More pieces of the puzzle are revealed as Black Manta has a welcome rough charm both for the main character and for the series itself, adding a ton of new layers to the Atlantean realm and this decades-old character. Everything presented here bodes quite well for the upcoming Aquamen series and for the Aquaman-related line overall.
With comic books, as with all forms of entertainment, even within the same series the experience the audience has with the story can change greatly from entry to entry. Sometimes there will be an issue that speeds by while little much happens other than say a fight or such (not that this is inherently good or bad) while other times it might be a far deeper longer experience because there is just so much being offered up.
Black Manta #3 finds a sweet spot right in the middle of those two realms.
When first reading through this issue it was almost hard to believe and realize that it was seemingly over with so quickly because a ton happens here. It’s the same number of pages as usual, but there was an engaging energy that made one want to keep turning the pages while taking everything in. Short stories can be tricky to pace, and often middle issues can be a place where the revelations become almost an info dump that might lead to the story bogging down a bit.
But not with this issue or this series as a whole.
Chuck Brown has a really great style to his writing; it tells you so much and shows you a ton while also keeping things back till the right time. We get revelations about ancient Atlantis and Manta’s lineage, more with the mysterious woman that rose from the afterlife seeking out the Orichalcum holders, the Devil Ray’s plots become clearer, and there is even time for a pretty cool fight scene to boot. It all flashes by so quickly but sticks with you, it’s the equivalent of that movie that is three hours long, but you swear it was over as soon as you sat down because it was that engaging.
Telling stories centered around dark or villain characters can be tough, but Brown makes it work here. We are fully aware that Black Manta is not a good man. The depths he’ll go to have been seen on pages before through the character’s long history, but there is still something engaging enough about the man to keep an audience dialed in. Sure he might be on the wrong side of things, but it’s hard not to be engaged when the man leaps from a plane and dives right into the mouth of a flying demon to take it down.
With this issue, Matthew Dow Smith takes over the main art duties with Marissa Louise still on board for the colors. In previous reviews, I made mention of how there is a nice roughness to the art that Valentine De Landro had in the first two issues, and that is something that Smith also brings to the series. That quick energy mentioned in the book is in the art too, as Smith isn’t worried about capturing every detail (some panel’s faces are practically blurred) but more about capturing the feeling of things and the details that matter to the moment.
There is some intricate care into some of the great shots of things like Atlantis or the big spread of Africa and in some of the big reveal moments of the issue. We’re reminded in the issue that Manta isn’t a hero and has rough edges, and it’s perfect that the artwork bringing his world to life has that rough edge to it as well. It’s nice and helps the book stand apart in a very good way.
Louise’s colors maintain that bright but duller tone, adding weight to everything to make the pages hit even harder. Within just a few pages most of the colors that people are familiar with play a role in the panels, mirroring just how colorful the world and life can be at times. These are fantastical realms at play in the book and they should have a fantastical and out there look to them and they accomplish that here.
Clayton Cowles is also still aboard and still knocking it out of the park, as always, with the lettering. All of the dialogue feels unique in its own way to each character, even when it looks similar or the same, which is always such a neat thing. Just simple things like bubble color help, but there are also minor things in the fonts themselves that can take this further like with Gentleman Ghost’s font being a more faded gray color to match his ghost status.
I’m firmly in the camp that SFX are an amazing thing in comics, and Cowles brings such energy and uniqueness to them. Just the page with the mystery woman’s demon transport manifesting wings to carry her off Themyscira showcases what SFX can add to a page. We can see what is happening, but with the slew of SFX peppered around, we can also ‘hear’ what this would sound like which 100% enhances the scene.
Black Manta #3 is now on sale in print or digitally from DC Comics.