THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
Black Manta finds himself free once again, only to quickly discover the object of his intense hatred, and the only focus in his life, Aquaman, has been killed by someone other than him. But, as Waller asks at the beginning of the issue, “What happens after Aquaman is dead?” This issue, while it recycles a lot of content, puts into context the upcoming change in Black Manta, and one can’t help but feel excited for the future of the treasure hunter turned “Aquaman hunter.”
The issue serves as a fantastic character study of Black Manta. It covers his reasoning for hating Aquaman, his efficiency as a killing machine, his love for his deceased father, and the hate that consumes him.
Unfortunately, the issue’s greatest success is being a set-up to future issues of Forever Evil. In Forever Evil #1, Ultraman moves the moon in front of the sun to create an eclipse, so that he is not hurt by the Sun. In Black Manta #1, this causes the tide to shift dramatically, almost drowning Black Manta, who was visiting his father’s grave at the time. The resulting tidal event also unearthed Manta’s father’s corpse, which triggered something in Manta. Left without the object of his insurmountable hate, Manta now has a new target: the Crime Syndicate. It will be interesting to see how things go for Manta going forward.
Manta is now in possession of Aquaman’s trident, which is really more symbolic than anything else. Is it wrong to just say it’s really cool that Black Manta, who hated Aquaman with a passion, will now use Aquaman’s trident against the Crime Syndicate?
Claude St. Aubin’s art is a little off with the proportions, but it works for Manta. Great coloration, fantastic linework, and overall, the comic looks great.
A lot of the content of the comic can be found in the Aquaman run and Forever Evil #1. The comic also re-touches on Waller trying to recruit Manta for the suicide squad. The amount of actual new content in the comic is rather minimal, but all of the events in Forever Evil are retold from Manta’s point of view, so there is a bit of a difference. This is a large error, and really the comic should have begun with Manta at his father’s grave, with Aquaman’s trident, rather than end with it.
While it’s nice to see a Villain’s Month issue directly deal with current events and Forever Evil, Black Manta #1’s approach may be too direct. Simply transferring the majority of the issue from events established in both Aquaman and Forever Evil, the comic is lacking in new substance. That being said, fans of Manta aren’t shorted, and the issue does a great job of characterizing him, even if it is sort of re-characterizing him. Seeing Manta’s reaction to the death of Aquaman is great, and hopefully so will seeing his campaign against the crime syndicate in Forever Evil.