WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Aquaman: Deep Dives #4 by Dave Wielgosz, Adriano Di Benedetto, Rex Lokus, Jose Luis and Wes Abbot, on sale now.
Growing up is hard enough, but having a notorious supervillain as an estranged father makes it a little bit tougher. Aqualad didn’t find out his father was Black Manta until later in his life. In Aquaman: Deep Dives #4, Black Manta and his son come face-to-face once again and they both have to confront how they feel about each other.
In the issue’s first story, “Worth,” Aqualad is struggling with his personal life. He is dealing with a recent breakup and how he has been made to feel like an outsider at school. The villain Electrocutioneer ambushes him for a fight, hoping to embarrass Black Manta by beating up his son. After they trade verbal jabs, Aqualad triumphs over him. Once the fight is over, Black Manta makes himself known as he was watching their scuffle. He hired Electrocutioneer to test his son’s abilities. Aqualad uses his hydrokinesis to nearly drown Manta before showing mercy.
Even though Manta is Aqualad’s father, there is no relationship between the two other than as adversaries. Their father-son dynamic is more complicated than most. Being raised on the surface despite having Atlantean blood made growing up tough on Aqualad. Not knowing who his father was until he was already a hero was even tougher.
Jackson had already become Aqualad by the time he learned who his father really was. From the start, they were already on opposite ends of the spectrum. Aqualad had to work to prove to his father’s nemesis that he wasn’t like him. Aquaman believes Jackson is a much better man than his father because Jackson has done so much good.
During the fight with Electrocutioner, the villain tells Aqualad he’s desperate to be loved and looking for the attention that his father never gave. Aqualad refutes the taunt because he’s better for not having his father in his life. He’s already a Teen Titan, has proven he’s a better person than his father to Aquaman, and beaten his father once. He isn’t looking to build a relationship with Black Manta at all.
Black Manta hired Electrocutioner to test his son’s abilities. In his own twisted way, his goal is to see if Jackson can hold his own. Neither of them wants anything to do with the other, but Manta may do this to see if his son will be safe. It’s clear they are never going to see eye to eye, but this is a test to ensure his son won’t be killed because of him.
When Jackson beats Manta, he talks about how he has already faced so much before knowing him and in spite of knowing him. His mother, Lucia, raised him to be a strong and good person. While he fills Black Manta’s helmet with water to drown him, he does it to show him how he has felt for 16 years. The reason Aqualad shows Black Manta mercy is because of how he was raised. If he was raised by his father, Manta may have not been so lucky.
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In Aquaman: Deep Dives #4, Aqualad and Black Manta have a showdown after Aqualad examines how he is nothing like his father.