People have plenty of good reason to hate on Geoff Johns, but if there's one thing we all seem to be agreeing on is that his run on Aquaman is proving to us all that he's still got the chops to keep writing hard hitting and engaging stories.
To begin with, Black Manta is an INCREDIBLE villain. John's does his best to make the character as threatening and as menacing as possible, and he succeeds at making it work. Rather than making him the sort of villain that just shows up and thrashes everyone in his wake until Aquaman shows up, you instead see him attacking and brutally striking out at P.O.W., and it shows you just how great a threat he is. The revelation about why Arthur and Manta are mortal enemies is surprising, but has a really clever twist. The best villains are always the ones who serve as reflections of the protagonist, and the motivations behind their animosity reflect that dynamic. It's also refreshing to see that the two don't hate each other because the villain is displacing the blame onto Aquaman. Instead, Aquaman is indeed guilty, and that makes the conflict all the more interesting.
The supporting cast is a bit of a mixed bag. P.O.W. is a really fascinating and troubled character, with some pretty damn clever powers. the scenes with him are effectively conveyed to us with some damn good visual storytelling, instead of having Aquaman tediously explain how he seems to be able to use the abilities of his fallen comrades in combat. Instead, like in issue 1, little scenes and panels are woven into the action to give you some understanding of how everything is working. We also get some idea in these moments about how troubled he is, living in a psych ward at a military hospital in Germany. Doctor Shin and Mera don't really get any real development, since they're used mainly for exposition, but said exposition is done much more engagingly than in the last issue of Green Lantern, for example. Shin does get a bit of his motivations touched upon, but nothing really makes him likable or sympathetic. Ya'wara is my biggest problem with this book. Sure, I'll buy that before Mera entered the picture her and Aquaman probably bumped uglies a few times, but I think John's is implying that either her and Aquaman did it while covered in the blood of their enemies, or that she was propositioning him as Leopards ate a man alive mere feet from where they stood. Kinda twisted.
Art wise, Ivan Reis continues to deliver the same level of quality that we've come to expect, which suits me just fine. i will say there are some moments where expressions and poses aren't rendered as well as they could have been, but it's not something that plagued every page of this book.
Overall, this was a damn good issue. It's a well told installment in the world Johns is building up, and Black Manta and P.O.W. steal the show. I'm really looking forward to next issue, when the conflict is brought to a boil and Aquaman confronts Manta.