Posts tagged ‘Black Manta’

Adventure 478 – Aquaman, Starman and Plastic Man end

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Aquaman gets the cover for his final, really final, story in Adventure 478 (Dec 80), by Jean-Marc DeMatteis and Dick Giordano.

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Black Manta has gathered an army of homeless and disaffected people, and told them lies to make the Atlanteans seem like evil monsters.  Aquaman and Cal manage to escape, and Aquaman swims right by Manta and his men, who probably could have at least tried to stop him, but don’t.  They just…don’t.

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Pretty dumb move, as Aquaman convinces Vulko and the Atlanean troops to open the gates.  Must have done some really fast convincing, as it happens almost immediately.  But it works, and Manta’s men desert him.

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Mera captures Manta in a hard water bubble, and Cal Durham shows up as well, just as everything goes boom.

The story continues in Action Comics, as Aquaman’s series moves over there.

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Starman’s tale concludes a bit more than the Aquaman one does, but not by much.  Paul Levitz and Steve Ditko do bring Mn’torr’s story to an end though.  He is sentenced to death for saving Prince Gavyn, and as Starman showed up to try to save him, he faces the same sentence.

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Not content to die, Starman fights back against the monsters that are meant to kill them, saving Mn’torr once again.

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Meanwhile, Jediah Rikane and Lady Merria return to Throneworld, only to learn that Empress Clryssa is on her death bed.

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Mn’torr insists that, no matter how much Starman wants him to survive, his time is at an end, and dissolves in a really cool, very Ditko way, bequeathing Starman his staff of power.

As promised, the story does get resolved in an issue of DC Comics Presents, though not exactly “soon.”  More like eight months.

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Plastic Man’s story really does end.  And begin for that matter, as it’s complete in this issue, by Marty Pasko, with Joe Staton art.

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Plas and Woozy Winks deal with thieves who resemble Groucho Marx and Harpo, and I do like the layout of this page, integrating the building into the panel lay-out.

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Plastic Man’s series continues as a back-up in Super Friends, which it would fit in with pretty well.

Adventure 477 – Aquaman faces Black Manta, and Starman learns the origin of Mn’torr

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Another split cover on Adventure 477 (Nov 80), and the final one to really feature Starman and Plastic Man.

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Aquaman leaves New Venice by mutual agreement as this story, by J.M. DeMatteis and Dick Giordano, begins.  The mayor is furious with him for abandoning so many of this plot lines from World’s Finest Comics.

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But another long-abandoned character shows up, Cal Durham, formerly one of Black Manta’s men, now forced to live underwater.  His young sister goes to Aquaman for help.  Cal had last appeared in Aquaman’s brief 70’s revival, along with Manta.

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And it’s Black Manta that is the trouble once again, capturing the two after Cal stumbles across Manta’s new base, from which he plans to attack and conquer Atlantis.

On the last page, Mera re-appears.  She had not be taken, so much as phased away, and now back, still all feverish and comatose.

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Starman goes in search of Mn’torr in this chapter, by Paul Levitz, Steve Ditko and Romeo Tanghal.

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He heads to a trippy temple Mn’torr was connected with, which speaks to him and allows him to essentially teleport to Mn’torr’s homeworld.

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We discover that he broke sacred vows about the balance of the universe when he rescued Prince Gavyn, and that he was not defeated by Oswin, but by his own people, who gave Oswin the staff to balance the power.

 

 

Adventure 452 – Aquaman ends with a shocking death

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Aquaman’s third run in Adventure Comics ended with issue 452 (Aug 77), a truly ground-breaking story by David Michelinie and Jim Aparo, with a highly unexpected ending.

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Still pursuing Topo and Aquababy, Aquaman runs straight into the Idyllists, and the waiting hands of Black Manta, who had taken control of the tribe, and their “lost city,” thanks to the map he acquired from the Shark.  Aqualad and McCaan are also his captives, and some history of the Idyllists is given.

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For the first time ever, Black Manta removes his helmet, and we discover why, in his own words, he is called “Black” Manta.  He reveals his plans to build an underwater kingdom for black people, making him sort of an aquatic Malcolm X.

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Manta announces that he has suppressed the ability of Aquaman and Aqualad to control the sea creatures, and indeed they find themselves incapable of doing so.  Manta has imprisoned Aquababy in a glass ball of air, in which he will die, and commands Aquaman and Aqualad to fight to the death for his own amusement.  Pretty sick and twisted guy, that Manta.

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The battle scene is extremely well done.  Aqualad is hurt and horrified to discover that his friend and mentor is sincerely trying to kill him.  Aquaman finds out that the fish they cannot control are actually mechanical, and commands Topo to free Arthur Jr.

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But too late.  Aquababy has died.  It was very rare for heroes to die at this time, and beyond imagining that the infant son of one would be killed.  On top of that, Aqualad finds it hard to simply forgive and forget that Aquaman tried to kill him, and cannot just go back to Atlantis with him.

Black Manta escapes, having sealed his position as Aquaman’s main enemy.

Aquaman jumps into his own comic at this point, and his search for Black Manta, as well as his difficulty with Mera after the death of their child, are handled in that book.  Although this would be pushed to the side for a while, the death of their child would cause a rift between Aquaman and Mera for well over a decade.

Aqualad stays on in Adventure, gaining his own back-up series.

And I cried myself to sleep after I read this, at 12 years old.

Adventure 448 – Aquaman vs Karshon

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Paul Levitz and Jim Aparo bring the Karshon storyline to a strong conclusion in Adventure 448 (Dec 76), with a surprising revelation about the villain, which has nonetheless been visually hinted at constantly.

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Black Manta captures Aquaman for Karshon, and gets paid off with a map to the city of the “lost tribes,” which will play a role when Manta returns a few issues down the road.

Aquaman is thrown into a prison with Vulko, and we learn that Karshon has told the people of Atlantis that Vulko died.  Kind of a dumb move keeping him alive after that.  Just begging for trouble.

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And sure enough, Aqualad, Aquagirl, and their friend Mupo (who has not been seen since the end of Aquaman’s comic, and never appears again), break Vulko out of prison.  Karshon’s lies are revealed to the Atlanteans, and he and Aquaman go head to head.

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With his deceptions exposed, Karshon drops his human form, and reveals himself to be the Shark, an old foe of Green Lantern.  Never saw that coming as a kid (partly because I had never heard of the Shark).  And though there are no obvious clues to it, Karshon did have a shark emblem on his outfit, and was always seen with one on the animals.  But that largely seemed symbolic of his character, rather than a clue to his identity.  The Shark had last appeared in Action Comics, fighting Superman.

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Aquaman defeats the Shark in a vicious battle, luring him to nuclear waste, which transforms him back into his animal form.  A bit of a guess on Aquaman’s part that that would succeed.  Nuclear waste transformed the Shark originally into his mutated form, and could just as easily have mutated him further, rather than “curing” him.

In the end, Vulko is placed on the throne, to Aquaman’s approval.

The Shark next appears a couple years down the road, in Adventure Comics once again.

There is also a brief scene with a man apparently claiming that Aqualad is his son, though that is intentionally misleading.  This storyline will continue over the next few months.

Adventure 447 – The Fisherman returns, and the Creeper ends

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The Aquaman story in Adventure 447 (Oct 76) feels a bit like a filler issue, before the full length story in the following issue.  Paul Levitz, Marty Pasko and Jim Aparo craft a decent enough tale, but it really does little except lead up to the coming resolution.

After bidding farewell to Aqualad and Aquagirl, Aquaman pursues the gun-smuggling operation to a Civil War mementos factory on land, and falls into the hands of the Fisherman.

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The Fisherman is working as hired muscle for Black Manta, and his fight with Aquaman takes up most of the issue.  Only at the end do we see Manta and Karshon plotting together.  There is also a brief scene with Mera and Aquababy, presumably just to remind us they are part of the story as well.

The Karshon plotline concludes next issue.

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The third and final chapter of the Creeper story is a bit better than the previous two.  Not that Marty Pasko has remembered to make Jack Ryder abrasive, but Ric Estrada and Joe Staton’ s art is satisfactory.

It turns out the Maddox’s robot is acting on his unconscious whims, but no less deadly for that.  The Creeper manages to get him to face his creation, in order to stop it.

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That doesn’t work exactly as planned, as Maddox dies destroying the robot, but the physiotherapist gains the ability to walk again, even though the telepathy thing is a bit of a stretch.

Jack Ryder has a cameo in Teen Titans, and the Creeper next appears in Secret Society of Super-Villains.  His next run at a series is in World’s Finest Comics, with his creator, Steve Ditko, returning to helm the character.

Adventure 446 – Aquagirl returns, and the Creeper fights a robot

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Adventure 446 (Aug 76) was the first issue of Adventure Comics I ever bought.  Curiously, one the main reasons was the cover, which I now find overly busy.  But at 11 years old I loved Aquaman riding the giant seahorse, and the whole Aqua-Family on the banner, as well as the Creeper, whose story in Super-Team Family 2 I had really enjoyed.

Not being familiar with the characters, I thought Topo was an evil monster in the opening sequence, when it grabs Aquababy, rather than simply the boy’s babysitter.  To be fair, the previous issue sets it up to look like an attack as well.

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Robin has a cameo, as Aquaman tries to get information to Aqualad about Karshon being the new king of Atlantis. The story, by Paul Levitz and Marty Pasko, with art by Jim Aparo, uses that to transition to Aqualad and Tula, Aquagirl, on board a ship tracking down Black Manta.

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Tula had not appeared since the final issue of the Aquaman comic, and I had never seen her before, so I was genuinely concerned when she got tied up with an anchor and thrown overboard.  Of course, being an Atlantean that merely causes her some difficulty, not death.

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Aquaman joins the fray, and all three heroes take on Black Manta, who does the wise thing and flees, leaving behind the cargo of guns he was smuggling.  Aquaman is left to ponder the connection between Manta’s gun-running, and Karshon’s take-over of Atlantis.

And I just loved it.  I bought every issue for the duration of Aquman’s run in this book.

 

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On the other hand, I was not too impressed with the Creeper story, by Marty Pasko, with Pic Estrada and Joe Staton art.  Never cared for Joe Staton.  And it didn’t help that I hadn’t read the first part of the story.

The Creeper flees from the cops, and figures out a connection between the robots and a telekintic scientist, Maddox.  Just as it starts to pick up, with the physiotherapist being forced telekinetically to walk off her balcony while the Creeper is stuck fighting the robots, it ends.

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But as it concluded the following issue, I was not too distressed.

Adventure 437 – The Spectre faces suicide bombers and Aquaman ends, again

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Adventure 437 (Feb 75) is the final issue to feature the word “Weird” on the cover, and leads off with a Spectre story by Mike Fleisher, with art by Ernie Chan and Jim Aparo.

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The villain is a mad scientist who has a mind control device, and goons who kidnap people that he programs to act as human bombs, getting them to steal for him.

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The goons make the fatal mistake of kidnapping Gwen Sterling, which of course gets the Spectre on his case.  This is the only story in the run where there isn’t a really well shown horrific death for the villain, though the Spectre does force him into a tank of man-eating fish.

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The final Aquaman back-up story, by Paul Levitz and Mike Grell, has him attempting to day a day off  from kinging, but winding up dealing with Black Manta, an undersea monster and a child in peril anyway.

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Throughout these three stories, Mera has been around, but mostly standing silently.  She speaks more words in the panel above than in the rest of the three stories combined.

Nevertheless, this back-up feature was popular enough that Aquaman would return to headline Adventure in another few issues.

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