SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Justice League #38, by Christopher Priest, Marco Santucci, Alex Sollazzo and Willie Schu, on sale now.
Given the massive implications of Batman appointing Cyborg as the new team chairman, you’d be forgiven if that was your only major takeaway from Justice League #38. However, in addition to the surprising shift in the chain of command, what appears on the surface to be nothing more than an artistic faux pas could be a major clue regarding what the future holds for one of our other heroes.
Meeting in secret to discuss what they should do about Batman’s recent slip-ups, Cyborg, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Simon and Clark decide the latter should have a private meeting of his own with the Caped Crusader. Then, when the team reconvenes at the Watchtower shortly after, we see that Aquaman has undergone an inexplicable, yet significant costume change; rather than the classic orange-and-green scale-mail he was sporting several pages earlier, Arthur is now decked out in a striking camouflage-blue costume.
Since the suit-swap isn’t referenced in any of the dialogue, it’s easy to see why this sudden change would leave some readers scratching their heads. On the other hand, longtime Aquaman readers who know the significance of the blue costume, coupled with what’s currently transpiring in the character’s solo title, should have a general idea of what this may possibly mean.
In 1986, following Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC rebooted its entire line of ongoing series, with Aquaman landing a four-issue miniseries. The series' story, titled “The Rise and Fall, and Rise and Fall of Atlantis” saw the people of Atlantis declare war on the surface world, and as such, they also demanded the blood of the half-human Aquaman. In order to protect him, Vulko supplied Aquaman with a camouflage-blue suit, allowing him to better blend in with his surroundings and avoid detection by his own enraged people.
Meanwhile, in the pages of the current Aquaman series, Arthur is in a similarly grim position. Having been usurped from his throne by Corrum Rath, Aquaman is no longer the King of Atlantis – a changing of the guard that most of the underwater nation met with open arms. And while he’s currently believed by many to be dead, the solicitation for April’s Aquaman #35 seems to indicate that things are about to go from bad to worse for the former king.
Written by Dan Abnett with art by Riccardo Federici, Issue #35 marks the start of the “Kingslayer” arc, in which King Rath will send Aquaman’s former companion Murk to kill Atlantis’ disgraced ex-ruler. However, that’s not all that’s in store for Arthur, as the text also promises “the events of Dark Nights: Metal begin to take effect on the sunken city.”
If you’ll recall, in the Metal tie-in Batman: The Drowned, Mera was transformed into Dead Water by the armies of Bryce Wayne – the Caped Crusader’s evil female doppelganger from one of the Earths of the Dark Multiverse. Considering this lingering plot point has yet to be followed up on, it’s entirely possible that this issue of Justice League takes place post-Metal and post-Aquaman #35, at a time in which Arthur needs to navigate the depths of the ocean surrounding Atlantis in disguise. Then again, that doesn’t really explain why he was wearing his orange-and-green suit earlier on in the issue, so it’s also possible the creative team simply jumped the gun.
Either way, for perhaps the first time ever, a major selling point of an upcoming issue of Justice League will be finding out what Aquaman’s wearing. Justice League #39, by Christopher Priest and Ian Churchill, hits stands Feb. 21.