AQUAMAN #23.1: BLACK MANTA #1 REVIEW
Writers: Geoff Johns and Tony Bedard
Artist: Claude St. Aubin
Review by Suzanne Nagda
At its best, the one-shot issues of Villain’s Month serve as a good introduction to a new character or series. I took the opportunity to discover Black Manta, a villain that I once thought was some underwater creature. Coming to the character with no prior knowledge really let me enjoy him in this single issue.
Unlike other villain’s stories, Black Manta #1 feels fully relevant to the the plot of Forever Evil. That’s no coincidence because Geoff Johns plots out both issues. The introductory dialogue is identical to a brief scene in Forever Evil which adds some context. Yet the book stands on its own with a story that presents Black Manta as a compelling, complicated villain for Aquaman.
Vengeance and justice are the themes running throughout the issue. Johns and Bedard are most successful in examining Black Manta’s motivations and blurring the lines between hero and villain. He has always been a man driven by loss, from being kidnapped as a child to being locked away in Arkham Asylum in previous incarnations. In the New 52, Aquaman and Black Manta are connected in almost a Shakespearean tragedy.
The art dovetails on the plot effectively, with a splash page that highlights Black Manta’s scars with the shadows of prison bars. St. Aubin uses panel layouts thoughtfully to set Black Manta apart from the chaos at Belle Reve Penitentiary and the other villains. Blond’s warm colors contrast nicely with the few ocean scenes in the book.
The Verdict: Buy it! Black Manta is going to play a big part in Forever Evil, for sure. After one issue, I’m invested in Black Manta as a character and want to see what he does next. It pairs well with Forever Evil and no prior knowledge of Aquaman is necessary besides that he is the King of Atlantis.