As comic book villains go Black Manta probably isn't at the top of most folks' lists, which is unfortunate. As one of Aquaman's most significant and dangerous foes, Black Manta, the assassin and the pirate, is an interesting character. So the character is receiving his own limited series written by Chuck Brown with art by Valentine De Landro, colors by Marissa Louise, and letters by Clayton Cowles, offering readers a real opportunity to dig in. However, while Black Manta #1 possesses some intriguing ideas and an interesting overall premise, the first issue has many moving parts that never offer readers quite enough context to warm up to the mystery this story is establishing.
The issue opens with Black Manta seemingly at a crossroads and questioning what his legacy will be. It is an interesting place to meet the character and as they come across a ship holding hostages—a ship that readers should note is comically antiquated, as is the pirate in charge of it—it would seem that we're going to be getting a real exploration of Black Manta through all of his complexity. However, Brown quickly turns that story around by taking readers to Metropolis into what appears to be a heist and then, again, to another aspect of things, a narrative in which Manta and his broker Gallous have obtained a mysterious relic (a rock of some sort) which stores some sort of mysterious properties.
I would like to say these three disparate threads weave together with some sense of connection or order, but other than the pirate encounter from the opening being tied to the mystery stone, the connections simply are not clear. It's a strange way to set up a larger mystery, as there's no real hook, no real "in" for readers to attach themselves to. In a sense, the art of the issue follows suit. There are moments that are quite well done—the opening images of the comic are lovely—but the further the issue goes the more it feels like too many things put together to have much in the way of substance.
While Black Manta #1 obviously seeks to establish a larger mystery to carry the limited series, the structure of this debut fails to provide readers enough information to really connect with in a way that makes said mystery of much interest. While the idea that one of Aquaman's most dangerous foes is considering his legacy and potentially who he is as a person may seem fascinating, there's just not enough "there" there to make this issue make sense. It's an issue that leaves one feeling adrift, which is never a good place to be after a first chapter.
Published by DC Comics
On September 7, 2021
Written by Chuck Brown
Art by Valentine De Landro
Colors by Marissa Louise
Letters by Clayton Cowles
Cover by Valentine De Landro