By: John Ostrander (story), Geraldo Borges & Netho Diaz (pencils), Ruy Jose, Allen Martinez, JP Mayer, Mariah Benes, Oclair Albert, Julio Ferreira, Jay Leisten (inks), Rod Reis & Hi-Fi (colors)

The Story: The Others must race to stop a witch from saving the world.

The Review: Here’s a fun fact: Ostrander nearly shares my mother’s birth year, month, and is just shy of the day.  That definitely funks up the way I think of his writing.  I mean, do I really want someone my mother’s age to be writing comics for ostensibly a new generation of readers?  Not that it can’t be done.  Jim Shooter did a bang-up job on the Three-boot volume of Legion of Super-Heroes, and he’s only a couple years younger than Ostrander—and my mother.

On the other hand, I haven’t been all that impressed with Ostrander’s recent DC work, which makes me all the gladder that it’s only occasional.  While the premises of his stories are usually solid, his heavy-handed execution definitely reveals his age, or so it seems to me.  Under his pen, Aquaman and the Others seem a little too prone to theatrics; they’re blunter, louder, more melodramatic than their introverted personalities would support.

A good bit of the drama centers on the burgeoning romance between Aaron, grandson of the Operative, and Sky, the newest member of the Others.  If nothing else, this development reveals Ostrander’s old-fashioned ideas of what constitutes a plotline.  Obviously, besides grappling with the racial and cultural differences between them, Sky and Aaron have to contend with their overprotective guardians, resulting in some predictably soapy exchanges:

“I’m seventeen, Grandfather!  I need a life of my own!”

Anyway, you’re not inclined to care all that much about the relationship to begin with, since last time we left the Others, there wasn’t even a hint of chemistry between Sky and Aaron, much less the makings of a clandestine affair.  So when tragedy, in the form of magically mutated sea creatures and winged monkeys,* threatens to part the two youths, you’re inclined to shrug and flip the page for something really interesting.

Unfortunately, I don’t know whether you find it in this annual.  Although Morgaine Le Fay is a suitable choice of villain for the supernaturally empowered Others, Ostrander struggles to define what her goals exactly are.  Her theft of Vostok’s helmet leads absolutely nowhere (and indeed, once she tosses it aside, even the Others don’t try very hard to recover it afterward), and her environmental motivations just seem peculiar for her kind of character.  It’s a pity.  With her power levels, this was a prime opportunity to let the Others show what they’re really made of, but the big battle ends up a bit by-the-book, aside from Ya’wara’s betrayal.

Speaking of which, the whole ordeal with Ya’wara seems to exemplify much of the annual’s core problems.  Her tensions with foresters in the Amazon and her relationship with the jungle’s “Forest Mother” are thinly and hastily developed, making any kind of investment shallow, at best.  The fact that she alone succumbs to Morgaine’s temptations thus feels fairly unconvincing; it’s hard to believe that her attachment to her home is strong enough to override her loyalty to Aquaman and the Others.

The art is quite the mixed bag, too, which isn’t surprising, considering you have two pencillers, a host of inkers, and two colorists working on the thing.  There’s pretty much no uniformity to the issue.  The first half looks relatively decent and consistent—a bit like a low-rent Ivan Reis—but the second half is where the issue really gets messy.  Besides its general clunkiness, the style seems to drastically change every few pages: some appear flat and rudimentary, others have greater depth, and still others fall somewhere between the two.

Conclusion: The Others was one of the best concepts to come out of the new adventures of Aquaman, but each time Ostrander works with them, he saps away a good deal of your interest.  Some advice to the DC bigwigs: find someone with tighter writing skills and a bigger vision to do the Others, lest you ruin their already damaged potential.

Grade: C-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * Yes, you heard right—winged monkeys.  Quite a week, huh?

– Kukos to Sky for asking what we’re all thinking: “What does your trident do, sir?”  The answer is evasive, but intriguing: “What I need.”