The following article contains spoilers for “The Sea Beyond” from Batman: Urban Legends #17, on sale now.
Batman’s paranoia has been a defining trait of his character for decades. Someone as suspicious as him, of course, is watching everyone, even his allies. “The Sea Beyond” by Batman: Urban Legends #17 (by Joey Esposito, Serg Acuna, Alex Guimaraes, and Pat Brosseau) delved into this topic by subtly hinting that Batman isn’t just keeping tabs on people, but the realm of Atlantis as well.
When Aquaman and Mera asked him for help in battling a plague of Joker fish, Batman revealed that his company’s marine biology division had collected data from all oceans. Mainly to monitor ecosystems, but Mera deduced that such advanced research equipment could also be used to keep tabs on Atlantis. Batman neither confirmed nor denied this, but his silence spoke volumes. It’s safe to assume that Mera was right about Batman’s attempts to spy on Atlantis. However, this is not completely unjustified.
As big as a kingdom like Atlantis is, it also has many skeletons in its closet. It is arguably one of the most powerful nations on the planet, if not the most powerful. Their advanced technology alone is more developed than most modern countries. On top of that, most Atlanteans are adept in magic or have biological abilities that make them physically superior to the average human being. In short, they are essentially a better armed and better evolved society.
However, as idealized as it may seem, Atlantis has its own internal struggles. They argue with each other over who has the right to sit on the throne, as well as issues of racial inequality involving Atlantean heritages, and most importantly, they are very ambivalent for the surface world. It is not without reason. Atlantis had co-existed with the rest of the world for millennia before the surface population was aware of it. The Atlanteans, on the other hand, first became aware of humans when their technological development kicked into high gear, consequently causing ecological damage to the ocean, their home.
They invaded before on the orders of a king who despised the human world. This war nearly destroyed a city and certainly proved that even the most powerful governments on the planet were ill-equipped to manage their forces. If this were to happen again, the surface world is unlikely to stand a chance. Batman keeping tabs on them as a whole may be a major step up from just spying on individuals, but it’s not driven solely by suspicion.
It is also out of fear of what might happen if another war breaks out. If the wrong person is responsible, or if an environmental disaster forces the hands of the Atlanteans, then Batman’s investigations could help establish peace and prevent a war. Or at the very least warn humanity of the impending carnage. Flashpoint showed just how dangerous Atlantis could be if provoked. Canon’s history has also shown this to be true. Batman’s efforts may be a breach of Aquaman’s trust, but it’s in the best interests of both parties.