AQUAMAN #20

By: John Ostrander (story), Manuel Garcia (pencils), Sandra Hope, Rob Hunter, Ray McCarthy, Wayne Faucher (inks), Pete Pantazis (colors)

The Story: Oddly, a girl who sees dead people is not the strangest member of the Others.

The Review: One of the best concepts Geoff Johns introduced on his run here has been Aquaman’s first team effort, the Others.  Johns not only managed to give each member a well-defined personality and design, he also gave them a strong team dynamic, as if they really had worked together for years.  Their intimacy was so convincing that it was kind of bittersweet to see them part ways when it was so tempting to give them a title of their own.

In this issue, Ostrander sort of tests the viability of the Others as characters in their own right, without Aquaman as their center.  Indeed, here Arthur seems more like a featured player in his own title.  Despite being their de facto leader (though the Operative may disagree with that assertion), he comes to them as someone asking his friends to do him a big favor, one he’s not yet comfortable presenting to his current team.  He stands equal to the Others, which in turn boosts their own standing.

As a Suicide Squad writer, Ostrander is certainly no stranger to offbeat ensembles, and though he doesn’t quite deliver the same level of chemistry among the Others as Johns has, he definitely strengthens their individual profiles.  He wisely focuses his efforts on the Operative and Ya’wara, who didn’t quite receive the same amount of development as their teammates in their last arc.  Even then, Ostrander only has enough time to give us a couple broad talking points without much further exploration.

I suspect Ostrander only got this one issue for his story because that’s all the break Johns needed to wrap up his epic Green Lantern finale.  It’s obvious, however, that this story could have used at least another issue to cover all the ground it wants to.  The Operative’s family tensions and Ya’wara’s unrequited love for the late Kahina both could jumpstart whole plotlines of their own, and yet we’re left only to imagine the material they might produce someday.

Ostrander is further pressured by the need to establish and develop the Others’ newest and youngest member, the Apache girl Sky Alchesay.*  It’s obvious that he’s dying to tell us more about her; he spends a good chunk of the issue—perhaps too much of the issue–establishing her loving but strained relationship with her brother Victorio, the problem Victorio has in squaring his Apache culture with his American values, and the drama involving the rest of their family.  There’s so much here worth learning more about; there just isn’t enough time.

Even though Ostrander only gives us the minimum where these character bits are concerned, that might still have been more than he could afford, as the plot of the issue gets shortchanged as a result.  The revelation of—spoiler alert—Sky’s uncle as the “Skinwalker” who also happened upon the Atlantean power glove the Others are supposed to retrieve comes almost out of nowhere.  We learn nothing about how he came by his powers or the glove, and while the Others each get something to do during their battle with him, they don’t get to do nearly as much as you’d hope.

If the Others do ever get that ongoing title, I hope they get a better artist than Garcia to draw it.  Not that Garcia is completely deficient, but there’s something kind of plain and unremarkable about his work, and its quality varies wildly depending on who’s inking at any given moment.*  At times, his figures look full-bodied and dimensional; other times, they appear flat, thin, and fragile.  Pantazis manages to give the issue overall some tone and flashy effects, but otherwise, it’s another sample of DC’s plainspoken house art style.

Conclusion: Ostrander does a good job with the space he’s given, but ultimately the potential of his story gets nipped by the fact that he only has one short issue to work with.  This seems to me a sign that the Others is a big enough concept to carry a title of its own.

Grade: B-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * The Alchesay name comes from William Alchesay, an Apache chief and contemporary to Geronimo.  He was respected by both Americans and Indians, which explains why Sky’s uncle asserts her and her brother’s family name “still has a lot of juice.”

* Incidentally, in Vibe #4 I was curious as to who, between Garcia and Fabian Neves, had the Pete Woods-like art style.  Having seen Garcia’s unmemorable efforts here, I think it was probably Neves.

– Sky gives us a hint of the next owner of Vostok’s helmet: “The spirits say he is not ready yet.  He is still underground.”

Grade

Conclusion