the Seven Seas"...?


r duncan said...

Don't expect it, but Seagrin of the New Gods would be awesome.

Thanks for laying this out, Scipio. I'm a major Aquaman fan, but this took me by surprise.

John said...

It may not be relevant, but five out of the six also strike me as intentionally similar to Aquaman characters. You've already pointed out the Fisherman (1) and Mera (2). You then have the generic Silver Age Atlantean (3), Ocean Master despite the Aquaman belt buckle (4), the mer-person (5), and didn't Black Manta look like (6) for a while? It also resembles the Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle armor.

I assume the seventh, off panel to the right, would be some sort of primitive Topo, Quisp, or Neptune Perkins...

Yours probably makes more sense, though. But I don't know. There's something about building neatly-thematically-segregated kingdoms in 2014 that rubs me the wrong way and I never really understood the need to explain why there are different kinds of mer-people. But clearly, that's what they're going to do.

My personal sense is that Johns is more likely to establish undersea kingdoms that he thinks he needs in order to reintroduce (semi-)classic characters, specifically Aqualad and Dolphin. But a quick look at the relevant Wikipedia page ( reminds me of a whole bunch that could be fun, or at least introduce some diversity. Check out the Kogats, for example!

CobraMisfit said...

I love how No One's Favorite Superhero is poised to become Everyone's Favorite Story Arc.

Oh how the tides have turned.....

Nathan Hall said...

Joshua - I guess you could call it a "sea change."

Anonymous said...

I'm banking on at least one of them being Thierna Na Oge, from the Pposner mini - visually a very different looking race, and magic based.

Unknown said...

Bring back black manta n ocean master and I will be content