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Black Manta's Year of the Villain Upgrade Comes With a Family Twist

WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Aquaman #51 by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Robson Rocha, Daniel Henriques, Sunny Gho and Clayton Cowles, on sale now.

The latest Aquaman run has certainly put Arthur Curry in a tough spot. Queen Mera has apparently turned against him, and forgiveness doesn't seem to be in sight following Arthur's death and journey to the old Sea Gods. To make matters worse, Mera is pregnant but with no intention of mending fences with the former Atlantean king, which leaves him on Amnesty Bay trying to pick up the pieces.

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It's awful timing because now DC's Year of the Villain arc works its way in, with Lex Luthor making his a deal with Black Manta to empower the villain. However, it's not just any ordinary upgrade he's offering: It's a Mecha Manta robot that has the artificial intelligence of Manta's dead dad.

During the New 52, Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis depicted a young, rash Arthur killing Manta's father at sea for attacking his own dad, Tom Curry. This death drove David Hyde to become the black-armored villain known as Black Manta. Things got worse in the Forever Evil storyline, as the Crime Syndicate caused a giant wave to wash over and destroy his dad's grave. That desecration drove Manta over the edge and he's been on a warpath with the Legion of Doom since then, scheming how he could kill Aquaman for good.

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Now, Lex has found a way to give Manta this power, although the villain is impatient and brusque when they head to a secret sea cave. It's a bit odd as they seemed to have a great relationship in the Legion, prior to Lex being reborn himself as Perpetua's Apex predator. Lex reveals the power of this giant bot -- something which looks like a Power Rangers Zord or a machine from Pacific Rim -- is unparalleled. But when Lex tells him its A.I. is basically his father's mind, the villain is shocked.

Lex used Hyde family DNA, plus he farmed data online to build this digital replica, and with such a presence established, it's a personal touch Manta won't be able to refuse. He's been haunted by the tragedy of his father's death for so long after looking up to him as a mentor, and it's the perfect chance to reconnect on every level and share their lust for blood.

What's even more ominous is the sentient bot should be able to act on its own, so when Manta's not operating the armor, it'll be protecting him. Not to mention, once Mecha Manta sees Aquaman, old memories of his murder might be triggered, causing him to unleash hell in an attempt to kill the hero.

Arthur is in for rough waters, because this means there are two Mantas out there working as one. It's going to be a brutal tag-team affair, and Lex smartly lays down an offer Manta can't refuse: a shot at revenge and a reunion with the man who molded him into all that he is today. What's for certain is immense destruction looms over Arthur's new home, and whether it's Mera or a returning Aqualad, everyone the Justice League icon loves is in immediate danger, with Lex once more setting up the chess pieces to his advantage.

Aquaman #52 goes on sale Sept. 18.

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