Annuals. I find annuals to be nice extra treats for sticking with a title for so long. 38 pages of a story that could just be a fun little one-off that doesn’t technically matter in the grand scheme of things or a huge part of an ongoing storyline serving to compress a story down from two more issues to one. Aquaman Annual #1 serves itself as the former, except it may have a standing in the scheme of things if you take the rumors to be true.
Writer John Ostrander (of Suicide Squad and Spectre fame) crafts an intriguing, singular tale of the Others fighting off would-be world destroyer and sorceress Morgaine Le Fey while The Operative heals in the ghost worlds (a concept introduced back in Aquaman #21 –also written by Ostrander- that’s as cool as it sounds). It’s a relatively solid one-off story with consequences teased down the line, therefore making it a one-off with purpose in the grand scheme of the Aquaman mythos. Ostrander gives each character a unique voice (most if not all of the Others were vaguely defined in Johns’ titular arc focusing on them) and motivation and gives them a reason to come together once again. It was nice to see The Operative as a hard-ass of an old man, and that the Prisoner has a strong sense of humor. As far as comics go, this is well-crafted stuff.
Unfortunately not everything is very strong. The villain’s purpose, while strong, is seemingly generic and doesn’t hold much value as far as future appearances may go, and the dialogue feels pretty weak. I say this because when I read it out loud, I can’t imagine anyone speaking like this in any medium. A lot of it feels expository or as a way to explain certain rules of how powers work (note the sequence where Sky takes the time to explain how each Atlantean artifact works. It feels pretty clunky and unnaturalistic). Yet for the most part Ostrander plays to his strengths, crafting a tale focused on character and making morally difficult decisions, and how the outcomes of those decisions will play out in the future.
There isn’t much to note on Geraldo Borge’s art, other than that it continues in the same vein of semi-realistic depictions of characters and environments that Reis and Pelletier brought to the title, but without as much detail as both of them. It helps that Rod Reis is such a great colorist, giving scenes the appropriate warmth or coldness in hues. It’s pretty standard stuff, house style even.
DC, if you read this, I urge you to let Ostrander write an Others ongoing. These are great characters with strong personalities and an interesting team dynamic, plus they have a myriad of potential stories to go off of. Ostrander is the perfect writer for this, and it’d be a shame not to see the teases here go somewhere. Aside from a good chunk of clunky dialogue, average art, and generic villainy, this is an excellent way to cap off a month. Again DC executives, make an Others ongoing happen.