By: Jeff Parker (story), Yvel Guichet & Alvaro Martinez (pencils), Jason Gorder, Wayne Faucher, Raul Fernandez (inks), Nathan Eyring (colors)

The Story: Aquaman and Wonder Woman’s not-so-excellent European road trip.

The Review: Since I didn’t finish taking the Bar until Thursday, I was a couple days late in picking up my weekly load of comics. I didn’t think it’d be a problem, though; my favorite shop usually carried more than enough copies of every issue. Certainly I didn’t think Aquaman Annual #2 was in danger of selling out. And yet would you believe that I had to call around to four different shops before I found a spare copy for myself? Everything else I got on Friday, but this one wasn’t in my hands until yesterday.

After reading the issue, I don’t even begin to understand what drove the droves to pick it up. I get the initial attraction: who doesn’t like the idea of an Aquaman-Wonder Woman team-up? They’re both major Leaguers; they both have royal bearing; and they both have roots in ancient mythology. Talk about a match made in heaven—you know, if Arthur hadn’t already hooked up with Mera first. But even if a romance was out of the question, the two still have plenty to bond over. Bizarrely, instead of talking over any of the things they have in common, they spend the time either politely or aggressively confronting each other’s priorities to their respective cultures.

Frankly, you have no interest in rehashing Arthur’s torn loyalties between sea and surface. Diana of all people should know better, with Arthur having spent an entire arc on Justice League fighting Atlantis then turning over his own brother to the surface for trial. And you’re definitely reluctant to buy into Arthur’s sudden accusation that Diana’s just a slayer at heart. Anyone who’s read Wonder Woman in the last few years knows she’s not. All of this just seems to be Parker’s way of generating conflict out of whole cloth, and it feels as pointless and unentertaining as it sounds.

It’s not surprising that Parker ends up pitting our heroes for the bulk of the issue, since the Giant-Born are hopelessly antiquated antagonists. Talk about the flatness of monsters. They look formidable, but they actually do little more than hide out in a French castle, disguised in a variety of outdated outfits. For crying out loud, Celeana, leader of the monsters, dresses herself in giant fedora, trenchcoat, and oversized red sunglasses. It might be silly-fun in a Super-Friends episode, but in a legit comic book, it’s silly-stupid.

And what is Parker thinking, weakening the Giant-Born? As the dread creatures of ancient times, each of them should be a threat to our heroes, but even en masse they can barely land a scratch on either Arthur or Diana. It takes a good dose of magic to put our heroes at a disadvantage, and it takes another to deus ex machina them out, using the inexplicable arrival of Dr. Evans, the man who released the Giant-Born, to do it. Here’s a question: last time we saw the archaeologist, he was in the hands of the authorities; so how he manages to follow our heroes all the way to France, bearing yet another relic, is beyond you.

The team-up between Diana and Arthur is disappointing; the one between Diana and Mera fares no better. The two women end up dealing with the other half of the escaped Giant-Born, who’ve chosen to terrorize humanity the old-fashioned way from a God-forsaken island at sea. Diana spends even less time interacting with Mera than she does with Mera’s husband. Their adventure is almost completely a mindless monster-fight, and the only pleasure you get out of it is watching Mera kick ass.

I have really grown weary of DC’s general choice of art. Martinez’s work may be on the safe, boring side, but Guichet seems to display everything that people dislike about the DC house style. The lines are weak and scraggly, barely bolstered by the inks and nearly collapsible under any kind of heavy coloring. The details are thin, the composition bland and dull, and the design uninspired. None of the Giant-Born look particularly threatening; they look like they don’t stand a chance from the moment they appear.

Conclusion: Forgettable in script and art. For those possibly panicked by the issue’s scarcity, don’t be; it’s not nearly worth the five bucks you’ll be shelling out.

Grade: C-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Okay, here’s the thing, Guichet. First you draw Arthur in casual clothing with his sleeves rolled up, revealing bare wrists. Then he rips off his shirt and his usual scaled armor magically appears on the wrists, already underneath his gloves.

– Now imagine how much better the Giant-Born could be put to use if Parker could introduce them one by one, crafting each to be a unique threat and requiring a regular team-up between Arthur and Diana.