ART: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, and Andy Lanning
Last month, the big reveal was that Aquaman killed Black Manta's father when Arthur's father had a heart attack shortly after Manta attacked them. It was a major twist in the Aquaman/Black Manta history, and one that changes their core relationship. Pride is something neither man is in short supply of, which means their feud is everlasting and intensely personal.
Aquaman #10 begins with The Operative trying to figure out how Black Manta knew where to find the other members of The Others. After infiltrating Manta's headquarters, the Operative is revealed to be a fairly old man who works out of a giant military plane with his son who thinks his father needs to get out of the game before he gets himself killed. Geoff Johns has included a lot of diversity in Aquaman thus far (Shin, Manta, Ya'wara, etc.) and takes it one step further by including an old person. I hesitate to say 'elderly' because that sounds a bit more fraile, which the Operative definitely is not.
The rest of the issue features Shin's recounting of the events surrounding Arthur and Manta's feud to Mera, which also acts as the narration to the confrontation between the Others and Black Manta. Johns expertly weaves Shin's tale into the scenes of Aquaman against Black Manta, moving between flashbacks and the present with a flow not unlike that seen in Green Lantern: Rebirth. Arthur's rage is real, yet Ivan Reis' artwork vividly conveys the obvious doubt Arthur has about the situation, however minute that feeling may be. When Aquaman rages out at Ya'wara about killing Black Manta, you can see the anger in Arthur's eyes. The thing is, Arthur didn't even mean to kill Manta's father. Arthur goes after Black Manta, whom he believes to be alone on a fishing boat, and accidentally kills Manta's father while Manta is diving.
Instead of a conflict of pure vengeance and rage, the relationship between Aquaman and Black Manta in the 'New 52' is based on deep-seeded emotional issues and the transfer of blame tied to the death of their respective fathers. Family stands as a core element of Aquaman, and Johns' reimagining of the Aquaman/Black Manta feud is astonishingly good, especially when coupled with Arthur's past secrets being unearthed one person at a time.