The plot of the solo Aquaman movie has just thickened. Until now, we figured that Orm would serve as the movie’s main villain, making us a little nervous that it was stray too much into the territory of the first Thor movie. But worry not, because Aquaman’s villain is going to be someone much more nefarious: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (The Get Down) has just been cast as Aquaman’s nemesis Black Manta.

Deadline reports that Abdul-Mateen, who played Cadillac in Baz Luhrmann’s Netflix series, has just joined up to play the big villain. He was also a finalist to portray young Lando Calrissian in the Han Solo Star Wars spinoff.

Black Manta’s origin stories are pretty dark. In one of them, he was kidnapped as a child and forced to work onboard a ship, was abused, and one day saw Aquaman in the water. He yelled for help, but the hero never heard him, and he’s held a grudge ever since then. Seeing Aquaman and the emotionless ocean as one and the same, he fashioned a black scuba suit with an insect head-like helmet (that shoots lasers from its eyes, no less) and is bent on ruling the sea. In another version, he was autistic as a child and spent his young life in Arkham Asylum, where he was experimented on. One of these experiments cleared his mind, but gave him a murderous streak. Later in the comics, he ditches the suit and becomes a manta ray-human hybrid.

Black Manta has enhanced strength and agility and his armor sports some formidable weaponry as well as a telepathic scrambler that momentarily inhibits Aquaman from talking to his fish buddies during fights. He’s also canonically Black, and at one point said that he wanted Black people to dominate the undersea world after generations of persecution on land (although that turned out to be a distraction for a larger plan). We don’t yet know what the exact plot of the movie is, but if they’re going ahead and introducing Black Manta into the story, Aquaman’s solo run is starting off with a bang.

Aquaman stars Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Patrick Wilson, and Willem Dafoe, and hits theaters July 27, 2018.


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