With the end of the Rebirth Aquaman run, I’ve found myself itching for my latest Aqua-fix.
It’s safe to say that Aquaman fans have been spoiled throughout the previous run with fantastic interior art, covers and multiple writers producing a consistently good comic.
Following the conclusion of the series we got a look at Andy – the daughter of Arthur and Mera – in the Future State event, and in the upcoming months we will be treated to comics based on two of the primary side characters who kept the Rebirth Era moving. I will get to Aqualad and his new adventures soon, but this week, it’s all about the DCU’s most underrated villain, Black Manta.
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Chuck Brown
Artwork: Valentine De Landro
Colours: Marissa Louise
Letters: Clayton Crain
Release Date: 7th September 2021
Going into this opening issue my main hope is that Black Manta remains a villain. Comic books and their movie counterparts often have a habit of going out of their way to rationalise the villain, attempting to make them sympathetic or understandable. Sorry comic book writers, I like my Manta to be 100% spite and vengeance. Black Manta has killed Aquamans’ infant (read Death of a Prince) and indirectly Aquaman’s father by causing a heart attack. Manta has spent the years perfecting his suit to become the perfect Atlantean hunting weapon, and this is me hoping we get to see him flex that tech in all sorts of diabolical ways.
So, what does the opening issue lay down for this 6-issue mini-series? Well, Black Manta is on a quest for a new Macguffin promising increased power. This item is hunted by many but Manta wants the power for himself. The issue opens up with Manta self-reflecting. This follows most of his New 52 and Rebirth history, but it also follows on directly from the Aquaman 80th edition released earlier this month. The Macguffin artefact is seemingly interacting with those possessing a particular genetic code.
Sometimes what you don’t see is more important or meaningful than what you do, and this is definitely the case with the character model and art style of Manta himself. With the stylistic choices made by Valentine De Landro, we get something close to my favourite Black Manta look in the form of a high-tech pitch-black suit. Using the art style, the reader buys into as much or as little as they want to. Do you want a super detailed high-tech suit? Well, you can see elements of it implied by the outline. Like the sleeker, slender Manta? The style suits that as well. Honestly, I love every element of the art around Manta here, and the motion and contrast created gives me strong anime or martial arts film vibes.
DC have been pushing the 6-issue mini series format for some time now. Some are huge hits, others forgotten in weeks and then there is Female Furies’ 2019 run that had me crying in the dark over just why Darkseid was judging a Great Apokolips bake off immediately after a discussion about personal trauma. Black Manta #1 shows promise, but it’s a little limp. This is no fault of the creative team but more the comic book approach as a whole.
Runs like DCeased or White Knight have strong solid foundations using prominent characters, but using the six-issue series for less publicised characters is a dangerous game. Having only 22 pages in the first issue to inspire reader interest for five more sales is a tough challenge. Manta is not a character who can be supported as strongly as necessary in 22 pages. Even having ready every publication of Black Manta/Aquaman for the last 15 years, I still didn’t feel the solid foundation required. But, while I am leaving this issue feeling a little ambivalent, I am still optimistic for the complete run.