Between Doomsday Clock and Dark Nights: Metal, the entire landscape of the post-Rebirth DC Comics Universe is being reshaped. Naturally, such earth-shattering events are bound to produce aftershocks, and in the case of Metal, that arrives in the form of four new iterations of the Justice League, each with its own title spinning out of May’s Justice League: No Justice four-issue weekly miniseries, co-written by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV and Joshua Williamson, and illustrated by Francis Manapul.
The new teams, as we learned on Friday, are as follows: Team Mystery, featuring Martian Manhunter, Sinestro, Superman, Starfire and Starro; Team Entropy, boasting Lobo, Lex Luthor, Beast Boy, Batman and Deathstroke; Team Wonder, comprised of Raven, Doctor Fate, Zatanna, Wonder Woman and Etrigan the Demon; and Team Wisdom, made of Cyborg, Harley Quinn, Atom, The Flash and Robin/Damian Wayne.
But while these team rosters include some of DC’s most iconic characters, from the brave to the bold to the bizarre, one name in particular is conspicuous by its absence: Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman.
At face value, excluding the king of Atlantis from any of the four Justice League lineups seems perplexing, to say the least. For one thing, he’s a founding member of the League in both pre- and post-Flashpoint continuity. In fact, even Martian Manhunter, whose founding member status was transferred over to Cyborg in The New 52, is returning to the fold as part of Team Mystery.
What’s more, Aquaman is set to make a major splash later this year in his own movie, with Jason Momoa reprising his role from Warner Bros.' Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League. One would expect Aquaman to receive more exposure outside of his solo comic series in the lead-up to the film's December premiere, rather than less. Then again, one also has to consider what’s actually transpiring in that comic.
April’s Aquaman #35, by writer Dan Abnett and artist Riccardo Federici, marks the start of the “Kingslayer” arc – a fitting name, considering the solicitation reveals King Rath will send Aquaman’s former companion Murk to kill Atlantis’ disgraced ex-ruler. However, the text also promises “the events of Dark Nights: Metal begin to take effect on the sunken city.”
In the Metal tie-in Batman: The Drowned, Mera was transformed into Dead Water by the armies of Bryce Wayne, the Dark Knight’s evil doppelganger from the Dark Multiverse. Then, in December’s Metal #4, Aquaman reluctantly traveled with Deathstroke to Atlantis in hopes of finding more Nth Metal to defeat Barbatos and the Nightmare Batmen. There, the pair learned the sacred tomb of Atlantis’ first king is home to a mysterious portal, although it remains to be seen where it leads.
In any case, given the impact Metal has already had on Aquaman, let alone what lies in store for him in the final two chapters, one can imagine the aftermath will leave him with his hands full. It wouldn’t be without precedent, either, for the events of his solo title to take priority over the Justice League. One notable instance was during the Justice League Detroit era in the 1980s, when Aquaman stepped down and transferred leadership to Martian Manhunter so he could work on his and Mera’s marriage after a brief period of separation.
Another thing to consider is that, despite the revelation of the four team rosters, things may not be set entirely in stone just yet. Snyder told a fan on Twitter that the “Rosters in No Justice are part of the mystery of [the] story,” which he followed up with an assurance that there would be “No spoilers about teams spinning out after!” Judging by these comments, perhaps there will still be a place for Aquaman on one of the four teams, after all.
Dark Nights: Metal concludes March 14 with Issue 6. Justice League: No Justice #1 arrives on May 9.