Aquaman #23.1 (Black Manta)
By Geoff Johns, Tony Bedard and Claude St. Aubin
Black Manta has become quite a popular character in the past year. His ties to Aquaman have grown stronger in the New 52 and Manta overall has been one of those characters that gone from a lower class of villain right up to the top of the A-rank psychopaths. There are a lot of cool moments in Aquaman #23.1 but sadly much of it is going to seem awful familiar.
The story chronicles Black Manta’s escape from Belle Reve, his attendance of the Crime Syndicates meeting and then a solemn trip to his father’s grave. Geoff Johns provided the plot for this issue and it’s possible he gets that credit because a significant portion of the issue is a retread of Forever Evil #1. For readers that have already read Forever Evil these scenes really pull down the issue overall which has a great ending and beginning.
Tony Bedard scripts a great scene between Black Manta and Amanda Waller at the beginning of the issue that kicks off the breakout at Belle Reve. You really feel that Manta is a different class of villain when he turns down Waller’s offer to join the Suicide Squad and second gets asked for an autograph by King Shark. Bedard also writes a very emotional scene at the end with Manta at his father’s grave.
Claude St. Aubin does a solid job on art duties. His depiction of Ultraman pushing the moon in front of the sun is a pretty epic moment and the destruction that follows looks equally great. Sadly St. Aubin didn’t get full creative range because he had to essential redraw scenes from Forever Evil just from the point of view of Black Manta.
Overall Aquaman #23.1 is an issue that has great moments in it but gets cut down because of its direct connection to Forever Evil and spends the entire middle of the book retreading a scene from a book that came out last week. If you absolutely must have all things Forever Evil or Black Manta then this is the book for you. If not, you probably won’t miss anything that won’t be explained in Forever Evil #2.