Aquaman continues his quest to find Mera by going to the colony of the savage Maarzons. Many of the men in this colony wear rings similar to the one he remembers before being punched out.
As he enters the territory of the Maarzons, they attack him. He takes this as a sign that they did kidnap Mera, until he gets further into their territory and realizes that they fight for fun.
While searching for the leader of the Maarzons, he witnesses the arrival of Black Manta. This convinces him that the Maarzons, and Manta, are responsible. He rushes in to fight him.
Manta tells the Maarzons to attack Aquaman, and they obey him. Turns out that they think Manta is one of their gods. Aquaman manages to finagle a draw by threatening to call in the sea life to completely destroy the colony.
Aquaman demands the return of Mera, and Manta finally realizes why Aquaman attacked. He doesn't have Mera, but offers to tell him where she is if Aquaman will consent to a one-on-one fight with him. Aquaman agrees.
Back in Atlantis, Tula is becoming increasingly worried about the man Aquaman left in charge, Narkran. He's rapidly becoming a tyrant. And she is no longer allowed to see the injured Aqualad. Behind her back the doctors worry about the strange things happening to him.
Aquaman wins the fight, but Manta flees. As he leaves he tells Aquaman that he doesn't know where Mera is, but suspects that he knows who took her. But he's not telling, and he orders the Maarzon to kill Aquaman.
Aquaman escapes them and leaves, and swears that he will find her...
The cover is simply incredible. The layout is so different from most Silver Age Aquaman. It's wonderful. I choose it to be my October 1997 Cover of the Month.
Aquaman is so intent on finding Mera that he practically stumbles into a trap laid by Manta. It's clear that Manta had been planning to trick him into a one-on-one fight eventually, as he's trained so well in the fighting tactics he's used, and prepared a dizzying light wave emitted from his helmet just for Aquaman.
I don't know that we've ever seen the Maarzon since this story. They are interesting, if a bit one-trick ponies.
Aquaman thinks that Manta's dishonorable fighting methods will lose him his followers. Manta laughs and tells him that he is the Maarzon god of evil.
Having Tula home taking care of Artie Jr and worried about the state of the Kingdom adds to the story. It's more epic than just Aquaman's battles.
This story is reprinted in Adventure Comics #493 (Nov 1982).
Intriguing quest, interesting foe. The cover is spectacular and adds to the mood.