Aquaman #54 – Kelly Sue DeConnick, Writer; Robson Rocha, Jesus Merino, Pencillers; Daniel Henriques, Vicente Cifuentes, Inkers; Sunny Gho, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: Fathers and Sons
Ray: Few writers can make a battle segment as compelling as Kelly Sue DeConnick, because most focus on the straight action of the story. Instead, this book focuses on the old grudges and pain behind the latest showdown of Aquaman and Black Manta in Aquaman #54.
We know Manta’s been upgraded with a massive battlesuit and an AI that mimics his father’s personality, but Manta has been largely kept out of focus until now. This is the first time we’ve gotten to see much of his relationship with his father, and that’s key to this story. Unlike this week’s issue of Batman, DeConnick takes on complex relationships between fathers and sons without either lionizing or demonizing the “Captain.. I’m not sure what the truth is, but this mirrors the way a lot of people feel about difficult parents. At one moment he’s cruelly telling the future Manta that he needs to give up on childish things, the next he’s making clear he’ll protect him with his life.
That deep and complex emotional connection is what’s driving Manta as he lays waste to Amnesty Bay, and the combined art of Rocha and Merino does a good job of capturing the scale of the story. I was glad to see Jackson Hyde get more to do this issue, as his battle with his evil father has been going back years, but it was unfortunate that Mera was mostly kept to the background. She even lampshades Vulko’s attempt to keep her safe, but ultimate she barely had anything to do in this issue. The ending delivers a stunning arrival from another major player, but the quiet moments in this issue are just as good as the Kaiju attacks. The story wisely keeps what happened on that boat between Aquaman and Manta’s father vague, but this rivalry has been building for years since Geoff Johns revamped both characters. This may be the best and most nuanced take yet.
Corrina: When does a battle sequence work best? When it’s a battle sequence driven by emotions, often contradictory ones. That’s never truer than in Aquaman #54, as Manta is battling both his father (in a sense) and his son (in reality), and his own role as a father. In many ways, Aquaman himself is a side issue to this whole battle, though, with his impending fatherhood, that theme has resonance for Arthur as well.
And the final appearance of a father-figure as the one to battle Manta only deepens the theme of parenthood and regrets. The art team truly makes that last splash page memorable.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.