In a refreshing change of pace, this is not an origin story. This is probably because Black Manta’s origin was already told in the pages of the regular ‘Aquaman’ series. His beginnings are briefly summarized, but things quickly progress from there.
This issue parallels ‘Forever Evil’ #1 and indeed a brief scene from this book appears there. This book opens with Amanda Waller attempting to recruit Manta into the Suicide Squad, when Power Ring and Deathstorm attack Belle Reve prison, setting all the super inmates free. Manta coldly ignores the chaos around him and gathers his armor. He then steals a helicopter and rendezvous with the other villains in the ruins of the Justice League Satellite in Happy Harbor, RI in the big address of the Crime Syndicate, also from ‘Forever Evil’ #1. But after seizing Aquaman’s trident, Black Manta departs. By the end of the story, though, he’s found another target at which to direct his rage.
It was great to get something other than an origin! This issue actually tied into ‘Forever Evil’ which is nice and sets the stage for the next part of that story. (Black Manta will be joining Lex Luthor’s resistance movement opposing the Crime Syndicate.) It was also good to see a villain reacting to the news that the Justice League is dead and deciding what to do next.
On the negative side, though, so much of this was recreated from ‘Forever Evil’ that there didn’t seem to be as much new material as I would have liked. And the ending was a bit sloppy. Black Manta, without his helmet, seems able to both breathe and speak underwater. And after a flood wipes out a town, Manta is somehow miraculously able to find his helmet in all the destruction.
The art by Claude St. Aubin is pretty solid, but not spectacular. Also, I’m not certain, but in a lot of the villain crowd scenes, I think some of the characters are just made up. But over all, it’s a strong effort.
So this issue wasn’t flawless. But it was strong and it was nice to get a new story and not another origin.
AQUAMAN #23.1/BLACK MANTA #1
Plot by Geoff Johns and Tony Bedard
Script by Tony Bedard
Art by Claude St. Aubin
Cover by Paul Pelletier, Sean Parsons and Rod Reis