It’s not easy to provide a last-minute fill-in on a comic book series; it’s even harder when that series is one that’s developed quite a renaissance like “Aquaman.” It’s much to John Ostrander and Manuel Garcia’s credit, as a result, that their guest stint on “Aquaman” #20 not only is enjoyable, but it feels like something that belongs as part of the series’ greater whole.
“Aquaman” #20 brings back the Others, the poorly-named group of Atlantean-artifact-powered heroes that Aquaman used to run with. Their introduction in “Aquaman” had shrunken their membership, and Ostrander uses that as a chance to introduce Sky Alchesay, the daughter of deceased-member Kahina. Ostrander does a good job of bringing her into the series; she fits in well with the other characters, to the point that it made me feel for a split second like this was regular series writer Geoff Johns helming the comic rather than Ostrander. Getting a mixture of both her personal life and her new heroic identity is a good balance, though, and she’s set up in a way that if Johns chooses to use her (and I hope he does), everything has been lined up for that purpose.
Garcia’s pencils (with a four-inker tag team, no doubt due to the short time frame) get the job done, in some places a little more impressively than others. The art is always well-rendered, if nothing else, and there’s a good usage of perspective on the page 2 splash with the skinwalker looming up and over its victim. On the other hand, there’s something that feels strangely fake about the makeup that Sky puts on her face before meeting the rest of the others; it’s almost plastic in the way it’s shaped and moved. The best part of the comic’s visuals, though, is definitely the appearance of the Thunder Beings; they’re drawn as little more than silhouettes but they’re quite striking, and Garcia brings that idea to life perfectly.
If nothing else, “Aquaman” #20 makes me more than ever wish that we had Ostrander on a monthly series at DC Comics. He clearly plays well in a joint sandbox, and he’s a good writer to boot. Until then, though, I’ll just keep my eyes open for moments like this. And if nothing else, if you are going to substitute in a last-minute fill-in comic? Well, if they were all this fun, I don’t think people would mind quite so much.