Warning: SPOILERS for Aquaman #50
The latest issue of Aquaman has prominently reintroduced the character Jackson Hyde, the son of Black Manta... and the second teenager to fight crime under the name Aqualad.
While Jackson had already been brought back into the reality of DC Rebirth in the pages of Teen Titans, this marks the first time he has had a chance to speak with the superhero who inspired him to start fighting crime. Despite having only existed for a little under a decade, Jackson Hyde has a relatively confusing backstory,that has already been rebooted once. While he first appeared in the best-selling Brightest Day event, Jackson is still a decidedly obscure character, due to his being erased from existence by The New 52 reboot less than a year after his first appearance. It didn't help matters that he was meant to be based on the new Aqualad created for the Young Justice animated series, but was given a completely different background and power source. For obvious reasons, this did little to attract viewers of the cartoon to the comics.
When Jackson Hyde first appeared in Brightest Day #4, he was a seemingly ordinary teenager, save for the odd tattoos he'd had since infancy and a fear of water that had been imprinted on him by his foster parents. It was later revealed they did this to protect him at the request of Mera, who had entrusted Jackson into their care when he was a baby. A recording from Mera revealed that Jackson's birth parents had been underwater explorers who accidentally uncovered the undersea kingdom of Xebel. While torturing the young couple, the Xebelians discovered that Jackson's mother was pregnant, which led to their experimenting with his genetics in a bid to give him ability to breathe underwater as well as the water-control powers of the Xebelian royal family. They were successful, but Mera elected to steal the baby away to the relative safety of the surface world and Jackson's father would go on to become the terrorist Black Manta.
Jackson's background was changed when he was reintroduced into the reality of DC Rebirth in Teen Titans' "Rise of Aqualad" storyline. While still the son of Black Manta, Jackson's mother was now a Xebelian woman whom Black Manta had tried to seduce into helping him steal a powerful artifact. She fled to the surface world after she discovered the truth about the man whose baby she was carrying. Jackson would go on to inherit her power to manipulate water, though it has yet to be explained why she has these powers, which were believed to be unique to the royal family of Xebel.
Jackson finally makes contact with Arthur Curry - the man who inspired him to heroism and his father's arch-enemy - in the closing pages of Aquaman #50. Newly returned from another dimension along with a number of old sea gods, Arthur is in the middle of trying to find accommodations for his new friends in his hometown of Amnesty Bay when he receives an unexpected phone call. The voice on the other end of the phone belongs to an excitable young man, who says it's great to finally get a chance to talk to Aquaman, but he wishes the circumstances were better. A turn of the page reveals the young man to be Jackson Hyde and he's calling from a police station somewhere in Texas, where he's been handcuffed to a desk.
It remains to be seen how Jackson got into this mess and what manner of partnership may be formed between Aquaman and the new Aqualad, if any. The current team of Teen Titans have been content to operate outside the influence of their mentors for some time and it could be possible that Jackson might not want to have anything to do with Arthur Curry once he's free. Then again, with Black Manta poised to return in a big way as part of the Year Of The Villain storyline, the two heroes may have need of each other sooner than they think.
Aquaman #50 is now available from DC Comics.