Warning: SPOILERS for Aquaman
Aquaman may be the rightful King of Atlantis, but his superpowers are no match for those of Mera, his right-hand woman. Which raises the most important question of the film: why can Mera control water when nobody else can?
As obvious a question at it will seem, it's one that the devoted DC Comic fans won't think to ask. In hindsight, it may be an oddity in the superhero movie genre as a whole: Mera possesses a power no other Atlantean shares, but that fact is never even raised - either in this film, or in Mera's introduction in Justice League. That means the comic historians will have some explaining to do. And while it might seem like the source of the superpower is an easy question to answer, the truth of Mera's water-bending is a bit more complicated.
Because Mera isn't the only water-bender in the DC Universe, and as we're about to explain, Aquaman could learn to control water too.
- This Page: Why Mera Can Control Water in Aquaman
- Next Page: How Aquaman Could Learn To Control Water
Mera's Water Control Isn't a Superpower
We'll start here, since Aquaman audiences are guaranteed to see this explanation online, or hear it in conversation. And on the surface, it does appear to be the simplest explanation: Aquaman's superpower is that he can "talk to" and manipulate sea creatures, so why would it be strange that Mera is able to manipulate water instead? But where Aquaman's unique power has been explained in a few different ways over the years, Mera's has one key difference. She has the power to manipulate water into blasts, draw moisture out of a human body (or their lungs), and even create weapons out of anything even containing water. That power is hers because she is a member of the Xebellian Royal Family... but that doesn't mean it has anything to do with her DNA.
For the record, the Aquaman movie makes this gift of the Xebellian royalty unclear by never showing Mera's father, King Nereus, use his own mastery of water. In the comics, where Nereus is Mera's would-be husband and not her father, he makes use of water control as often as Mera does. In director James Wan's defense, King Nereus is never shown engaging in melee combat of any kind, instead taking ranged shots and surveying his armies in battle as one would expect of a king. But following the logic of DC Comics, King Nereus should be able to unleash his water-bending just as effectively as Mera.
But what makes the source of Mera's power so interesting in the comics is that manipulation of water - or hydrokinesis, as it's technically called - is that it isn't a superpower, but a skill one must master. So yes, it really is like Avatar: The Last Airbender's version of water-bending. The difference is that in the modern comics, the Xebellian Royal Family aren't the only ones who CAN control water, they're just the only ones who know HOW to. And for those already looking to Aquaman 2... Yes, Mera could pass on the secret to help Arthur use the power, too.
Mera Could Teach Aquaman To Control Water
To reiterate: the ability of Xebellians to control water isn't some innate gift, or genetic superpower (not entirely, anyway). It is knowledge passed from one generation to the next, and when Aquaman begins, it is a secret they've been keeping to themselves, just as they have for centuries already. Their secrecy makes sense, because when you have an enemy as technologically-advanced as Atlantis to wage war against, you need all the help you can get. And while the two kingdoms may have an uneasy truce (more forced upon Xebel than agreed to in the comics), the secret of hydrokinesis is one that Xebel would never reveal, should their kingdoms go to war once more. When you witness the devastation Mera can unleash with the gift, picturing an all-out battle where both sides can wield such a weapon... is too terrible to allow.
But that was then - this is now. By the time the closing credits of Aquaman begin to roll, Arthur and Mera have accomplished every one of their goals. Orm has been dethroned, and his war with the mainland stopped before it could actually begin. With the trident and armor of Atlan in his hand, Arthur has claimed his birthright as king, by Atlantis' most sacred laws. A king who is strong, merciful, and desiring peace throughout the united kingdoms of Atlantis. So, naturally, the next threat is surely about to appear over the horizon. And when it does, Arthur could sure use all the weapons at his disposal, including those Mera's family has kept to themselves.
After all, hasn't he proven himself worthy of the secret to hydrokinesis? That question will have to be speculated upon for now, but the even bigger question fans should ask isn't IF Aquaman will gain the ability to control water itself. The question is... have we seen him do it already?
Aquaman & Ocean Master May Control Water Already
Dont worry, Aquaman fans, Arthur didn't conjure up a tidal wave or a water-sword while you were getting more popcorn. But fans need to remember that this movie establishes control over the seas, or water, isn't just a superhuman ability or secret sorcery known only to some. It can also be contained within a physical artifact or weapon. In the case of King Atlan, power over the seas was imbued within his trident. That tool may be the only one confirmed to possess "magic" abilities over water explicitly, but looking at Aquaman's villain and the Justice League movie that preceded it, a few other possible contenders emerge.
For starters, the film shows that King Orm's first move in retaliation for the mainland's "attack" on Atlantis is to toss out all the garbage, warships, and other refuse onto the shores of the world. While it's never actually explained how he achieves such a feat, the comics have the answer. It's Orm's helmet as 'Ocean Master' that grant him power over the waters of the world, allowing him to conjure tidal waves to dwarf even Mera's gifts (although augmented with magic). His helmet is never explicitly said to possess the same gift in the film, but viewers can decide for themselves.
As for Arthur Curry? It's similarly never explained exactly why Aquaman planting a trident-- sorry, quindent into cement can hold back a rushing wave of water below Gotham Harbor. That weapon is finally confirmed in Aquaman's prologue to be the weapon of his mother, Queen Atlanna. Could a relic possessing some control of the sea be a weapon worthy of Atlantean royalty?
It would certainly open the door to hydrokinesis in Aquaman's hands. And with Orm having split that weapon in two, it would sure be the perfect time for Mera to show Arthur how to wage war - without a trident. But only time will tell.