Amnesty Bay is still being rocked by the epic clash of Mecha Manta versus everyone else! Aquaman and Tristan Maurer are temporarily down for the count. Mera uses her aquakinesis to search the local water for Arthur. Finding him, she reaches out and at last they reconnect after their recent falling out...
Arthur is then sent to recover Tristan Maurer, currently lost in the depths, while Mera confronts Mecha Manta directly. Upon recovering Maurer, Aquaman hauls him to the surface before he drowns, and a great realization is made.
And just like that, the monster-on-robot battle is re-engaged!
But in fact, it's not the giant beast, but rather young Jackson (Aqualad) who may hold the key to defeating Manta...
We’ve pretty well hit the wall with everything that can be done with a giant robot manta ray at this point in “Amnesty,” and thankfully, writer Kelly Sue DeConnick is wrapping it up at last. Not that there aren’t superficial charms to this kaiju-esque situation, but this fight’s been going on for three issues now and enough is enough.
That said, there’s a healthy dose of humanity at this issue’s heart. Mera and Arthur’s reunion, brief though it may be (and there’s a lot left unspoken between those two), is indisputably effective and even sweet. The stronger emotional core is, oddly enough, between Manta and the AI piloting his mech-suit, which is based on his father’s brain patterns. There’s been some back and forth between the two since the mech suit debuted, as Manta pushes his “father” to act in further and further extremities. Manta claims he’s just acting as his father would want him to; indeed, previous issues have given readers insight to their dynamic and there’s a kernel of truth to this. But in this issue, the AI begins to act on its own accord upon realizing its “son” took the wrong lessons. Whereas Manta’s father taught him to put himself first as a means of protecting himself from the world, Manta has taken that to the extreme and is blindly pursuing vengeance as a personal matter, not caring about anyone else.
This is an interesting turn in readers’ understanding of what motivates Black Manta. For the most part, he’s always been portrayed as consumed by his misplaced hatred for Aquaman, but adding the father/son dynamic to it reveals a whole new depth to his psychology. Hats off to DeConnick for realizing this villain had so much more untapped potential to him – and that his story could be pushed so much further and still remain true to his core.
Of course, with Mecha Manta finally on the precipice of defeat, the story can move forward and get to the real meat and potatoes of Arthur and Mera’s reconciliation (not to mention the impending Aquababy). Their falling-out was masterfully crafted, one of those fights where both parties are in the wrong and saying things they don’t mean. And although they’ve at least bridged the communication gap, there’s still a lot of water under that bridge to be discussed. Not the least of which is the fact that Arthur has a whole new life in Amnesty Bay, and Mera is reigning queen of Atlantis. How will that even work as a functional relationship? Where can these two go from here?
Robson Rocha is as on-point as ever. His rendering of Tristan Maurer’s sea monster is especially gruesome and awesome to behold, but it’s the little moments that truly bring this issue to life: the little looks between Mera and Arthur, the madness in Manta’s eye, the uncertainty upon Jackson’s face. Jackson, especially, is in a vulnerable position – he’s being asked not only to step up and fight a menace he’s nowhere near ready to handle, but that menace is his father, and his father just tried to kill him. That’s a huge burden for any character to have to carry, and Robson pours all of that fear and uncertainty into Jackson’s every moment and expression. There’s a hesitancy in his posture that says a lot about him and his current mental and emotional state of mind. This sort of blocking is extremely crucial yet oddly not talked about much in visual storytelling. Any artist can learn to render a human body, but can they do so in a way that conveys genuine emotion? The difference is important and a huge distinction between decent and great artists. Robson (along with colorist Sunny Gho and inker Daniel Henriques) is, quite easily, the latter.
Kelly Sue DeConnick and Robson Rocha are doing what they do best: delivering the goods on an emotionally resonant and human story that doesn't skimp on the bang-pow superheroics. Aquaman is just like its title character: criminally underrated and totally deserving of your respect. If you aren't reading this book yet, get on it today.
Aquaman #55: Ghost in the Machine
Writing - 9.5/109.5/10
Storyline - 8/108/10
Art - 9.5/109.5/10
Color - 9/109/10
Cover Art - 7.5/107.5/10
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