There was so much to love about both Aquaman and Black Panther. Both introduced us to new and exciting civilizations, both told gripping tales of leadership, and both featured some exquisite CGI. But one of the best parts about both films were their respective villains.
Killmonger and Black Manta made for some incredible arch-nemeses in these movies, and comic book films from here on out will have a tough time matching either of them. But we've got to ask; just which one is a better arch-nemesis? We broke down the role of an arch-nemesis into categories to find out, awarding points to each character based on that category. So read on to find out who wins the battle of Black Manta Vs. Killmonger: who's the deadlier arch-nemesis?
10 Strategy: Killmonger
It takes a lot of planning to go up against two of the greatest heroes in comic book movies. So if you're going to be an arch-villain, you'll need to have a knack for organization. Of course, Black Manta's got this quality in spades. He's been a pirate most of his life, so he has to think things through before boarding an enemy ship.
However, Killmonger's ability to plan reaches just a bit farther. He's got a strategy for finding Wakanda, for invading Wakanda, and for taking over Wakanda. Then, he's got a plan to use Wakanda to literally rule the world. Black Manta's no doubt got a great revenge plan for Aquaman two. But we doubt it's as visionary as Killmonger's.
9 Technology: Black Manta
It was hard to decide between Wakandan technology and Atlantean. After all, both are basically magic. But, there's one fact that sets Black Manta's weaponry apart from Killmonger's. In the scene in which Orm hires Manta to kill Aquaman, he tells him that the technology he's giving him is an all-new prototype. It's never been used before, by any Atlantean.
Killmonger's suit is cutting edge as well, but it's not as new as Manta's. Plus, Black Manta actually modifies the weaponry to better suit his fighting style. (More on that later.) Both suits and weapon sets are far more advanced than what we have today. But Manta's tech reaches even farther into the future.
8 Skill: Killmonger
Alright, so Manta might have the better fightsuit, but what happens when the suits come off? Well first, billions flock to the steamiest R-rated superhero crossover movie ever. All joking aside, without their tech, Erik Killmonger is just a better fighter.
He can hold his own against powerful enemies even without the heart-shaped flower's medicine, and with it, he could give Captain America a run for his money. David Kane is an impressive combatant, but nowhere near that in terms of pure martial arts ability.
7 Partners: Black Manta
Both Black Manta and Killmonger form partnerships with people they find useful. Of course, they're not loyal to these partners in crime, they just keep them around as long as they serve their purposes. So which set of partners serve our villains' respective purposes better? Of course, Ulysses Klaue helped get Killmonger to Wakanda, and was definitely instrumental to his plans.
However, Black Manta partnered up with the Ocean Master. Not only is Orm in a higher position than Klaue, he's got more resources and more commitment to his ideals. Plus, he just looks so much more put together. And that's important when introducing your partner to your supervillain family.
6 Ruthlessness: Killmonger
Speaking of partners, neither Killmonger or Black Manta are opposed to killing theirs. That's pretty evil and can mark a character as a real villain to an audience. Black Manta, however, doesn't end up killing his in Aquaman. That's not the case for Killmonger.
Not only does Killmonger kill Klaue to get him into Wakanda, but he also kills his romantic partner to further his plans. This probably wouldn't come up on this list because of the subject matter we're talking about, but Black Manta definitely wins the category of "better friend."
5 Look: Black Manta
Ok, this category might have been the hardest to decide. Killmonger has several awesome outfits throughout Black Panther, from his golden fightsuit to his casual outfit in the beginning to his mask and armor combo. If this was a contest of looks between MCU villains, Killmonger would be in the top three at the very least.
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But Black Manta looks just like his comic book counterpart. And that comic book counterpart looks insane! Black Manta's costume is one of the weirdest products of the Silver Age of comics. And for adapting it so faithfully, we have to give this one to him.
4 Experience: Killmonger
Both of these villains have lived harsh, difficult lives. They've seen violence since they were children. They absorbed it as they grew. So in a contest of who has more villainous experience, the answer is close to a toss-up. However, one fact puts Killmonger above Black Manta in this category. Both villains have seen their fathers killed, leading ultimately to their roles as arch-villains.
Killmonger saw his father die much earlier in life, though. The hatred he learned that day developed for a lot longer, setting him on the path of death and destruction he brings into Black Panther. Both characters have lives defined by hatred, Killmonger has just lived it longer.
3 Intelligence: Black Manta
Combat skills and advanced technology aren't all that these villains bring into a fight. Both are also incredibly intelligent. However, we get a pretty clear picture of just which one is smarter in one of the most fun montages a superhero movie has ever produced. We're talking, of course, about Black Manta building his battle suit.
Not only is he working with incredibly advanced, inhuman technology, but David is also actually improving it in this scene. We get hints at a brilliant mind under Killmonger's mask several times in Black Panther, but nothing compared to this cool montage in Aquaman.
2 Arch-Nemesis: Killmonger
You can hardly judge a character considered a villain if you don't also look at the hero they oppose. And in this case, Killmonger's arch-nemesis is just cooler. He's the kind of leader that we could see ourselves following in real life; considerate, decisive, humble despite his place of power.
Of course Aquaman is all of these things too, but it takes him a while to get there in his DCEU arc. In Justice League, after all, he's kind of selfish. From the first moment we meet him in the MCU, T'Challa proves himself to be a great king, a great hero, and a truly powerful enemy to evildoers.
1 Winner: Killmonger
This list took us a while to write. We loved both Black Panther and Aquaman as films, and they wouldn't have been half as good without their great villains. But after spending a while thinking about it, we have to give this award to Killmonger. Still, we want to know; do you agree? Did we judge any of these categories unfairly? Or would you have used different categories altogether?
Let us know in the comments section below, we want to hear your thoughts! Keep an eye on Comic Book Resources for more Who Would Win articles like this one, and let us know who you'd like to see go head-to-head. Happy debating!