WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Aquaman #32, by Dan Abnett, Riccardo Federici and Rick Leonardi, in stores now.
If you have been following the latest arc of DC Comics’ Aquaman, then you know the series is not shy about hiding its political slant. Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman, is no longer the King of Atlantis. He is believed dead and forgotten, and a dangerous, malevolent, bigoted king, Corrum Rath, is ruling in his stead. Rath is controlling his kingdom with an iron fist. Empowering his own gestapo-like force with the use of forbidden magic, he seeks to undermine the genetically different and impoverished, and has erected a magical wall, a barrier, that separates Atlantis from the rest of the world. It keeps the surface-dwellers out, yes, but it also keeps his people in.
These developments have prompted readers to realize that writer Dan Abnett’s Aquaman tale is very much a view and critique on Donald Trump’s presidency. And in issue #32, the Trump comparisons continue, almost in a clairvoyant kind of way.
The issue picks up where the previous one left off, with Arthur Curry continuing to build a resistance against Rath. While he plans to overthrow the King, Arthur has no plans to replace him. Instead, the Silent Sisterhood wishes to place Mera as the one true Queen of Atlantis after the fall of Rath. Although both Arthur and Mera struggle with that idea — knowing full well that this would effectively pull the plug on their burgeoning romance — the two of them prove that they have the hearts of heroes. They are willing to put the needs of the many first, to sacrifice what means the most to them if it means the good of their people.
Faced with the prospect of the Crown, Mera puts it the most eloquently: “No one wants to be a king or a queen,” she says. “Except for people like Corum Rath… which proves that ambition should be an instant disqualification.” Here, Mera tells is like it is, voicing the thoughts of an entire people, fictional or real. Men of power, those who rule, are almost always men of ambition, but if their sole purpose if to be King (or be President), then they have no place there, because they will always put their needs first.
The comparisons to Trump’s presidency don’t end there. Later in the issue, we’re taken inside the Silent School, where Rath’s enforcers hone their magic skills. Here, two of Rath’s followers discuss the King’s wish to augment the use of deadly magic on the second and third-tier residents of Atlantis. This makes one of them begin to question the mental stability of their King. “The King’s use of magic is becoming extravagant,” he says. “I fear it is beginning to affect him adversely.” This metaphor for power, and the corruption it brings, is not lost. This is a criticism that President Trump has long faced, particularly in response to reports of him boasting about his ability to launch a nuclear attack.
On top of all that, the issue, which was likely written over a month ago, appears to deal with the recent questioning of the President’s mental stability. In fact, many news outlets covered this very subject just last week, after Trump tweeted about his “stable genius.” In Aquaman, the call to question the King’s inadequacies is followed by a statement that he handles the power he wields like a toy, much like a child would, again mirroring criticism that has followed Trump’s presidency from the beginning.
In the comic book, we come to learn that the magic the evil King wields has a corrupting power that contaminates the mind. However, there is none of that magic in real life. No easy answers or solutions. There is, however, an idea in the issue that does apply — that everyone should put their differences aside, and work together for the good of their nation and, by extent, the world.
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